MyTennisHQ Interviews: Rodrigo Mariz de Oliveira

Quick Facts

  • School: Illinois State
  • Year Graduated: 2016
  • Current Job: Product Specialist at Wilson


Rodrigo was born December 18, 1994 in São Carlos, Brazil. The Brazilian was ranked as high as number 5 in Brazil at age 16. In 2012 he committed to Illinois State, playing 4 years of college tennis and earning his degree in International Business.

After college, he went on to work as a hitting partner for a while which earned him incredible experiences. He played with some of the best players in the world and in Indian Wells 2019, Rodrigo was able to practice with Roger Federer. During the time he was working as a hitting partner, the Brazilian was able to create several connections, which helped him set up his current job: product specialist at Wilson.

I’ve personally known Rodrigo since we were kids in Brazil and he is one of the greatest guys I know. While he didn’t pursue a professional career, he used tennis to earn a free education and make lifelong connections to help his future. That is what college tennis is all about. Let’s learn more about his journey!

7 Questions With Rodrigo Mariz de Oliveira

#1 What was your recruiting/school selection process like?

My family and I decided that was a good idea when I was 14, and I officially committed in December of 2012. 4 schools. January of 2012, my plan was to start college in 2013. But I started to talk with my school December 1st of 2012. Best education possible, highest scholarship possible, D1. The best scholarship offer came from the coldest place on earth. The scholarship offer stand out a lot because my family didn’t have the resources to pay part of the tuition if I had chosen a different University

#2 What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?

It was during my senior day at home, during all 4 years we never beat Drake (They are super annoying) in our conference, I believe they were ranked 25. I saved 3 Match Points to clinch a 4-3 Win. My favorite moment actually was the daily interactions with my teammates and coaches, training, playing, travelling, studying, partying, it was very unique and special. It felt like a new family, and that we were all in the same boat going through new and different experiences. Here are some unique moments: -During my first spring break we had an early beach run workout and we saw more than 20 dolphins very close to the coast and we decided to turn the run into a swim, we were able to swim for like 5 min close to the dolphins. Not so funny incident, but basically 8 of teammates, myself and our coach had a terrible food poisoning during spring break, and we all went to the hospital including our coach. We had to withdraw from 2 matches during spring break.

#3 How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?

I am a Product Specialist at Wilson. I mean, if have no words for what college did for me. From tennis itself, friendship, cultural awareness, having the opportunity to travel to many different places in the US, education, professional knowledge, and unique experience. All of that combined with a great deal of responsibility gained during those four years, gave me the tools to be where I am today.

#4 A lot of juniors and parents worry that tennis will suffer because of the academic demands of college. What advice would you give an 18-year old in terms of balancing academics and tennis?

I believe that the tennis routine can be brutal, very repetitive and boring sometimes. Learning and studying can be tough mentally and sometimes very stressful considering some important exams. But I am 100% positive that studying and learning new things does help anyone in life and on the tennis court as well. My advice is to always learn different things / hobbies, even if you not in school. This will take your mind of the court and make you a better person overall. (Tennis is not everything kids).

Use resources that are available at the athletic-student center or any other school organization – Prepare and study in advance – Use our teammates or classmates to study together – Create your own study routine – If you behind your studies, it will be difficult to perform well on the court I promise. My routine was something like this: Get a coffee – Bring a friend or teammate that is taking the same class – Go to the student-athletic center to finish assignments – If possible, study with a student-athlete tutor on a complicated subject – 5 days a week go to the library for at least one hour. To prepare in advance for next. assignments and exams. The toughest thing is when you are travelling a lot in season and you are behind on your studies. Use your time well don’t let it get to that point.

#5 Another thing we see parents worrying about is how the social component of college will affect their kids tennis. What would you tell an 18-year old going to college in regards to having fun without compromising their tennis/academics?

At least for me, since I am 14 years old, I had to make some tough choices, if we want to sleep late and do what a non-tennis player usually does. In college was the same thing, you will have the option to do other things besides tennis and if you make the wrong choices you won’t be able to conciliate tennis + school at the highest level. Balance is the key word in college, we are young and no one at 18 is ready to play on the tour physically and mentally. So be social, meet new people, make new friends, go out and have a good time but with responsibility.

#6 Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?

I would probably pay more attention to certain classes that I didn’t give a damn because I just wanted to pass them, maybe that would give some advantages in the corporate world. Use better my free time to learn more hobbies – Invest more time working on my net and return.

Try to get a higher overall GPA – Invest heavily in networking. The importance of the serve and the offensive playing style, to work more often on returns and volleys. In Brazil the consistency plays a big role and sometimes returns, serve and volleying are not the focus.

#7 In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?

  • High level competition every week –
  • Health and high-level Competitive environment with my own teammates
  • 4 years where you don’t have to worry about resources to play tournaments and buy equipment
  • Nike sponsorship
  • Time to develop your body for the tour
  • Time to consider if that is what you want for you life, I don’t think many people at 17 are making the best option for their future
  • If Pro Tour is your choice, the college tennis will give you a very solid plan B. Tennis
  • Improved my serve, return, net game, slice. (Backhand no one can fix it)
  • Play the bigger points better
  • Fitness, strength, flexibility became a better athlete overall.

Karue Sell

I’ve had some pretty cool experiences during my tennis career. I’ve reached the semifinals of the Orange Bowl U16 and as a junior, I ranked as high as #33 in the world. I have had wins over Dominic Thiem, Kyle Edmund, and Hugo Dellien (not sure how well I would do against them today, though). One of the coolest things I’ve done while playing was reaching the finals of the NCAA’s with UCLA, so I’m a great supporter of college tennis. I’ve won 3 futures since graduating, and I broke the top 400 on the ATP rankings. And most importantly, I have been to Pete Sampras’ house.

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