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Inside the UA athletes: Family matters, on and off court


Photo
Casssandra Tomlin/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona men's tennis senior Roger Matalonga lives with roommate Colin O'Grady in a house with men's tennis sophomore Bruno Alcala (not pictured). O'Grady is a fifth-year senior whose eligibility ran out last season.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
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Teammates battle back and forth between school and sport

A small television. A "Scarface" poster on the wall. A tank full of golf balls that belongs to an old roommate.

There isn't much of value in the living room of seniors Roger Matalonga, Colin O'Grady and sophomore Bruno Alcala, three Arizona men's tennis players, both past and present, who reside in a four-bedroom house a few minutes off campus.

Alcala hasn't even installed lights in his room, although he promised to go buy some as soon as he can.

"I sleep in here and that's it," said Alcala, as Matalonga and O'Grady laughed.

They don't need much in their house. All these guys need is one another.

"They eat pasta every single day," O'Grady said of his roommates. "You know how you kind of get old of stuff? They don't."

O'Grady has finished his four years of eligibility with the Wildcats, so he can no longer compete for the team. The other two constantly heckle him for it.

"Colin's always home, so he's our maid right now," Matalonga said. "He stays at home, takes care of the house while we're practicing."

"I get bored sitting at home," O'Grady said. "Before, you always had something to do, but now I watch too much TV.

"I would have said last year that I studied in my off-time, but I don't," he said.

When they're not in the kitchen, they stay active playing other sports.

"We're the reigning champions of intramural coed soccer," O'Grady said. "All three of us were on that team."

"Roger and I love soccer, because in Spain it's one of the biggest things," Alcala said. "There's another guy who's done with tennis, but he's still in school."

"He loves every single sport, so we pretty much got together. We made the team and we just started playing," Alcala said.

The trio won the coed championship together. However, the men's division team that Matalonga and Alcala played for lost in the finals, yet the pair joked that Americans weren't good at soccer.

"They lost the men's (division), so obviously there are some (Americans) who are good," O'Grady said.

Alcala rebutted O'Grady's claim that Matalonga and Alcala would lose to a team full of Americans.

"They were all European guys," Alcala said.

"It's funny, because it's so intense,"

Matalonga said. "We get really into it. Sometimes we got mad at each other, got yellow cards, got red cards."

Whether it's playing sports or just hanging out in the house and watching their favorite show, "Laguna Beach" - O'Grady said they also watch more "manly" shows - the athletes are enjoying their time. Together.

"I have a choice of all the people on the campus, and ... I want to hang out with these guys," O'Grady said.

Perspectives

On the best part of being an athlete at Arizona:

Alcala: "How people treat you. You're surrounded by a huge (coaching) staff. They give you clothes and you have a training room, a huge gym. Everything is so big. Back home, I used to play in tournaments, and the only people who were watching were your dad and coach. Here, people follow you and support you, and that's a big thing for us."

Matalonga: "Here, if you play tennis or you're an athlete, you feel good about it, and people like that. If you go to class in a tennis shirt, you feel good just wearing the tennis shirt. For us, in Spain, it's not like that. If you play tennis, you're not on TV and people don't know you. It's like, 'Who is this guy playing tennis?' It's only four years (that we are eligible), so we like being athletes."

O'Grady: "It's the people. There are so many (athletes). It's like a giant frat but with both sexes. You get to meet tons of new people."

On the toughest part of being an athlete at Arizona:

Alcala: "Sometimes during the week, you would like to have more time to rest and probably just waste time to watch TV and be lazy. You don't have that time. Once you're done with tennis, you have to go (do) conditioning, then you have to do your homework. Maybe you need a tutor because you need help with a class. You're very busy during the week."

Matalonga: "We have 6 a.m. practices, and then ... classes and then practice again. You get really tired. ... From Monday to Friday, it's really intense. Practice, homework and class."

