Tennis runs in the family for SDSU’s Nguyen

by Maxim Garshman, Staff Writer

San Diego State senior Tami Nguyen was destined to be a college tennis player, long before she was even born. To say the game runs in her blood barely scratches the surface of her tennis lineage.

Her mother and six of her aunts and uncles received scholarships to play collegiate tennis.

This includes her aunt, Eva Olivarez, who played at SDSU  in the early 1990s, when current head coach Peter Mattera was an assistant. To top it off, her parents met on a tennis court at Cal State Los Angeles.

So there was never a doubt Nguyen was going to be a tennis player. Now she’s playing in the No. 1 singles position this season for the Aztecs.

Nguyen grew up in the U.S. but moved to Philippines when she was about 9 years old.

She was homeschooled and would play tennis for eight hours every day — all she did was school and tennis.

“Ever since I was like 10 it’s been drilled into my brain (that I’d be here) in America and I’d be on a college scholarship,” Nguyen said. 

While the goal was always present in her mind, she did not realize how much work it was going to be.

In Asia there are two groups of junior tennis: the ATF, which is 14 years old and under, and the ITF, which is between ages 15 and 18.

“So that was a big jump for me.  I was dominating in the (ATF) and then when I went to the (ITF), obviously it’s a big change and I was just losing a lot,” Nguyen said.

That was when she hit her breaking point.

“I was heartbroken,” she said. “My parents spent all this money, and I’m spending all of this time practicing and playing, and I just felt like it was going nowhere.”

But a conversation with her father made her realize the opportunity she had.

Her father sat her down and gave her two options: continue or quit.

Nguyen realized she wanted to continue, but changes had to be made.

“I think it was just a change in mentality. I had a goal and I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing wrong or what’s not going right,” she said. “I think I just became more positive.”

Nguyen then continued to put in the time and improve her mentality when she was offered a scholarship to SDSU.

Her aunt Eva introduced Tami to Mattera, and after a tour of SDSU’s campus she became enamored with the school.

“It was the first school I looked at and I just kind of fell in love with everything and I didn’t look (anywhere) afterwards,” Nguyen said.

In her time at SDSU, Nguyen has had an extremely successful career. She was tied for first in wins on the team last season, boasting a 22-9 record. The success has carried over to this season, as she was undefeated in singles and doubles this past weekend at the SDSU Fall Classic I, before it was canceled on the final day due to weather.

“I’m really excited for it because it’s my last year …so I’m just like ‘Go big or go home,”’ Nguyen said.

Mattera hopes she will go big and lead SDSU to its first Mountain West title since 2003.