April 11, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
One look at Guillermo Gomez’s track record suggests that the Georgia Tech senior is most comfortable on a tennis court. That’s where his 113th career win Sunday, after all, bumped him past Kenny Thorne and into first place in school history.
Give the Spaniard a joy stick, though, and he’ll be just fine because he is a well-rounded lad – more than a hard-core tennis player and student.
“I like to read a lot, but right now I’m not reading any books,” he said. “I like to play Play Station when I’m really tired because I don’t have to move at all; I just sit on the couch. I like to go to movies and restaurants, too.”
The video game thing can be a problem for the winningest tennis player in Tech history. None of his teammates cotton to his favorite PS game, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Add the fact that, “my friends in Spain are usually sleeping when I get home,” and Gomez frequently has to play strangers on-line.
There’s nothing strange about him, unless you consider what he’s done halfway around the world over the past four years or so, and what he did over the weekend. Friday, he lost the first set to Duke’s Henrique Cunha, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation earlier this season and No. 6 prior to playing Gomez. Then, Gomez won 6-2, 6-2 to tie his coach (Thorne) atop the career leader board on The Flats.
Sunday, he dropped the first set to North Carolina’s Jose Hernandez, then won 6-3, 7-6 (12-10) as the Yellow Jackets avenged a loss earlier this spring to the Tar Heels and he finished off win No. 113. Thorne had 112 from 1985-’88.
Between his two weekend opponents, one had never lost an ACC regular-season match, and the other was undefeated this season.
In the end each time, a mindset prevailed.
“[Cunha] won [the first set] 6-4, but the difference was one or two points,” Gomez said. “I went to the changeover thinking that I’m in a good position to win. I didn’t go in thinking that he was playing unbelievable. I knew that he was nervous. I was feeling physically good, and that he barely won the first set.
“If you go with the mindset that he’s a good player, and then you lose the first set, you’re going to lose. You have to analyze: why did I lose the first set? Try to correct it, and play as hard as you can.”
Gomez does more analyzing now than he did when he arrived at Tech in the fall of 2007. He has a future to plan.
Soon after this semester ends, he’ll return to Spain and play a half dozen or so pro tournaments. They’ll be small-scale, and he’ll be allowed to pocket the entirety of prize money that he might win rather that just enough to cover expenses as per NCAA rules the past offseasons.
If it works out, he’ll travel some in the fall to play small pro tournaments in the U.S. while at Tech finishing up his work toward a degree in industrial engineering. He hopes to graduate in December. Then, the goal is to try the pro thing in earnest. One day, perhaps, he’ll put that degree to use.
“I really like what I’m studying,” he said of IE, which is about helping companies optimize their operations in a variety of ways. “I think it’s going to open some doors for me. Eventually, I would like to earn an MBA . . . and maybe open my own company.”
Gomez has become a better tennis player at Tech, and he’s become a more well-rounded person. With the help of his coaches and others, he’s working to extend his visa to stay in the U.S., the better to jump-start the rest of his life.
“When you come to college at first you don’t really think a lot about what you’re going to do,” he said. I’m having to make decisions that I didn’t think I would have to. Everything I do wrong, I try to improve upon it, and improve as a person.”
Tip your hat (he was wearing one Monday from the 2011 Masters that was given to him by a friend) to Guillermo Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org.