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Rincon leads team to five NCAA Tournaments

When a Miami tennis player rockets a winner past his opponent, Mario Rincon uncrosses his arms, claps his hands, and encouragingly says, “Come on.” And when another player drops a point on an untimely double fault, Rincon uncrosses his arms, claps his hands, and encouragingly says, “Come on.” For the passionate coach wearing sunglasses, a hat and a towel around his neck, this is bliss.
Rincon and the Hurricanes have seen continued success in his nine years at the school. Since coming to Miami in 2004, the program has reached the NCAA Tournament five of the past seven seasons and advanced to the Sweet 16 twice (2006, 2009). But what sets Rincon apart from other coaches has nothing to do with wins and losses.
“Coach Rincon is a really complete coach on the court and off. On the court, he tries to push you and tells you what you need to do,” senior Diego Soto said. “But off the court, he’s really a friend to me, someone who I can always talk to about whatever I want.”
Rincon grew up in Duitmama, Colombia, a small town about 150 miles from Bogota. His father, Mario Sr., built the family a tennis court on their property so his five children could play the sport he loved.
Pushed from an early age, Rincon, the middle child, practiced constantly with his siblings and friends from the surrounding area. While he excelled at tennis, Rincon actually longed to play soccer.
“I think every little kid in South America dreams of being a soccer player first because you’re surrounded by it and [soccer players]are everyone’s heroes over there – that was my case,” Rincon said. “Tennis can be a lonely sport. You practice many hours on your own or just with your partner.”
He eventually came to the U.S. to attend North Greenville University, a junior college in Tigerville, S.C. There, he starred for the Spartans and won the National Junior College Championship in 1987. He left the next year to attend Kentucky, where his career took off.
Rincon won All-American honors, defeated the top-ranked player in the nation, won the SEC tournament in his group, and finished the year ranked No. 29 nationally in singles.
He would spend nine years on the ATP World Tour and the ATP Challenger Tour, a sort of minor leagues of ATP World Tour. While Rincon played mostly at the Challenger level, he participated in all 4 Grand Slam events (US Open, Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon). During his playing years, he trained with some of the world’s top players in Brandenton, Fla. He served as a practice partner to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce.
Rincon completed his degree at Kentucky when he retired from the tour and, after graduating, took an assistant coaching job at Alabama in 2001. Miami hired him three years later.
“What tennis has been about to me is college tennis,” Rincon said. “Working with the guys, winning together, losing together, seeing them graduate, seeing them perform, seeing them experience their college years and seeing them be happy is what it’s all about for me.”

June 21, 2013

Reporters

Gabriel Ibrahim


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