- School: UCLA
- Years at School: 2011-2014 (turned professional after junior year)
- Current Job: ATP Player – Ranked #102
Marcos Giron was born on July 24th, 1993 and grew up in Thousand Oaks, California. He spent his first 2 years of high school full time at Thousand Oaks High School. For his junior and senior years of school, he was enrolled in TOHS independent study program where he went to class in person for 2 hours each day and did the rest at home. This was so that he could travel, train, and focus more on his tennis career.
As a junior, Marcos reached #18 in the world on the ITF Junior Rankings. Marcos spent most of his junior career playing US tournaments. He played ITF tournaments in the US including Easter Bowl, Orange Bowl, and USTA Spring Nationals. By doing exceptionally well in those tournaments, he catapulted his ranking high enough to play Junior French Open, Junior Wimbledon, and Junior US Open.
When Marcos entered UCLA in the fall of 2011, he was the #1 recruit in the country. As UCLA’s team was loaded with talent, he spend most of his freshman year at the #3 and #4 singles positions. He moved up the lineup to #2 his sophomore and junior year.
Though Marcos enjoyed the team aspect of college tennis much more, he also achieved as an individual. In 2014, he won the NCAA individual title in singles, giving him a wildcard into the main draw of the US Open. Knowing Marcos personally, I know he would have traded that for a team NCAA title. You’ll notice that he never once mentions an individual result in the interview below, and that shows a lot about what Marcos and college tennis are all about.
As a pro, Marcos struggled out of college compared to what others expected of him. However, after recovering from double hip surgery, he was able to get his career on track for what his potential provides. At the beginning of 2019, he was just outside the top 350 in the world. A season later, in November 2019, Marcos sat at ATP #101. This is an amazing feat for a player who was in futures level tournaments for most of 2018.
For juniors, college players, and pro players around the world, I promise you can get something out of reading what Marcos has to say here. He is a great example of a good character that breeds success. Enjoy!
#1) What was your recruiting/school selection process like?
Playing professional tennis has been a dream of mine since I was young and I’m very fortunate to be in the position to travel and compete. Many of us as tennis players have to make the difficult decision to either go to college or turn pro when we are 17. We are young and feel like we can rule the world. While I do think this is a good attitude and an important one to carry with you, it is important to consider all your options and choose the one that best suits you.
I was top 15 in the world in Juniors, was playing in slams, top in the US for my age, but I knew college was the right decision for me personally. Going to college would mean delaying my dream, but I still had a lot of growing up to do. Looking back, I wonder if part of my decision was because I didn’t feel ready to travel and compete for a living. However, I know with certainty that an aspect of the decision was based on the fact that I wanted to develop physically and mentally, and see what else was out there before fully committing to professional tennis. Even though college does delay competing on the pro tour, it is a viable route and many players have gone through it and have become legends, for example Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe to name a few. And with that, I committed in the Fall of 2010 to UCLA.
Recruiting started the sophomore year of highschool when universities were allowed to start contacting me, but it got busier my junior year when the coaches were allowed to call. There are a lot of great programs out there but I knew Southern California was where I wanted to stay and that it was between UCLA and USC for me. Both universities are powerhouses when it comes to academics and athletics and both programs have had many former and current players excelling on the pro tour. My ultimate goal was to compete professionally and I knew that these programs would push me and help me grow and transition to that next level. The difficult part was deciding which of these universities would be the right fit for me. I went on a recruiting trip to both and loved both experiences. Ultimately, I believed in the vision that UCLA’s head coach, Billy Martin, had for my game, I felt very connected to the guys on the team and it was the affordable choice. It became clear quickly that I wanted to become a UCLA Bruin.
#2) What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?
My favorite part of college was the team comradery. Being on a team where individuals come together to support, believe in, and lift up one another is an amazing experience. Especially with tennis being such an individual sport, it was a breath of fresh air to be on a team.
One of my favorite college experiences was playing against our crosstown rival USC at their courts for the Pac-12 Championships my freshmen year. USC was on a 30 something match win streak at home. They were back to back to back NCAA champions, plus we had gotten crushed 6-1 against them earlier in the season. Needless to say, the odds were against us. For those who might not know college scoring: it’s best of 7 points which is made up of 1 point for doubles (determined by the best 2 out of 3 doubles matches played) and 6 points based on the 6 singles matches (each worth a point).
We went down 3-1 quickly, losing the doubles point, Daniel Nguyen beat Dennis Novikov, Steve Johnson beat Clay Thompson and our sole point on the board was Nick Meister winning in straights over Raymond Sarmiento. The remaining matches were Adrien Puget (UCLA) down a set against Yannick Hanfmann (USC) on court 5, Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) down a set and a break against Roberto Quiroz (USC) on court 6, and on the adjacent court I was down a set and 5-2 against Emilio Gomez.
