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UB men's tennis has an international flare

Spanish tennis players Arevalillo and Alvarez both claim 100th career victories.

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For senior tennis player Sergio Arevalillo, April 10 was just like any other game day this season. He showed up at the Miller Tennis Center for his singles match and played his heart out, like he always hopes to, and came away with a victory for his team.

He was upset about the Buffalo men’s tennis team’s 5-2 loss to Western Michigan that day. It wasn’t until after the match that Arevalillo found out thathis singles match victory was the 100th victory of his UB career.

“It feels like I just hit 50 wins not that long ago,” Arevalillo said.

And he wasn’t the only Buffalo player to have recently reached the milestone. Fellow senior Pablo Alvarez won his 100th match on March 18 against Binghamton.

The two Spanish tennis stars, who have been friends since before they arrived in Buffalo, continue to collectively make history for the Bulls (9-6, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) together. They lead the team in singles victories this season, Arevalillo with 21 and Alvarez with 17, as Buffalo looks to claim its second straight conference title.

Since the two met as teenage tennis prodigies in Spain, they’ve done nearly everything together when playing on the court. Both of them moved to the United States to pursue an education and further their tennis careers four years ago, and their parallel journeys to 100 wins have endured through obstacles, including adjusting to a new language and new culture.

Arevalillo and Alvarez first met at the age of 12 as frequent opponents in several adolescent tournaments in Spain. Even though they were often lined up on opposite sides of the court, the two gradually became friends.

After high school, Arevalillo ended up at UB in the fall of 2012.When a Bulls recruit from South America had failed to make the necessary grades, Buffalo head coach Lee Nickell was looking for somebody to take his place. Arevalillo told Nickell that his extremely talented best friend was looking for a school in the United States, and Alvarez joined the Bulls in the spring of 2013.

At first, the two struggled to adjust to American culture. They knew some English from high school in Spain, but for those first few months in Buffalo, they mostly had nothing more than each other to rely on.

“It was really a struggle for both of us,” Arevalillo said. “At the beginning it was kind of a struggle, because the teacher’s would go really fast, and we couldn’t understand much of what they were saying, but after the first few months, we learned everything.”

It also helped them on the court. If one of them couldn’t totally understand what a coach was trying to say, the other could explain it to him in Spanish.

“When your teammates comes for you and cheers for you it’s the best feeling ever,” Arevalillo said. “When one of us comes [to cheer for each other], we’ve known each other for so long that, it feels deeper. It’s like having some part of your home there.”

For most athletes, overcoming all that and still managing to win 100 wins would be a proud individual moment. For Arevalillo and Alvarez, it doesn’t matter much. The two have their eyes on bigger things, like leading their team to a second-consecutive MAC Championship in the conference tournament in a few weeks.

“Having 100 wins is something that makes us really happy,” Arevalillo said. “But it’s not what we wanted. Our goals are more set on team goals. It’s more team goals more than individual goals, so we can have 50 wins, we can have 2 wins, we can have 11,000 wins if you want to put it like that, but as long as the team wins, we’d consider that we achieved our goals.”

What comes after college for the two best friends is still up in the air. They both plan on playing in some tournaments back in Spain this summer, then returning to UB in the fall to finish their education.

After graduation, they both plan on pursuing a professional career in tennis.

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