Juggling Tennis Balls

May 3, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

It is finals week at Georgia Tech, and Guillermo Gomez is stretched thin. That’s a special sort of event because it’s not easy to stretch G-squared thin. He’s built of components that typically withstand high stress loads.

But the facts that this is finals week and that the Yellow Jackets are hosting next week’s NCAA tournament pale next to a greater reality.

Gomez, who is from Alicante, Spain, is applying for a green card.

It is wearing him out, which is – I can say from experience in viewing him not only as a fabulous tennis player, but as an all-around person – no easy task.

“It’s not been easy for me,” he said Monday. “It’s another thing in my head.”

This is a young man who’s moved a lot through his noggin. And this is the first time in two dozen or so conversations with him I sensed a droop in his voice.

The finals and the upcoming NCAAs are not pushing Gomez’s buttons. He’s handled both with aplomb. The guy is Tech’s all-time career leader in wins (116), has played at No. 1 singles almost all the way, and last week was named ACC male tennis player of the year.

Yet this process is tedious, and he’s had to ask for letters of recommendation, and then ask more than once for some of those letters to be re-written, adjusted, or re-purposed. That’s just a sliver of the process, and although his coaches – at Tech and back in Spain – are helping, all of it is uncomfortable.

“I’m applying for a Green Card with . . . exceptional ability, like a very good actor or very good doctor [would],” Gomez said. “I’m going to say that I’m going to be a pro I have a chance to do very good. If I was a football player or basketball player, I’m saying I would be drafted and earn a lot of money.”

That’s reasonable.

Only twice before has a Tech male been named conference player of the year (Jens Skjoedt in 1990 and Benjamin Cassaigne in ’99). Gomez is a four-time All-ACC player. At one point last season he was ranked No. 3 in the nation, the highest in school history.

And through all of that, he always struck me as calm.

I don’t want to suggest that he’s panicked now. But he’s different.

“I’m putting information together, pulling all the articles that have been done about me,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. We set a deadline – [by] when I finish college [in December]. We felt we should do it now, when I’m in the spotlight, no? If I’m gone [from college], people will forget about me.”

In the midst of all this, the Jackets and Gomez are preparing to host NCAA first and second round matches for only the second time.

Gomez (31-7 this season with a 21-6 doubles record playing with roommate Dean O’Brien), is currently ranked No. 14 individually. He’s hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, he’s a little worried.

“It will be very good to have matches here,” he said. “Pepperdine is being punished. I’m trying to get ready, but I took a couple days off to get really strong. After finals, I will get back to it.”

In Gomez’s case, “it” is plural.

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