As a quick sidebar, Dennis Mkrtchian and I were roommates freshman year (both figuring out life in college), we both had slow starts to our Winter/Spring season, losing early on in the Sherwood Championships. From there we always joked with one another that our “backs are against the wall,” that we were one loss away from getting cut out of the lineup. On the changeover, Dennis and I smiled at each other because this time our backs REALLY were against the wall. Both of us one game away from losing this match for our team. From there we both elevated our level, fought back, won the second sets and went on to win our matches. Puget clinched the match for UCLA.
It was moments like which made those early morning beach workouts, the tough practices and the late nights studying worth it. We had a sense of purpose. We were working hard for the team to win the tough matches and to compete for the national title. None of the success would have happened without my teammates and coaches around, nor would it have been worth it.
#3) How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?
College was a critical time for my personal development and my career. I believe personal development and career development should go hand in hand. I learned the importance of goal setting and working daily towards achieving them. I learned that nothing great happens overnight, but that it is discipline and daily improvements that make a big difference in the long run, academically and athletically. I learned the importance of having the right people around you. They are crucial in helping you achieve your set goals, keeping you accountable and making the process fun.
#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?
Above all else, it is so important to set clear goals based on what you plan to achieve. Build a team around you. Lean on your coaches, teammates and academic counselors to come up with a clear plan of how you would like to achieve those goals. Success does not happen overnight; it is a lot of small incremental improvements that make a big difference in the long run. It is going to be difficult, but that is why it is so crucial to have that team around. They are the ones who will help keep you accountable, give feedback and help you enjoy the process. It also helps finding people within the team that have similar goals to yours and partner with them to achieve them. Touch base weekly, build eachother up. Like I have said, it is a time of development, but remember to enjoy the process.
#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?
College is the time for great personal development, and time management is one of the main skills that I learned while in school. As a student you learn to decide when it is time to study, to practice or to have a fun afternoon. It is not going to be a seamless transition. They may get distracted and make mistakes but that is in part why we are there. It is a unique opportunity for young adults to try things, make mistakes and mature socially and academically which ultimately translates to a more mature tennis game.
It took me a while to learn how to become just as much of a student as I was an athlete and to figure out what strategies worked best for me. Specifically, I liked to set goals at the beginning of each quarter, come back to them weekly and reflect on if I was happy with and productive in how I was spending my time. I definitely was not perfect during the process. I had tests that I was not fully prepared for. There were times that I had intended to study and instead hung out with friends. But that is how you learn and there is nothing like personal experience with failure to learn what works best for you.
College is the time for trial and error. As an athlete, there are so many resources, coaches, counselors, tutors, and mentors that are there to support student-athletes to succeed. It is important to reach out to them and learn how to take feedback from them while keeping in mind that everyone else on the team is going through similar experiences. We are all there to develop.
#6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?
This is a tough question, because like I said earlier, college is a time for development. College is where we make mistakes and learn from them. It is a constant trial and error to figure out the strategies that work best for each individual. I was not the perfect student or the perfect athlete, but the decisions I made then made me who I am today.
I could have done a better job using the university’s resources, sought out more feedback from coaches and professors. I also could have had better time management, but those are skills that I eventually developed at UCLA and ultimately I had such an incredible experience and have so many awesome memories. For every college student there will be tough times, nights where you have to stay up late studying or hanging out with friends just to wake up early for a track workout, but it is truly an amazing experience going through it with a team. The work of trying to win the NCAAs, while having to figure out a major and future post-sports career was all part of the amazing challenge.
#7) In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?
College really helped me deal with pressure as well. Not only dealing with all the assignments but wanting to perform for the team. There is nothing like playing the deciding match in college. I was fortunate to play multiple deciding matches, against USC, semis of NCAAs against Ohio State, and the pressure that comes with it is enormous. You feel the constant weight of wanting to win for your teammates and the fear of letting them down. To deal with these moments you have to learn to think calmly in order to make good decisions while under the pressure.
This has remained true as this skill set helps me on a daily basis as I compete on the professional tour. I can make the argument that going directly pro would be better for your tennis level. When you have to live, breathe, sleep tennis, learn to lose each week, and how to recover from it your game and mentality has to elevate to keep up or else it is unsustainable. However, college tennis has given me an invaluable skill set and perspective on life which I cherish. I learned humility, team-work, and had a diverse breath of experiences and educational opportunities in Los Angeles. Although tennis remained central, life was about more than just tennis and I am so thankful for that.