On becoming friends with Alcala back in Spain:

Matalonga: "We knew each other for a long time, since we were about 12, and then we became friends when we were 17. We practice at the same place, and then we became good friends. I came first here, and he was a year younger. I came here and he wanted to come too, so I told the coach."

On deciding to go to Arizona:

Matalonga: "In Spain, there is no college tennis, so you either have to play pro or study. If you go play pro, then you just leave everything (else behind)."

Alcala: "I spent six months in Texas learning English and trying to pass the SAT and the TOEFL (a test required for admission into universities that instruct in English). Once I passed both tests, I knew Roger was here and (a coach) came to see me play tennis, and he liked me. That's why I decided to come here."

On the first time playing tennis:

O'Grady: "My entire family played, so I grew up around it. My mom coached tennis, so I started playing when I was 4 or 5, watching all my older brothers play."

Matalonga: "I started playing tennis at the same time as my parents. They never played before and they started playing for fun. I was little, about 7 years old."

Alcala: "I remember I wanted to play soccer when I was little, but my dad didn't like the whole team thing because he wanted something individual. He signed me up for some tennis lessons, and that's how everything started."

On playing field hockey:

Matalonga: (Writer's note: Matalonga was a part of Spain's under-16 national team that played in the European Championships.) "Every Sunday I go and meet with some people in front of McKale (Center), and there's a field near there. Every time I get a chance, I go over there and play for a couple of hours. I used to play back in Spain, and it's a way to disconnect from everything, to be with other people. They really don't care if you're an athlete or not, and they're all very nice."

On the future:

O'Grady: "Luckily, there's still another eight months or so. I don't like to look too far into the future. I think I'll put my tennis career on hold and look more for a marketing job somewhere."

Matalonga: "I don't know right now. It depends how I play this year. If I find a sponsor, I might go play pro for a year. If not, I'd like to go back to Spain or maybe study for a master's here."

Alcala: "I don't want to think about it. I'm having so much fun here. Over the summer, I worked teaching tennis, and so far it's been the worst experience ever. I worked eight hours a day, and there was a point where I started hating tennis. I couldn't take it anymore, so I just took 20 days off. I don't know what I'm going to do after (school). I have no idea."

Profiles

Hometown:

Matalonga: Terrassa, Spain

O'Grady: Tempe

Alacala: El Masnou, Barcelona, Spain

Year:

Matalonga: senior

O'Grady: fifth-year senior

Alacala: sophomore

Major:

Matalonga: business commerce

O'Grady: business marketing

Alacala: pre-business

Favorites:

Class:

O'Grady: (joking) "I refuse to answer that."

Matalonga: (sarcastically) "My favorite day is Monday. For my major I go from 4 to 10 p.m. I practice all morning, and then go (to class)."

Alacala: MUS 109: Rock and American Pop Music. "Because it's the easiest one. But it's interesting, better than accounting or math."

TV shows:

Alacala: "Laguna Beach," "Real World," "MTV 10 Spot."

Matalonga: "Family Matters." "Everyone's like, 'How do you watch that show?' But I just sit by myself and laugh. I used to watch it in Spanish, and it's funny to see it in English now, because it's the real voices. In Spanish, there is a translator talking."

O'Grady: "ESPN and The Outdoor Channel. Can we throw in some manly (channels) now?"

Movies:

O'Grady: "Spy Game"

Matalonga: "Training Day"

Alacala: "Gladiator" and "Remember the Titans"

Music:

Alacala: It's kind of European techno. I listen to that by myself, but when we go out, it's rap, pop and rock. ("By himself?" O'Grady said. "He means for the whole house to hear.")

Matalonga: "I like some techno and some hip-hop. If I had to pick a singer, I'd say Bryan Adams."

O'Grady: "Alternative stuff. I went to see the Jason Mraz concert at the U of A. I don't really like him too much, but I like similar stuff."

Places to eat:

Pei Wei and Chipotle. "I like guacamole," Alcala said.

Professional tennis player:

Matalonga: Juan Carlos Ferrero

O'Grady: Andy Roddick

Alacala: Roger Federer



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