USC sophomore Ray Sarmiento
© USC Sports
Sarmiento earned ITA All-America honors as a freshman.
© C.B. Schmelter/Captured In Action
Ray Sarmiento, a sophomore from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., earned ITA All-America honors in 2011 after reaching the NCAA Singles Round of 16 and helping USC win its third consecutive NCAA Team Championship. Playing at No. 2 singles for the Trojans this season, Sarmiento has helped lead his team to the 2012 NCAA Team final, where they will be going for their fourth straight national championship against No. 3 seed Virginia Tuesday afternoon in Athens, Ga. Prior to this year’s NCAA Championships, Sarmiento spoke with USTA.com about who has been the biggest influence in his tennis career so far, his favorite thing about being a Trojan and much more.
USTA.com: USC just captured the inaugural Pac-12 team title? Can you describe what that tournament was like and what the victory meant to you?
Ray Sarmiento: Ojai is always a very special place to play because of its rich tradition. This year was the first time it was a team event, and winning it meant a lot because being the first to do anything is always very cool, especially over UCLA.
USTA.com: You are nearing completion of your sophomore year. Has college been what you expected up to this point?
Ray Sarmiento: USC has definitely been a great experience, and I am learning a lot on and off the court. College is certainly different from the juniors. It is a different level, and I always have to be prepared to play every single day.
USTA.com: What advice do you have for junior tennis players who are beginning the process?
Ray Sarmiento: I would have to say just enjoy the process and listen to your coaches and parents! And do what’s best for you and your tennis.
USTA.com: As a junior tennis player going through the recruiting process, what made you choose USC?
Ray Sarmiento: As a junior, I was traveling a lot, and I rarely had time to see my family. Ultimately, I just wanted to be close to home with my friends and family, and I also really liked Coach Smith and the rest of the coaching staff, whom I thought would help me get to that next level. And I was really familiar with the guys on the team – guys like Stevie (Steve Johnson), dwin (Daniel Nguyen) and Jt (J.T. Sundling), who are all from SoCal.
USTA.com: Did you ever contemplate turning pro after high school, or did you know that you wanted to go to college?
Ray Sarmiento: I did, but I knew college would be the best choice for me because I knew I had a lot to learn and still do. College is a great stepping stone, and it will definitely help pave the road to the next level for me.
USTA.com: What is the best part about being a USC Trojan?
Ray Sarmiento: It’s right next to the Staples Center, so it’s easy for me to go see the Lakers!
USTA.com: Describe a typical day in the life of Ray Sarmiento.
Ray Sarmiento: Tennis, breakfast, class, lunch, tennis, train, class, nap, tutoring, dinner and sleep.
USTA.com: Who has had the biggest influence on your tennis career up to this point?
Ray Sarmiento: Definitely my parents. They have supported me throughout my tennis career. Also David Roditi and Blake Russ, who helped me so much as a junior. And I cannot forget my coach, Peter Smith. He is an awesome person!