CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami men’s tennis program has seen a number of its players enter the professional ranks and find success. While most go on to continue their playing career, some transition to the coaching side to instruct some of the world’s best.
That was on display last weekend when two former Miami Hurricanes guided their players to championships in the men’s singles and doubles competitions in the Sony Open, as part of the ATP World Tour Masters.
Daniel Vallverdu, who lettered for Miami from 2005 to 2009, was a member of the coaching staff that instructed Andy Murray during his pursuit of the singles championship. Murray defeated France’s tenth-ranked Richard Gasquet 6-7, 6-1, 6-2 before advancing to the finals and defeating Spain’s David Ferrer 2-6, 6-4, 7-6, to capture his second Sony Open singles championship.
Meanwhile, Luis Manrique, who wore the orange and green from 2002 to 2005, coached Jean Julian Roger to a doubles championship alongside Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. The fifth-seeded couple cruised past Poland’s Mariusz Frystenberg and Marcin Matkowski, 6-4, 6-1 to capture the trophy.
Vallverdu joined Murray’s coaching staff in 2010, after he parted ways with his former coach, Miles Maclagan, and has been an integral part of Murray’s success ever since. The two have even played together, advancing to the second round of the Artois Championships in London after beating France's Richard Gasquet and Nicolas Mahut, 4-6, 7-5, 10-4 in 2008.
But their relationship goes back much further than that. The two met in their adolescent days when training as juniors at the Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy in Barcelona. They became close friends but would later choose different paths, as Murray decided to pursue his professional career while Vallverdu chose to pursue his academic career at the University of Miami.
Vallverdu would go on to enjoy one of the most successful tennis careers in Hurricane history. He was a three-time All American in both singles and doubles and was tabbed All-ACC three times in his career. The 5-11 right-hander ranks top-five in Miami history with 67 doubles wins and top 5 in singles play with 90 wins.
The peak of his illustrious collegiate career came at the beginning of his junior season when Vallverdu was ranked as the third best singles player in the country, while teaming with fellow All-American Carl Sandburg for the No. 1 doubles tandem in the country.
Vallverdu worked hard off the court the court as well, earning three All-ACC Academic Men’s Tennis Teams as a business management major.
University of Miami men’s tennis head coach Mario Rincon had the pleasure of coaching Vallverdu during his tenure at Miami and is not surprised by the success he is having at the professional level.
“Dani Vallverdu was a great leader on and off the court,” Rincon said. “He was one of the best players in the nation in both singles and doubles. It is awesome to see him on TV at every major tournament in the world next to Andy Murray. It makes our tennis program very proud.”
“He contributed greatly to our success, reaching the sweet sixteen in 2006 and 2009 and two top twenty finishes in his career,” Rincon added.
Manrique, a native of Key Biscayne, Fla., enjoyed a successful four-year collegiate career at Miami. After graduation in 2005, Manrique entered the professional ranks where he earned a doubles ranking as high as No. 447 in the world.
Rincon only got to coach Manrique for one season but remembers how smart of a player he was and his love for doubles play.
“Luis’ tennis IQ is off the charts,” Rincon said. “He always loved playing doubles at Miami and in his professional career. He was just awesome to coach”
Manrique’s high tennis acumen coupled with his passion for doubles play convinced coach Rincon that he was destined to play or coach in the professional ranks someday.
“He has already coached several of the top ten tennis players in the world,” Rincon added. “He has done a tremendous job with Jean Julian Roger, having won the Sony Open this year and reaching the semifinals of the Grand Slams last year.”
Manrique has guided Jean Julian Roger to a No. 8 ranking in doubles, making him one of the youngest players in the top 10. Despite all the success Manrique has had at the professional level, his passion for the University of Miami has not diminished one bit.
“Luis knows how to brag about Miami.” Rincon said. “If you see Luis around somewhere he will probably have on some UM gear. He just loves the University of Miami.”