If I picked up a tennis racket again… I can’t imagine my childhood or my life without this sport! I started practicing when I was 5 years old, but I truly focused all my energy on it since I was 8; therefore, this is a thought that is constantly going through my head. It leads me to remember the wonderful moments I experienced thanks to tennis.
A bit of my beginnings in tennis
I grew up in Curicó, a small city located in the Maule Region in Chile. When I was a child, there weren’t many recreational activities available during this time; however, I do not remember that the word boredom was part of my vocabulary. At the end of the 80’s, I discovered tennis, a sport that was very important in my paternal family. At first, I remember sitting watching how my father and grandfather played. Without realizing it, I became just another player on the court and a passion awoke in me: the love of tennis.
This sport has been a family tradition that has marked many generations. My grandfather Ángel Toral and my father Guillermo Toral were very familiar with tennis rackets. Two very important men in my life, who in different ways became my references. However, I owe a large part of my achievements to my mother, a warrior and optimistic woman who believed in my dreams and encouraged me to fight for them. She dedicated a large part of her time to me, taking me from school to practices but, above all, trusting in me and the path I was building.
My first great motivation
In Curicó, I had the opportunity to meet a coach who was my great inspiration: Sergio Sánchez. A positive, inspiring man with a great desire to strengthen my abilities. It made me grow a talent that made me hungry to compete. This great motivation made tennis my number one priority, along with everything that this required; I began to eat better, take care of my sleep, hygiene and schedule my day. Since I was studying, I had to coordinate my time perfectly.
In the first stage, playing tennis was not fun or fulfilling for me. I wanted to move forward and excel right away, which often turned into frustration. But then I discovered that the path was made up of learning , giving a deeper meaning to my experience: learning to win and also to lose, trying to see the positive side of my results, making friends with similar interests to mine, a hug from my grandfather congratulating me on my behavior on the court, conversations with my father when I felt overwhelmed, and so much more.
When this sport begins to be more serious
At the age of 13 I decided to travel to Santiago, the capital of Chile, since living in a smaller region, my opportunities for growth in the sport, were considerably limited. I left my family when I was a teenager and never lived in the city of Curicó again. At the age of 17, I traveled twice to participate in tournaments in Europe. I was there intermittently, returning to Chile on occasion, but I always knew that this destination was temporary.
Not having a defined tournament schedule in Europe made it a psychologically and physically tough experience. I was not prepared for the expected level. I traveled day by day to practice. I didn’t eat well, and I didn’t have a place to rest. It was an experience where a lot was sacrificed and at the same time a very revealing experience: Is tennis the only thing I want to pursue in my life?
My final decision? Going to live in the United States to focus 100% on tennis. I, then, dedicated myself to looking for a sports scholarship that would help me rise to the level. These desires made me return to Chile to study English and Mathematics, the minimum requirements of the country to be able to enter the universities. I prepared for more than 6 months to take the SAT and TOEFL tests – which I passed on a fourth or fifth opportunity. Was I afraid? Very much so, but I also had the conviction that I was going to make it.
My academic and sports training
When I finally managed to pass, I chose a career and received academic training in The University of Toledo in Ohio, an excellent university in all senses: academics, sports, with excellent facilities and much more… An incredible experience. In emotional terms, it was very hard to leave family behind, but in practical terms it was much simpler than my experience in Europe; I came to my room every day, I could eat better and I was in better condition, in every way.
The main cultural challenge that I faced, without a doubt, was learning the language. Here the dictionary became my best friend. I really didn’t know how to even order food. The need to communicate led me to activate my creativity. I managed to become familiar with English in a very particular way… I dedicated myself to transcribing the entire dictionary, thus managing to learn all the words.
As for sports, both in Chile and in Europe, I was used to playing on open and slow courts. On the other hand, Ohio’s winter and snow opened the doors for me to learn to play indoor tennis, on fast and closed courts. It was almost like learning a new sport by facing a fast ball.
When I manage to put all the pieces together
My greatest achievements? Two moments. The first, when I reached the final of the National Tournament in La Serena. One of the few occasions in which this sport made me cry with emotion. I managed to be at the top of Chile and that meant that I could not climb higher at the national level. I realized that the dreams I had fought so hard for were materializing.
The second, when I won the “Toledo City Championship” tournament, the best players in the city played here. On this occasion, I managed to prove that I was in the best moment of my career.
So, if I picked up a tennis racket again, I would connect with my intuition, prepare myself and mentally prepare myself to be the best, with the deep conviction that results are a reflection of hard work and perseverance. If I had to give advice? In life, as in tennis, you do not necessarily have to focus on the future, learning to live in the present and enjoying the journey will allow you to see the possibilities you have in life. Thus, when you look back you can assess having been awake and aware of your surroundings. Own your career and be proud of all you will be able to learn.