The achievements of Spanish stars on the pro tours are well established. Today, Rafael Nadal and Garbiñe Muguruza rank among the world’s best. Spain’s many past greats include Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, winner of 14 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles, and Sergi Bruguera, winner of two French Open singles championships and the only man who holds winning records against both Federer and Sampras.
Less known, though, is the fact that there are now about 1,100 Spanish athletes, including many tennis players (see this recent top 10 list
, for example), attending American colleges. “You guys have an amazing system,” says Gonzalo Corrales, a Spaniard who had a great experience playing varsity tennis at Texas Christian University and the University of Georgia in the 1990s. Corrales is the co-founder (with his brother Alvaro) and managing director of AGM
, a company based in Zaragoza, Spain, that helps match student-athletes from more than 40 countries with colleges in the United States. The firm has been growing at an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent. In 2015, AGM served 225 clients; that number grew to 265 a year later, and will approach 300 this year. Soccer and tennis players lead the pack, followed by golf, basketball, swimming, and track-and-field athletes.
Gonzalo Corrales, Managing Director of AGM and a former player at UGA
Regarding tennis, “”We’ve seen a dramatic change in the way coaches request information on players,” Corrales says. “The first thing a tennis coach asks, is, ‘What’s their UTR?’ This is a recent change, in the last three or four years. Not all the Spanish kids have UTRs. In that case, we try to help them get one. Or we have to go back to the old-fashioned way, relying on Spanish senior rankings, maybe victories over certain college players, or video of them training and competing. Of course, the camera can be deceiving. I’m 42, but on video I still look very good!
“UTR helps us so much,” he continues. “With a UTR, any coach will have a good idea of your level of play. We advise our players to compete in places where they can create a UTR, so coaches can quickly understand what level they’re at. I’d love to see UTR become part of the Spanish federation’s system, because I know how much it would mean to so many kids.”
Corrales explains that UTR streamlines the process of matching an athlete with a college program, whose strength is easily pegged by its UTR Power 6 number. “You don’t want to go someplace where you’ll be #8 on the squad, because then you won’t get to play—they are too good for you,” he explains. “On the other hand, you may not want to go where you’d be the #1 player—you might like to have stronger players around so you can develop your game. We share all this information with parents so they can make the most intelligent decision for their kids. Going to college in another country is a huge life change, and it can be scary for a young person. UTR eliminates much of the mystery in making these decisions.”
The Bulgarian Tennis Federation
has recently joined the UTR family and will be sending its results to the UTR database. This makes 10 national federations that have come on board with the UTR system. “I am sure that UTR will help us upgrade our work at the Bulgarian federation,” says Presiyan Koev, a national coach and development officer there. “We have a good strategy for the development of tennis in Bulgaria, which we are performing with the support of ITF experts.”
“For sure, UTR is a great service for players, coaches, and parents,” he continues. “This is valuable for everybody involved with competitive tennis. You can schedule your tournaments and matches better with UTR—playing tournaments all around Europe, and the world. One big thing for me is that we will be participating in a very big network of players.”
“I am sure that UTR will help us upgrade our work at the Bulgarian federation.”
In Bulgaria, as elsewhere around the world, many young players are interested in playing collegiate tennis in the United States. “We want to give our players a chance to go to college,” Koev says. “In Bulgaria, it is not easy for the parents of tennis players to find good financing for this process. We want to improve their ability to do this, and UTR is very useful for that.”
Koev helps organize the structure of junior tennis in Bulgaria, and he emphasizes the importance of “good matches against good opponents, people at a similar playing level. That’s much easier to do with UTR. One famous coach says that to develop your game, you need at least 70 good matches per year. You’ve got a much better chance of doing that with UTR. It means bigger possibilities for player and coach.”
Wherever you are on the planet, UTR can enrich your experience of tennis. Sign up for free here. To bring the UTR system to your national federation, contact Sue Hunt.
Feature Photo: Junior Davis Cup, where team of Bulgaria with the captain Preslyan Koev qualified as Number 8 in the world U16 – record place for Bulgarian Boys team on the World finals.