Florida State's Cristian Gonzalez Mendez is a men's tennis player from Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Throughout the summer as he transitions from a junior to a senior, Cristian will provide fans with an in depth look into the world of tennis both at Florida State and internationally in Spain.
Hola! I have very exciting news today: a few days ago, I won the Galician Championship for first time in my life! Hooray! The Galician Championship is the most prestigious tournament in this region of Spain, which is why it is such an accomplishment for me to come up victorious. Before this year, I had competed in this tournament five times and I never made it past the quarterfinals, which really shows how competitive this tournament is and how many talented players compete in it.
Honestly, I knew I was good enough to win this tournament but somehow I always managed to find an excuse that held me back. Once I saw the draw for the first time, I knew that I had a lot of work ahead of me to finally bring the trophy home. My side of the draw was filled with most of the best players in the tournament, including three of my colleagues that play Division I collegiate tennis, the number 2 seed (whom I lost to in this same tournament last year) and other nationally high-ranked players. Years ago, I would’ve complained every single day of how unlucky I got because I had to play the best players before making it to the finals.
However, this time I thought to myself that I actually got lucky. I knew that if I kept winning matches it would mean that I was playing at a great level, which is the only way to win a tournament of this caliber. I had such good competition that I was forced to play my best and I was able to stay mentally tough at all times, which prepared me for the final.
As I mentioned in previous blogs, because I have been playing in the US for the past three years, my Spanish ranking has steadily decreased to a point where I have to go to the qualifying draw in specific tournaments. I thought that the Galician Championship would be one of those tournaments, but as it turned out, I was the LAST player accepted in the main draw! Phew! As the last player in the main draw, I was not seeded for the tournament and nobody expected me to make it as far as I did, especially win the whole thing. I had to fight my way to the top, including defeating both the number 1 and 2 seeds.
Winning my first ATP point last year helped me as a tennis player to be more confident in myself and my game, which reflected in my successful season at Florida State this past year. Now, after how well I have been doing so far this summer, and especially after winning this tournament as the underdog, I feel that I’m evolving as a tennis player, my mindset is changing, my game is changing and I’m starting to understand how to be successful against a variety of talented tennis players.
For example, Roberto Rodriguez (who I played in the finals) is a 6‘3” guy with extraordinary fitness. Because of this, he is a very frustrating opponent as he reaches and makes every single ball. This forced me to be strategic with my ball placement and to stay patient because I knew that more likely than not the ball was going to come back over the net: as long as I remained smart, consistent and strong, I was going to win the point. Even though it was an extremely hot day, I pushed all of my strength to hit as many winners and aces as I could. Specifically, I hit 7 aces, 17 service winners and 21 winners (thank you Summer for recording my point-by-point statistics) to win the match.
The best part about the day I won, though, happened after the match. The moment that I hit the winner to win the match, the moment I realized I was the Galician Champion, and the moment I walked up to receive my trophy are all great. However, after the trophy ceremony, as I sat down with my family to have lunch at the tennis club, a little old man approached me with a small piece of paper and asked me for my autograph. As I wrote a note along with my signature, he excitedly asked me about how my tennis in America and Spain was going. That moment, when a stranger was so innocently happy to talk to me and ask for my autograph is the type of moment that makes playing tennis so worthwhile.
After this victory I look forward to playing and hopefully winning three more tournaments this summer, including two Future tournaments.