William Inman, 404-413-1355
Forgive Victor Valente for being just a little bit homesick. Like any college student, he misses his family, sure, but he’s able to talk to them back in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at least once a week via Skype.
What he says he really misses here in landlocked Atlanta is the beach.
|Sophomore tennis player Victor Valente is a Dean’s List student with a 3.99 GPA|
“Surfing is my hobby, and I love it,” he says, “and in Brazil, when I wasn’t playing tennis, I was always on the beach. So here, it’s pretty hard. It’s the thing I miss most.”
Perhaps it’s best that he keep a long distance relationship with surfing, because here at Georgia State, both on and off the tennis court, he’s doing just fine.
After an all-conference performance last year as a freshman, the southpaw standout on the men’s tennis team is in the midst of a breakout season for Head Coach Chase Hodges.
“We are very fortunate to have Victor here,” Hodges said. “He was an all-CAA performer last season and has gotten off to another great start this season.”
Last season, Valente finished with a 15-6 overall singles record, went 4-1 in conference matches and was named second team All-CAA. Thus far this season, he is 10-3 in singles play and 8-5 in doubles. This past week, Valente and freshman Thomas Cook were named the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) men’s tennis Doubles Team of the Week. Playing together for the first time last week, Valente and Cook went 3-1.
Off the court, the finance major is a Dean’s List student with a 3.99 overall GPA. Last semester, he posted a 4.18 GPA.
“Victor is a pleasure to coach and is the ideal student-athlete,” Hodges said. “He has his priorities in line and is going to be a great success in life.”
Like most of his friends in Sao Paulo, Valente grew up playing his country’s national sport – soccer. His father, however, also played tennis and gave Victor his first racquet when he was just three years old.
“I played in my first tennis tournament was when I was seven,” he said.
Just a few years later, at the ripe age of 12, Valente remembers that he made a very grown up decision – he would forgo soccer and focus on tennis.
“My friends all played soccer, and I was a good player, but, even then, I felt that tennis gave me more opportunity,” he said.
He explained that Brazilian soccer players typically stay put – why would they leave to play elsewhere? The sport is not only part of the culture, for many Brazilians, Valente said, it’s a way of life.
“If I kept playing soccer, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Tennis, he said, offered him the chance to travel and to continue his studies.
“It was a big decision, but I think I made the right one,” he said. “It’s one I don’t regret.”
While still in high school, Valente rose all the way up to the No. 4 ranking in Brazil, but opted not to turn professional.
Hodges, hired in 2009 to turn around a program that went 1-20 a season earlier, got wind of the talented Brazilian and began recruiting him.
“Luckily, I have a contact in Brazil who I went to college with,” Hodges said. “And I was fortunate enough to sign [Valente] for the spring of 2010 semester.”
In Valente’s first year, the Panthers managed one of the greatest turnarounds in collegiate men’s tennis history when they finished 15-6 en route to a berth in the semi-finals of the CAA Championship.
Valente says that this season’s team is even better, and their goal is to win the conference championship.
Personally, Valente said he hopes to improve his game and, one day, go ahead and make the jump to the professional ranks.
“I’m working on it, yes,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of years to get better.”
Valente, who rooms with fellow tennis player and Brazilian Lucas Santana, is one of more than 40 international athletes studying at Georgia State.
“We’ve got guys on the team from France and from Ecuador,” he said. “And we’re really good friends with the golf team. It’s good for us, because we all develop our [English] – even my Spanish is much better because of all of the Spanish speakers.”
And while Valente is, perhaps, more well-suited for life in downtown Atlanta than most (“You want traffic? I’ll show you traffic: Sao Paulo has 10 million people!”), he says the surfing scene here is simply just lacking.
“I tried snowboarding during the all the snow… It just didn’t work out.”
Published Feb. 21, 2011