Junior Christian Blocker wakes up in his apartment to the sound of the ocean every day. It’s a far cry from the mountains of his hometown in Hamburg, Germany.
“I live right on the water, which is probably the greatest thing in the world,” he said.
Blocker is one of eight international players on the University of Miami men’s tennis team.
The accounting and finance major first visited the United States at the age of 12 when his family vacationed near Tampa.
Soon after, he traveled with the German Federation to international tournaments and learned to book his own hotel, locate practice courts and eat healthy.
“I think it’s a great experience to be self-reliant at a really young age, especially because at those tournaments you have to take care of your own stuff,” Blocker said. “At an early age, you act professional.”
That’s what he did for a year and a half out of high school until he decided to continue his studies in Miami.
Now 24 years old, the All-ACC Men’s Tennis Academic Team member enjoys the difference between college tennis and the pros.
“Tennis is an individual sport usually,” Blocker said. “Here we have a team that plays together all year and we practice together every day. Tennis isn’t really a team sport, but it’s made into one, which is a great thing.”
In terms of playing style, he said that the hard court surface is the main difference.
“Here in Florida you play all around on hard court,” Blocker said. “The style isn’t really different, just the environments you play in are pretty tough. You play away and then you have to fight against your opponent and the crowd.”
Since his family in Germany has yet to attend his college tennis matches at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center, Blocker updates relatives via Skype calls.
It’s an experience that his head coach, Mario Rincon, can relate to. A native of Colombia, Rincon played tennis at the University of Kentucky.
“Being away from my family was very hard,” Rincon said. “Nowadays when the kids get homesick, they get on their BlackBerrys. I remember calling home would cost me $12 for three minutes, so I wrote a lot of letters.”
Of the top 125 singles players in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll, 79 are international, including Blocker’s Norwegian teammate, junior Carl Sundberg.
Sundberg, who is ranked No. 90, believes that having an international team is advantageous.
“I think it works out pretty well. You see how it is with different cultures and languages,” Sundberg said. “We have a couple of Americans. We just need one from Australia now.”
Sophomore Ignacio Taboada is one of the Americans and appreciates his opportunity.
“I think it’s an important role for me with the fact this program has been pretty good over the years but hasn’t had really good Americans come through,” he said. “For me to represent is very important.”
Blocker admits that his teammates have turned him into an American football fan. He now follows the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes.
“When I came here I never thought I’d ever be interested in football because we just don’t have it,” he said. “Now I actually got really into it.”
With a little over a year until graduation, Blocker intends to take his time in deciding whether he wants to try professional tennis again.
“I definitely want to do my master’s in either accounting or business,” he said. “I really like South Florida so I’m probably just going to stay here and hope that I get a good job.”
Christina De Nicola may be contacted at email@example.com.