On the doorstep of history
Spaniard Gomez threatening Ga. Tech's all-time wins record
Last Wednesday, Georgia Tech improved to 13-2 with a win at Clemson. A day later, the 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets headed to the airport and flew to Boston for a match against Boston College on Friday. Sunday includes a trip to No. 43 Maryland.
You want to play professional tennis? Get used to it.
“I traveled quite a bit before I came to the United States, so it doesn’t bother me that much anymore,” said Tech senior Guillermo Gomez. “It was difficult at first, getting used to doing homework on the road. But the longer you are in college, the more difficult the classes are.
“We played at Clemson on Wednesday and didn’t get back to the hotel until 11 that night. Then we traveled to Boston on Thursday, got here with the snow and had to drive 25 miles to a place to practice.”
Still, Gomez has found a way to balance the workload.
The Industrial Engineering major maintains a 3.4 grade point average and plans to graduate next fall.
“Guillermo has really embraced it from day one,” said Tech head coach Kenny Thorne. “He had a great mindset from the start, especially academically. He’s really sold out to both tennis and academics, and Tech is not easy.
“But this is the stuff that prepares you for life.”
Gomez, growing up in Spain, had his sights set on a career in professional tennis. But influenced by a handful of friends playing tennis collegiately in the United States, he decided to attend Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“The first three or four months were kind of weird, getting used to the tennis and school at the same time,” said Gomez, a semifinalist at the Under-18 Spanish Championships. “I didn’t really know anything about how it worked but I made the right decision.”
It didn’t take him long to figure things out in the classroom. On the court there was never a question as the Spaniard transitioned from clay to hard courts without a problem.
As a freshman in 2007-08 he was named the ACC and ITA/Mideast Region’s Rookie of the Year after compiling a 27-12 singles record at No. 1 for the Jackets. He qualified for the NCAA Championships and was a quarterfinalist at the ITA/Wilson Mideast Region Championships.
His second season produced a 29-10 record, another NCAA Tournament appearance, a No. 12 ranking to finish the spring and ITA All-America honors.
A year ago Gomez was a finalist at the ITA Indoor National Championships, a Round of 16 participant at the NCAA Championships and finished 29-8. He ended the year ranked No. 5.
“My goal is to be at the top of the rankings at the end,” Gomez said. “There are so many good players that you can’t think about where somebody else is ranked during the season. If you are playing someone not ranked very high, those are the most dangerous because they are going to play very hard against you.”
Gomez opened his senior campaign ranked No. 4, and through Wednesday, stood at 24-6 and ranked 16th.
Entering Friday’s match against Boston College, Gomez owned 109 career victories, just three shy of tying Thorne’s school record of 112 from 1985-88.
“(Gomez) is the best player to come through Tech, and he deserves to have every record here,” Thorne said. “He’s been winning consistently since his freshman year, but at the same time, he’s really focused on the team and helping us get to where we want to be. Right now, any tournament he enters you feel like he has a chance to win.”
So in a dog-eat-dog world where No. 100 can beat No. 25 on a given day, Gomez knows what lies ahead.
“My goal has always been to play pro tennis,” Gomez said. “I don’t really know what I will do at first, go back to Spain or stay here. I have to give it a shot.”
Thorne, who earned professional wins over Richard Krajicek, Wayne Ferreira, Mark Philippoussis and Todd Martin, knows the rigors at what lies ahead. Robbie Ginepri, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open who was ranked 15th in 2005 and is still No. 167 in the world, is a volunteer assistant for the Ramblin’ Wreck.
“(Guillermo) can make it,” Thorne said. “He’s got the game, but there are so many variables involved. He’s got some people around (Tech) who can help. Robbie Ginepri and Bobby Reynolds (No. 149 in the world) are right here.
“There’s nothing easy about it, but (Gomez) has all the tools to make it happen.”
And in case you were wondering which side Gomez prefers in soccer-mad Spain?
Real Madrid over Barcelona.