International flavor

Men’s tennis coach Don Barr says he would like to recruit more American players.

But a major reason he says he can’t land as many American recruits is because of the absence of a top-notch tennis facility (which will be provided when the Athletic Department’s upgrades are implemented). But as it stands, USF’s tennis complex lacks sizable bleachers, a roof and lights.

“When we’re competing against schools like Florida State, Florida and Miami, who have excellent complexes, that’s important to the American kids,” Barr said. “And you can’t blame them.”

Of the top 50 players in Division-I men’s college tennis, 32 are from outside the United States. Among the top 50 women’s players, 26 come from somewhere other than the United States.

And while reasons for this trend may vary from school to school, it seems first-rate facilities — or the lack thereof — make a large difference at USF, where 13 of the 15 players on the men’s and women’s rosters are from outside the United States.

“Every year I always go after the American kids first because I like to get a good balance,” Barr said.

But since he hasn’t been able to land a significant number of Americans, Barr, like other coaches around the country, recruits the best players from their respective countries.

Junior Juan Barragan played for Ecuador in the 1999 and 2000 Davis Cups, and senior Uli Kleindl was once ranked the second-best player in Germany, according to Barr.

“Foreign kids just want to come to America and play tennis and go to school at the same time,” Barr said. “They don’t have the privilege of doing that in their home country. Being able to recruit top players from other nations allows us to compete.”

Women’s tennis coach Gigi Fernandez predicts her team will have more Americans in the future.

“I think there will be a trend of us recruiting more of them,” she said. “I think we used to lack the facilities, but we don’t anymore.”

While Fernandez said she would like to see the tennis courts improved, she cites the nearly one-year-old $15 million athletic facility as a valuable tool in recruiting more American players.

“I think it makes us highly competitive as far as academics, weightlifting and sports medicine,” Fernandez said.

Like the men’s team, the women’s team features some of the best players from their respective countries. Freshman Liz Cruz is rated one of the best players from El Salvador and the same can be said for Gabriela Duch, who hails from Mexico.

“I think it used to be really hard to get American kids excited about our program in the past,” Fernandez said. “My hope is that in three to five years, our team will be 50 percent American.”