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National Hispanic Heritage Month: Player spotlights

Arthur Kapetanakis | September 14, 2021

It's National Hispanic Heritage Month, and to celebrate, is honoring players of Hispanic heritage who are making a mark on the game of tennis. Let’s take a look at the success of some of those players in 2020.


Ernesto Escobedo: Escobedo (pictured above) was born in Los Angeles in 1996 to parents Ernesto and Cristina, who are from Jerez, Mexico. The 24-year-old, who spent 26 consecutive weeks inside the Top 100 in 2017, had a strong summer in 2021. He reached the quarterfinals as a qualifier at the ATP 250 event in Los Cabos, Mexico, then got the semis at an ATP Challenger even in Lexington, Ky. 


Escobedo topped it off by reaching the second round at the US Open for the second straight year with a straight-sets win over Pablo Ceuvas. It was his fourth time into Round 2 at a Grand Slam.


“I feel I’m from both countries,” Escobedo said at the Los Cabos event in 2017. “I can’t forget that my family is from Mexico, a magnificent country. I love to come here, the people are very nice. But, at the same time, I was born and raised in the United States.”

Usue Arconada: Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Arconada (pictured) reached a singles career-high of No. 130 in February 2020. The 22-year-old made her Grand Slam main-draw singles debut at the 2020 US Open, where her ranking earned her direct entry. A four-time singles champ and seven-time doubles winner on the ITF World Tennis Tour, Arconada won the junior Wimbledon doubles title in 2016, alongside Claire Liu, and earned a career-high world junior ranking of No. 5. Her most recent professional title came at USTA Pro Circuit and ITF WTT W25 event in Boca Raton, Fl., where she teamed with American Caroline Dolehide for the doubles title.


Arconada’s older brother, Jordi, played college tennis at Texas A&M and reached a career-high ATP ranking of No 405 in 2019. He previously competed in the boys’ singles events at the US Open and Wimbledon.


Ulises Blanch: Blanch, 23, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moved to Seattle just days later. He made his Grand Slam main-draw debut as wild card at the 2020 US Open, where he lost in five sets to world No. 19 Cristian Garin of Chile. Blanch opened the 2020 season with an ATP Challenger title in Ann Arbor, Mich., his third professional singles title, which helped him reached a career-high ATP rank of No. 236 in Octobeer.

His 20201 highlights include back-to-back quarterfainl runs at Challenger events in Little Rock, Ark., and Orlando, Fla.


Blanch has also lived in China, Thailand, Argentina and India, a result of his father’s career with Coca-Cola. Read more about Blanch here.


Sabrina Santamaria: Born to Panamanian father Ivan and Philippine mother Annie in Los Angeles. Santamaria is currently No. 55 in the WTA doubles rankings, just shy of her career-high of No. 53 in August 2019. Coached by her father, the 28-year-old right-hander is a four-time WTA doubles finalist and a 12-time doubles champion on the ITF World Tennis Tour, where she’s also won two singles titles. Her most recent title came at the WTA 125 level in May, when she won a doubles event in France with doubles partner Kaitlyn Chirstian,


Santamaria reached the doubles second round at both Wimbledon and the US Open in 2021, and has notched wins at each of the four Grand Slam doubles events in her career.

Emilio Nava: Nineteen-year-old Nava had a breakout junior season in 2019, reaching the boys’ singles final at US Open and the final of both the junior singles and doubles events at the Australian Open. (He is pictured receiving his Aussie Open singles runner-up trophy.) He closed his junior career with a career-high ranking of world No. 5 at the end of that season. 


In 2020, he reached a pair of ITF single semifinals and won his first pro title at an M15 doubles event in Portugal with his older brother Eduardo, who plays college tennis at Wake Forest. Nava’s youngest brother Diego plays for Loyola Marymount.


This season, Nava won his first pro-level singles title at an ITF W15 event in Spain, where he later reached a W25 final. He also qualified for the Miami Open, earning his ATP Masters 1000 debut, and made his men's Grand Slam debut by competing at the 2021 US Open as a wild card.


The cousin of Ernesto Escobedo, Nava is the son of Mexican Olympians Xochitl Escobedo and Eduardo Nava. Xochitl, who coaches Emilio, represented her country in tennis at the 1988 Seoul Games. Eduardo ran the 100 meters in Seoul and at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Christina McHale: McHale’s mother Margarita was born in Cuba, while her father John is Irish-American. Ranked inside the WTA’s Top 50 for the bulk of the 2011-17 seasons, she currently sits at No. 107 after reaching the second round at the 2021 US Open. 


The 29-year-old New Jersey native has reached the third round of the US Open twice, in 2011 and 2013, the best results in her 12 New York main-draw singles appearances.  McHale, who has represented the U.S. in Fed Cup and the Pan American Games, reached the semifinals of the US Open mixed doubles in 2019.


JC Aragone: Aragone is an Argentine-American born in Buenos Aires and raised in California. JC (short for Juan Cruz) won three NCAA Division I championships with the University of Virginia from 2015-17. He is a two-time singles champion and three-time doubles titlist on the ITF World Tennis Tour, with his most recent title coming alongside Nicolas Barrientos at an M25 event in Pensacola, Fl., this May. 


That duo went on to reach three additional ITF finals this season, including two at the Challenger level.


The 26-year-old Aragone turned pro in 2017 after his UVA career, and came through qualifying as a wild card to reach the main draw of that year’s US Open. Aragone’s father, Facundo, also played professional tennis. 


Irina Falconi: Born in Portoviejo, Ecuador, to parents Carlos and Silvia Falconi, the 31-year-old holds career-high WTA rankings inside the Top 70 in both singles and doubles. A three-time WTA doubles finalist, her lone tour-level singles title came in Bogota, Colombia, in 2016. Falconi won the singles gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she also won the silver in doubles, alongside Christina McHale.


The right-hander played tennis for two years at Georgia Tech before turning pro in 2006. Her sister, Stephanie, played college tennis at Brown University.


Katerina Stewart: Stewart is the daughter of Argentine-Italian mother Marina and Romanian father Caesar. A 15-time champion on the ITF World Tennis Tour, she enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School after a junior career that included a US Open girls’ singles semifinal run in 2014 and a Roland Garros quarterfinal showing in 2015. Stewart also reached the 2015 Roland Garros girls’ doubles final, with compatriot Caroline Dolehide.


Tennis runs in the family for the former USTA Girls’ 16s national champion and Junior Orange Bowl champion. Stewart’s mother competed on the WTA Tour before she moved from Argentina to Florida, while her father has been a coach for almost three decades. The 24-year-old reached a career-high No. 158 in the world in July 2015.


Dali Blanch: The oldest of Ulises Blanch’s three younger siblings, Dali was born in Miami in 2003. The 18-year-old rose to a career-high of junior world No. 4 in October 2020, behind a J3 title in Romania and semifinal run at a Grade A event in Brazil. In the 2021 season, he won three junior doubles titles alongside compatriot Alexander Bernard.


Blanch, who has competed in all four junior Grand Slams, represented Team USA in the 2019 Junior Davis Cup, where the U.S. finished as finalists at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.


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