Igor Santana from the Intermountain Section
© Joe Murphy
By J. Fred Sidhu, USTA.com
It was quite a day for Igor Santana, a 34-year-old native from Salvador, Brazil who now lives in Las Vegas.
Santana, who works as a project manager for a gaming corporation, was at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden where he was representing the USTA Intermountain men’s 5.0 team in the USTA League National Championships.
Prior to his first match, Santana was watching television in the players’ lounge when he learned the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, marking the first time in history the Olympics will be held in South America.
“It’s great!” said Santana. “I used to live in Atlanta and I saw how much the city grew after the Olympics in ’96. I see a lot of opportunity for the country (Brazil) to develop and bring in a lot of business. It’s a beautiful place. We’re going to make it a nice party.”
Santana, who grew up playing junior tennis in Brazil, was so elated with the news of Brazil being awarded the Olympics, he put on a replica Brazilian soccer jersey before taking the court to play a doubles match. “That’s why I put my shirt on. I said, ‘it’s a good day for us.’”
The good news continued for Santana on court as he and teammate Ken Bang led the USTA Intermountain men’s 5.0 team to two narrow victories on the opening day of the USTA League National Championships.
Playing with an attacking style and hitting heavy grounds strokes, Santana and Bang defeated Vivek Varma and Robert Vincent, 7-6, 3-6, 1-0 to lead Intermountain to a 2-1 victory over Pacific Northwest in their first match.
In Intermountain’s second match of the day, Santana, who played collegiate tennis at Morehead State in Kentucky, teamed once again with Bang. They scored the clinching victory as they defeated Eric Basart and Brett Buffington, 6-4, 5-7, 1-0 to help Intermountain edge Southern California, 2-1.
In the match tiebreak, Santana and Bang fell behind early, but stormed back, fought off a match point and eventually won the match.
Santana says he gets inspiration from Brazilian soccer and his favorite player, Kaka, the famed Brazilian midfielder.
“We were down two times today,” Santana said. “Eventually you have that small thought, maybe we can comeback and get it done,” he said. “We did it both times today. We always feel the excitement of being in the match.”
The USTA Intermountain 5.0 men’s team, which is in Flight 5, ended Friday’s action with a 2-0 record. They will face USTA teams from the Northern Section and Southern Section on Saturday. The winner of Flight 5 will advance to Sunday’s semifinals.