May 3, 2012
UCLA freshman men's tennis player Marcos Giron (pronounced Ghe-RONE) is currently ranked No. 71 in the latest ITA Singles Rankings and takes a 24-7 overall record into next week's NCAA First-Round match against Eastern Kentucky. A product of nearby Thousand Oaks, Calif., he plays No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles for the fifth-ranked Bruins. Giron stopped by the UCLA Athletic Department on Thursday to do a Q&A for uclabruins.com.
How did your involvement in tennis come about?
"I first got involved when I was about five or six. My Dad used to play every so often with his friends and then my Mom would feed me balls. It was just one of those things where my parents loved tennis so I became more involved. When I was younger, I'm sure I was just like everyone who just swings at the ball and hopes to get it over the net. But eventually I started playing some tournaments and doing fairly well so I just kept playing and I have enjoyed it ever since."
Last year around this time you were on an incredible winning streak in the juniors (Giron won 24-straight matches, claiming titles at the ITF Claremont, USTA International Spring Championships and the Easter Bowl). How would you describe that experience?
"It was definitely a great time in my tennis career. But what really led me to that was in the early part of the year, January and February, I worked really hard every day. I was training in the gym and doing a lot of fitness. I was on the court all the time. It came at a point when I was home schooled and had a really good base to work off of, so tennis turned into sort of like a job for me. With all the training my confidence really grew so when I was in these matches I just felt comfortable. Next thing you know I just kept winning and winning. It just goes to show that hard work really does pay off in the end."
At the time you signed with UCLA, you were listed as the No. 1 recruit in the nation coming out of high school. Is there any pressure associated with that? And how much of a learning curve did you notice in your transition from juniors to college?
"There is pressure. Any time you're a top recruit you don't want to be a bust. You want to be a strong, positive influence to your new team and you want to help them win a national title. As far as the learning curve is concerned, the team atmosphere is so different from just playing for yourself. Also, the schedule is isn't what you're used to coming from the juniors. Usually you get to play a few matches to kind of work yourself into the tournament. In college it's just one match per team. So yes, there is a little bit of a learning curve."
You missed a lot of the fall due to injury (Giron broke his wrist while playing at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla.). What was it like dealing with an injury so early on in your college career?
"It was definitely a setback. It was a different thing to deal with because growing up I wasn't someone who was injury prone. I was very healthy and never had to take more than a few days off because of injury. So I wasn't used to not being able to go out there and play every day. It makes you appreciate being healthy and how careful you have to be with your body. And it really showed me just how easy it is to get hurt. How just a simple fall could sideline you for months. I'm glad to be back that's all I have to say."
Can you describe how the injury happened?
"It was my second match of the day and probably my fourth or fifth hour on the court. I was in the third set so I was fairly fatigued. I went up for an overhead and as I jumped up both my legs cramped and I fell onto my wrist. I was in so much pain from my legs that I didn't even notice my wrist until I tried to hit the next ball and it didn't feel right. It was my match point when the injury happened so it was disappointing."
As one of the top juniors in the U.S., you had the opportunity to travel around the world. How much do you enjoy the travel?
"One of the reasons I really love the game is the chance to travel around the world and meet and play people from a bunch of different countries. It's also good to see what life is like outside of the U.S. Unfortunately, when you travel the world for tennis, you don't get to visit the cities for what they are. You are there to focus on the actual event itself. So even though it's cool to get around and see different places, you're not there to be a tourist."
Earlier in the year UCLA was tied with Pepperdine 3-3 and you won the clinching match. Is that the kind of position you like being in?
"As a tennis player, those are the kinds of situations you live for. Being in a situation where your teammates are counting on you is what makes college tennis really special. If I would've lost that match I would've not only felt bad for myself, but for the team as well. When the pressure is on, you do your best to live up to it."
When did you seriously start considering UCLA?
"I'm from Thousand Oaks so I'm a SoCal guy. I always looked up to UCLA and USC. Last year when the recruiting process came along I became very interested in UCLA. After visiting the school and meeting all the guys on the team and seeing how they practice, I just really wanted to be a Bruin. I just felt comfortable being in this environment."
Where you even thinking about possibly not going to college and turning pro?
"My goal has always been to play professional tennis. And obviously you get thoughts about what it would be like to be out there on the tour. But I knew college was the safe choice in the sense that you can come out with a degree. At the same time you can improve your game and mature. So even though I still have aspirations to play professional tennis, I'm happy with my decision. I can still play professional tournaments in the offseason."
What are some of your interests outside of tennis?
"I really enjoy hanging out with friends and visiting with my friends from back home. I'm a very active person so when I get the chance I love to go skiing and mountain biking. Just really playing all kinds of sports."
Who are some of the guys on tour that you have maybe modeled your game after or look up to? "Obviously, like most people, I grew up looking up to players like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. They are all such great players. I wouldn't say that I model my game after any of those guys, but I try to take bits and pieces of each of their games and incorporate them into my own."
Have you had the opportunity to hit with any of those guys?
"Last year I hit with Djokovic for a week during the LA Open. That was an amazing experience because he was the top guy in the world at that time and still is. I've also been able to hit with guys like Tommy Haas, Sam Querrey, Pete Sampras and Mardy Fish. So I've hit with the top guys. Hitting with them is really something else because you realize that even though they are better than you, it's still something that is achievable. You're not blown away. Those guys are just a little bit better in all the areas. They hit a little bit bigger ball. They are a little fitter. They are more mature with their decisions. It's just minor things that separate really good players from great players."