NTRP Player Spotlight:
Erin Maher | November 1, 2018
This year, the USTA launched the NTRP National Championships, a new national adult tournament that leverages the NTRP rating system as a way to create level-based competition. The event enjoyed an overwhelmingly successful inaugural year, and USTA.com is highlighting the players who made it special. This week, we caught up with USTA member Rafael Garcia, whose love for tennis served as a catalyst to weight loss and a health and wellness journey. Garcia celebrated his successes both on and off the court in Surprise, Ariz., by competing in the men’s 4.5 division.
Tennis is a sport of great competition, athleticism and health.
Rafael Garcia is a testament to the health benefits of tennis. A former high school tennis player, Garcia let tennis and his health fall to the wayside and found himself weighing in at 350 pounds in adulthood.ADVERTISEMENT
Twelve years after he first picked up a racquet, Garcia, an El Paso, Texas, resident, decided to partake in a local tennis event. Holding a racquet brought back the passion he once felt for the game, and he immediately joined a USTA League mixed team and a men’s 4.0 team.
"I think tennis has had a profound effect on me, both mentally and physically," said Garcia. "It has transformed me completely."
Soon enough, Garcia found himself on multiple league teams, and he played monthly in singles, doubles and mixed events. Spending so much time on court, paired with a fitness routine and healthy diet, saw the tennis player lose a total of 140 pounds.
"The greatest change from losing weight and playing tennis came mentally. Now I expect great things out of myself because I believe I can. My mindset has changed completely from when I used to weigh 350 pounds to now at 210 pounds and the person I am today," Garcia said.
The person that Garcia is today is someone who is active and devoted to a lifestyle of health and wellness. He spends ample time on the tennis court and has made many connections through the sport.
A local teaching pro in El Paso who qualified for the NTRP National doubles event was looking for a partner and reached out to Garcia to see if he qualified. Garcia found out that he not only qualified for the doubles tournament but the singles competition, as well.
“It was just an opportunity that presented itself,” said Garcia, “so I took it.”
Garcia found himself traveling to Surprise, Ariz., in April to take to the court and participate in the men’s 4.5 division.
The NTRP Championships was the first time Garcia, a seasoned player, had ever played the Fast Four tennis format – a best-of-three sets to four games, no-ad scoring with a tiebreak at 3-all – which he felt was an excellent learning tool.
While Garcia did not make it to the final, he was incredibly proud of his performance.
“I know that the guy that won the 4.5 National title was in my bracket, so I got to play him,” he said. “Out of all the players that he played, I was the only one to take him to three set tiebreakers, so when I saw that, I figured I made him play a really good match there. I was really proud of that.”
Besides being happy with his on-court performance, Garcia found solidarity and camaraderie amongst his fellow NTRP players.
“Every match, every point, every opponent, I got to meet new people from all over the U.S., so I got to make new friends,” Garcia said.
When asked if he would play in the NTRP Championships again, Garcia enthusiastically responded with, “Of course!”
After participating at the national level, Garcia continues to strive for success and improvement on the court so that he can eventually take that national title as his own.
“Tennis does get tougher, it does get harder, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to improve and win one more game, one more set, one more point, against all these incredible Division I players from all over the country. That way, one day I can compete at the fullest level and hopefully get to a national championship.”
For more information on Rafael Garcia, you can find him on Instagram @Sundaystallion.