Porto Alegre, the southernmost capital of Brazil, is home to a cultural epicenter of South America and contains one of the most carefree, intelligent groups of people as well, known as the “Gaúchos.”
The University of Miami women’s tennis team has one Gaúcho on its roster – Monique Albuquerque.
Albuquerque has the look not of a graduate student in business with her final months in Miami dwindling to a close, but of a woman content with what she had accomplished in her time in the U.S. and excited about the future.
Albuquerque’s journey to Miami began at the age of eight when she picked up a tennis racket for the first time. However, tennis wasn’t the 24-year-old’s first love.
“I really liked soccer,” Albuquerque said. “I spent all my time with the boys, and I was ready to start practicing, but there weren’t any girls’ teams at the time.”
When Albuquerque’s mother found out about that conflict, she tried to open her daughter’s eyes to other sports.
“My mom said, ‘I need to get you away from the boys,’” Albuquerque said.
Albuquerque tried everything from volleyball to basketball to gymnastics, at which point she said “I sucked,” as she lightly slapped her knee and laughed.
Albuquerque finally stumbled upon tennis and instantly fell in love with it. She prides herself on being open-minded and unafraid of new things.
“You have to be open to learn new things, and it’ll help you grow much faster,” she said.
One of the new things she had to learn just three years ago was how to deal with adversity.
Shortly after her parents divorced, Albuquerque quit tennis.
“It got to the point where I thought ‘I cant do this anymore,’” she said. “I was mentally just not doing well. And I was also coming to the point where maybe I should just start doing something different.”
Albuquerque began studying, but after a month, the game drew the Brazilian senior back in and led her to UM.
“If I waited more than that I wouldn’t have been able to come,” she said.
Albuquerque nearly ended her tennis career on more than one occasion. After graduating last year, Monique was ready to go back to her mom, her sister, her boyfriend and her whole family in Porto Alegre.
“I was waiting for that time,” Albuquerque said about returning to her country. “But I was really afraid of regret.”
She referred to the “regret” as not fulfilling her full potential with one year of eligibility left.
It was her supportive family and deep passion for the sport that made her stay.
“It really touched me,” she said. Albuquerque had the gateway and fast pass to go back home to her family, but she thought about it, and once again made the right decision.
That’s one of the keys to success for any tennis player: keeping calm under major pressure.
Her teammates idolize her for that, especially her doubles partner Clementina Riobueno.
“Oh my god,” Riobueno said. “She’s the best doubles partner ever. She’s so chill. She never gets mad at me when I miss a ball. She’s awesome.”