March 9, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
With a rare weekend without a tennis match, you might think that Juan Melian will take a little time to reflect on his travels. The senior from Spain, however, is spending as much time looking forward as back.
Melian will graduate from Georgia Tech in December, and his eligibility expires after the present spring season. He’s not planning to return to Las Palmas, Spain, to earn a living. Instead, he hopes to put his mechanical engineering degree to work in the United States.
“I would rather stay here at least for a few years and see how is the working life over here,” Melian said. “And I will have more working opportunities here. I like it over here. I’m very happy. I’m looking for a summer internship now.”
Melian’s been happy on the court recently as well. He’s won six straight matches in his last seven outings, with one no-decision, at No. 2 singles. Winning is not exactly new, but now that he’s settled in at Tech, he’s found more success.
Before transferring to Tech in 2011, he won a lot in two years at Georgia Southern. With a 17-9 record as a freshman and a 22-1 mark as a sophomore, when he was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year, winning was the norm.
Tech made that a little tougher for a while.
“It was a huge difference . . . at the beginning I struggled. I’m not going to lie, especially how to prepare for tests,” he said. “The amount of preparation I needed for tests here was much, much higher than the courses I took at Georgia Southern.”
By last spring – his second on the Flats – Melian found a groove and finished his first year at Tech 18-9.
“I fought my way through with all the help of tutors from the AA (Georgia Tech Athletic Association), and friends. Then, in my second semester it was OK,” he said. “It’s going good this year. I feel much more comfortable playing this year. The academics are separate. It’s two separate lives, but somehow they relate.
“Sometimes, it can be hard to focus and enjoy being out there on the court, especially thinking that you have to do so much stuff on the outside or you did bad on this test. Getting used to the life over here definitely helps to perform on the court.”
The Jackets have struggled with more than their share of injuries this “spring” on the way to a 7-6 non-conference record. Doubles ace Vikram Hundal figures to miss the entire ACC season with a fractured kneecap.
Hundal’s injury leaves just seven Jackets for six spots. At times, they haven’t had sixth fully healthy players, which has created a different kind of stress. Tech’s doubles pairing have been especially fouled up.
Conference action begins in earnest with a Friday match against Florida State and a Sunday match at Miami. Hopefully, the Jackets can straighten themselves out soon.
“It affects us all,” Melian said of Tech’s injury situation. “A couple matches we’ve played with the six guys who are healthy. If a top player gets hurt, all of the other players have to move up a position above where they normally play. That can turn around a match.”