Learn to adjust.
It’s a simple statement that isn’t always achievable, but senior Federico Barton has been doing it his entire tennis career.
Barton went from a player who won the bronze metal at the 2000 Mexican Olympic Games to a player who was struggling to find playing time with the USF tennis team. Then he went from a dominant clay court player to an effective hard court player.
Now he has to make the adjustment from college tennis to professional tennis.
Barton, a native of Acapulco, Mexico, plans to spend the summer traveling with the Mexican Davis Cup after playing in a few professional tournaments on his own. Two weeks after graduation, Barton is scheduled to play in a tournament in Venezuela.
“The coach of the Mexican Davis Cup team has already contacted me about playing,” Barton said. “I have a lot of desire to move up, and playing with a team will really help me get used to playing professionally.”
Former Bulls tennis player George Bastl is a teammate of Roger Federer on the Switzerland Davis Cup team. As a freshman in 1996, Bastl went 23-2 and was named Conference USA Player of the Year. As a junior, he transferred to the University of Southern California, but his play at USF earned him a place on the Conference USA All-Decade team.
Bastl doesn’t know Barton, but he still has some advice for the soon-to-be graduate.
“One challenge is that in college you only have to show up on the court. Everything is taking care of for you by your coach and staff,” Bastl said. “Once you are on your own you have to organize your practices, traveling and tournaments.
“Be prepared to have tough times on the circuit, but it is all worth it if you love what you are doing and what comes with it: the travels, hotels, defeats, victories.”
Barton is familiar with tough times as a player.
During his freshman year, he struggled to find playing time during the fall pre-season. He steadily improved and played at the team’s No. 5. By the end of the season, he had jumped all the way up to No. 2. This season Barton went undefeated in conference play at the No. 1 slot.
“We had a deep team during (Barton’s) freshman year,” coach Don Barr said. “He became more aggressive and started looking to make plays instead of waiting for his opponent to make a mistake.”
During his four-year career at USF, Barton posted a record of 47-39. Bastl felt that having four years of college tennis experience is an advantage before turning professional.
“(Playing four years of college tennis) developed my game and also it helped me make my mind on what I really wanted to do, become a professional tennis player,” Bastl said.
“I’ve been able to develop new techniques and learned how to keep in the game mentally,” he said. “I’m lucky to grow up in (USF’s) tennis program and the four years with coach Barr helped me know what to expect as a professional.”
Now comes the tough adjustment.
Unlike other sports, a professional tennis player is essentially on their own. There is no team to travel with, no agents advising a player what tournaments to play in and no one to blame for failure.
“The biggest adjustment is the level of competition,” Bastl said. “The players are stronger (and) hungrier on the pro circuit. It is eat or be eaten.”
Standing at 5-foot-9, Barton is the shortest player on the Bulls roster, but has made up for his height disadvantage with his hustle on the court.
“My game is focused on being quick on the court,” Barton said. “There have been other players like Jim Courier who were my size, and he’s one of the top 10 players of all time. So you just have to work with what you have.”
Coach Barr feels that Barton’s work ethic and the opportunity to play on clay courts will help him become a successful professional.
“We’ve had some really good tennis players come through USF, but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Freddy,” Barr said. “His speed is more suited for the clay courts and that’s where I expect him to have his greatest success.”