And Blocker is just one of the many international athletes here at UM.
Of the ten players on the men’s tennis team, seven were born outside of the United States. On the women’s team, over half of the players were recruited from foreign countries. This is not an uncommon characteristic of UM’s athletic teams; coaches actively recruit players from all over the world.
Blocker chose Miami for a strong education and its proximity to the water. He has always loved the ocean and moved to the United States three years before enrolling. He also wanted to be close to his fiancé, a graduate of UM currently living in Fort Lauderdale.
At UM, the tennis athlete has maintained a strong focus on academics. He has achieved a 4.0 for three semesters, despite the long practices associated with being an ITA ranked player on a Division 1 team.
“Playing tennis at a young age, I had to learn to manage my time and use it efficiently,” Blocker said. “So by the time I came to UM, I had already acquired these skills. Playing for a Division 1 team takes a lot of work, but I love it.”
Blocker hopes to play professional tennis after graduation, but he also hopes to pursue a career that incorporates his double major in accounting and finance.
“I would love to live in New York for a while and work on Wall Street,” he said.
This season, four girls from the women’s tennis team are nationally ranked—three of them are international players.
“We only had two Americans and the rest were all international when I got here,” said junior Gabriela Mejia.
Mejia, who is ranked number 83 in the ITA, came from Cali, Colombia. The strong tennis program drew her to UM.
She first heard of the University of Miami through her boyfriend, who was familiar with the men’s tennis coach, Mario Rincon. Through this, she was able to contact the women’s coach, Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, who assisted her during the admissions process.
Mejia said playing in the United States is very different than playing elsewhere.
“The American players grew up playing each other, while I played internationally,” Mejia said. “We all approached the game differently, but [share] more experiences, which I was able to grow from.”
The native Spanish speaker also had to conquer a language barrier when she first arrived. Mejia took a pre-English course, which taught her how to write papers and prepared her for college classes. With the help of the Writing Center, Mejia said she learned quickly.
Her big heart goes out to international freshman on the team. She wants help them become accustomed to Miami. She fondly remembers her Venezuelan teammate Laura Vallverdu, a 2010 graduate, guiding her through her freshman year.
“Laura helped big time,” Mejia said. “It was great to have someone to talk to in my own language when I had problems.”
The women’s tennis team, ranked 10 in the nation, is ready to represent the ‘Canes this season in all their glory. The men’s team is looking to move up in the rankings, their 2010 recruiting class was ranked 7 in the nation. However, without the international recruits, the tennis teams would lack the skill required to move up in the rankings.