Updated Oct 9, 2003 08:53:36
Chemistry Powers Tech Tennis Doubles Tandem
Louisiana Tech Tennis Techsters Saharai Uriarte and Avril Martinez are majoring in Business Administration and Marketing, respectively.
Tech coach Greg Hearn is just pleased his dynamic duo is excelling in chemistry.
The No. 2 doubles tandem for the Lady Techsters has cruised to a 6-0 start in fall tennis, leaving Hearn excited about the outlook for his squad when team play begins during the spring season.
“There’s a chemistry there between those two that is behind their strong start,” Hearn said. “And the best thing is that their success brings confidence that is spreading to the whole team. Chemistry is what you’re looking for when you’re putting together a doubles team, and those two really seem to have something special going.”
Hearn said that on-court chemistry begins with their playing styles.
“Saharai is a good baseline player and is very strong at returning serves,” Hearn said. “Avril’s primary strength is net play. Put those components together, and you have the makings of a pretty good doubles team.”
Uriarte and Martinez teamed to go 4-3 in doubles play last spring, but getting to know each other has strengthened the mix between the two as well as their doubles game.
“It was weird at first when we stared playing together at first,” Uriarte said. “We didn’t really get along at first because we didn’t know each other. We didn’t know what to expect from each other. But the more we learn about each other, both in tennis and in life in general, the better we get.”
Uriarte is a junior hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico, while Martinez is a sophomore from Mexico City. The fact that they’re from the same country and both speak Spanish as well as English has helped the pair establish their winning chemistry.
“We’re comfortable with each other,” Martinez said. “I think that comes from playing together, and because we both speak Spanish. It’s easier when you have a doubles partner that speaks the same language as you.”
“It’s especially important in the heat of the match, because you’re focusing on the game and your language just kind of naturally falls back into Spanish because that’s what we know best,” Uriarte said. “We even cheer each other on in Spanish. It just makes it easier.”
Martinez said the fact that Uriarte has a year’s worth of more experience is also a big factor in their doubles’ chemistry.
“She knows about tournaments because she’s been there,” Martinez said. “That was especially important last year because those were my first college tournaments, and Saharai had already been through all of that. She’s good at helping me think about how we want to handle things in a match.”
That showed in the duo’s last match, a win over a doubles’ team from fellow Western Athletic Conference rival Rice.
“When we started the match, the intensity was high and Avril kind of panicked a little at first,” Uriarte said. “I just talked to her and calmed her down, and she started playing great and we became more confident as a team. That’s how we went on to win.”
The two became roommates this fall, leaving the pair even more time to analyze their game and the sport they love.
“We talk about tennis a lot,” Martinez said. “When we’re in our room, falling asleep, we talk about tennis and the way we’re playing and about some of the teams we know we might be facing. We talk about a lot of things, but it always comes back to tennis.”
Uriarte said that analysis isn’t limited to off-court hours.
“We’ll watch our opponents during warm-ups and then sit down and talk about what we think their strengths and weaknesses might be before we start playing,” Uriarte said. “That’s an important part of doubles play and Avril and I work well together because we’re both good at analyzing our opponents and then sitting down and figuring out how we’re going to try to handle them as a doubles team.”
Hearn said the pair’s success so far this fall is big for the entire Tech tennis team.
“When you have a doubles team playing this well it feeds off onto your other players,” Hearn said. “They start feeling they can all compete at a higher level. That higher level of play becomes a team standard, and as a result, your team as a whole keeps getting better and better. It’s all about the chemistry, because the kind of chemistry those two have is contagious. It’s something the whole team can learn from and feed off of to continue getting better and better.”