By Amanda Phillips
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -Monique Albuquerque from the University of Miami women’s tennis team moved from one cultural melting pot to another.
The sophomore came to the United States, by way of Brazil, after competing in the professional circuit for a short time.
“I came to the University of Miami last year,” Albuquerque said. “But I wasn’t able to play, so this is my first season competing.”
Although she did not compete in the 2011-12 season, she trained with her teammates. The practice and experience the sophomore gained in the year away from competition has shown on the court.
“I think I’m doing better now than when I first started playing this season,” Albuquerque said. “I still wasn’t feeling completely comfortable because I had not been in too many competition situations. But I feel like now I am more at ease on the court.”
The Porto Alegre, Brazil, native has been in love with the game since she began playing with her family at a young age.
“I started playing tennis when I was around seven years old,” Albuquerque said. “My family used to play a lot of sports and my mom and my grandparents all played tennis, so I just started to get into it. I started really enjoying tennis, so I just kept playing.”
After deciding that she wanted to continue her education and play tennis, she took a look at all of her options.
“I really thought it was a great opportunity to come to the United States, Albuquerque said. “I could play for the University of Miami and have the opportunity to study at a great school.
The talented athlete was in communication with other schools, but she felt the transition would be easier in Miami.
“For me, Miami was one of the best options,” Albuquerque said. “I feel like in Florida, especially in Miami, it’s similar to Brazil and it would be easier for me to adjust. Miami is the place I really wanted to be.”
Her improvement since she’s been a Hurricane is evident. Miami women’s tennis coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews likes how Albuquerque’s game has developed.
“I think she’s probably playing the best tennis that she’s played,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “I think she’s striking the ball well, but I think she is also competing the best that she has.”
The first-year player has faced tough competition in the regular season and throughout post-season play.
Albuquerque had big wins for Miami in the ACC Championship tournament. The 5-foot-8 sophomore beat Muriel Wacker of 22nd-ranked Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals and Kerrie Cartwirght of 30th-ranked Florida State in the ACC Championship.
Early in the season, Yaroshuk-Tews expressed that she would like to see Albuquerque toughen up and she is happy with how the sophomore has responded.
“She’s definitely toughened up,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “I think she’s opened up her eyes to college tennis and she sees how difficult it is and how much work it really is. She came through pretty big for us up in Cary [North Carolina] in the finals.”