THE FLATS -- It’s not like Carlos Divar started slowly last spring even though he started late, and yet there’s hardly a question this fall that the Georgia Tech freshman has picked up his pace for the tennis team.
His 5-2 record leads the Yellow Jackets to date and he appears to be following the plan hatched before returning home to Vitoria, Spain, after the spring semester: “I’m trying to work on being more aggressive because I can kind of grind [already],” he said.
Before bowing out of the ITA Southeastern Regional on Sunday at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex, where he fell 6-2, 7-5 to Georgia’s 21st-ranked Wayne Montgomery, Divar was 4-1 on the fall, winning his matches with less counter-punching than when he went 14-9 for the Jackets in the spring.
“I think he’s shown signs of doing that really well,” said head coach Kenny Thorne. “He’s just naturally a guy that will make somebody work so hard to beat him. Sometimes, it’s hard with that style of play to be the aggressor instead of saying, ‘I could’ve hit 10 more balls and won that point.’”
Tech’s first event of the fall was canceled, as Hurricane Maria wiped out the Albany College Invitational in New Providence, Bahamas, on Sept. 22-24, so the Jackets’ season began late with ITA action in Tulsa, Okla., and then the ITA Southeastern Regional on The Flats Friday-Monday.
Divar pondered playing professionally long enough that he didn’t have time to get his academics in order so as to enter Tech last fall. Beginning in the spring is uncommon, and he jumped right into action soon after arriving from Spain.
While he played in all 12 Atlantic Coast Conference matches, going 7-5 as the Jackets went 8-4 on the way to a final regular-season ranking of No. 19 in the nation, his adjustments were constant. This fall feels more normal.
“I think it’s completely different. It was great to come back this fall,” said Divar, who put together a 13-11 mark in doubles. “It was pretty tough for me to come here in general because as you can see my English is not good. This semester I’m more relaxed. I have more time to practice and to fix some details in my game.”
Actually, Divar’s English is solid, and his game is as well.
“It’s always difficult to come in the spring. You’re starting right up with [team] matches, right up with school,” Thorne explained. “We do a lot of our developmental stuff in the fall where we’re working on your game, getting comfortable with coaches if you’re a freshman, just getting the language down, the standards of what we expect.
“When you come in the spring, you’re thrown into it. He was thrown into it, and he came up to me at the end of the season and said, ‘Did I do OK?’ I said, ‘For coming in January, you did
College tennis in the fall is a bit more like juniors tennis in that matches are not scored for team points, but rather tournaments are set up for individuals.
Team rankings won’t come out until the second semester and given how smoothly Divar transitioned to college tennis and how he’s approaching the sport now, Thorne feels strongly about where he’ll be after experiencing a full fall season.
“In the spring, your match affects every different guy . . . there’s more pressure in college tennis than when you’re out on your own,” Thorne said. “Maybe you lose, and Mom and Dad are upset and you’re upset, but here you’re still upset and you’ve got the rest of the team that you feel like you let down.”
Divar agreed that collegiate tennis is different, saying it almost feels like another sport at times.
“When you play [ATP] Futures you play for yourself,” he said. “You’re with your coach and everything, but college with the team, it’s easier to compete [and practice]. You have more support. I like college tennis.”
But despite the differences, Divar has bought in completely, and has a good feeling about where he and the team will be, come the first team competition on Jan. 10.
“This semester is more individual,” Divar said, “but I can’t wait until the spring to see how this thing works because I think we can have a pretty good team.”