Playing the team game

The South Florida men’s tennis team, which typically relies on a heavily foreign recruiting class, has found a star in freshman Lucas Jovita – a player that moved to the United States to join the Bulls tennis team.

Jovita was born in Brascilla, Brazil and lived there for most of his life.

He learned how to play tennis at age 5 – being coached by his father – and has been playing the game ever since.

When Jovita was 15 years old, he earned the No. 1 ranking in Brazil for the under-16 age group. After earning such a high ranking, he was invited to train in Spain. He lived and trained in Barcelona for the next three years. At age 17, Jovita began to play on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Tour.

During his time in Spain, Jovita trained with Felix Mantilla, who was ranked as high as 10th on the ATP Tour.

“He taught me how to be more professional and to never give up,” Jovita said.

Lucas competed in many ATP tour futures and challenger tournaments before coming to USF. He traveled to and competed in Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador and Spain, where he won a futures tournament in men’s doubles.

Jovita was the No. 804 player – a career-high – in the world for men’s singles and No. 949 ranked player in double’s on the ATP Tour. Now, with a 23-31 career record, he is ranked No. 1085 in men’s singles.

William Sousa – a former USF player – told USF coach Don Barr about Jovita. Both Sousa and Jovita formerly lived in Brazil.

This year, Jovita has led the Bulls at the No. 1 spot for most of the season. He was 2-3 in matches played as the team’s No. 2 seed. He got off to a quick start, winning his first seven matches as the Bulls No. 1, before finally losing to 47th-ranked Michael Venus in a match at LSU. Jovita holds a 10-1 record as USF’s No. 1 seed this season.

As a true freshman, Jovita holds a number of impressive victories over ranked opponents this year, including 49th-ranked Christoph Muller from Rice University, 51st-ranked Alex Lecroix from the University of Florida and two wins against 66th-ranked Tim Puetz from Auburn University.

Jovita – ranked 84th in the country in Men’s Division I singles – holds an overall singles record of 17-4 for the year, including his five victories in the USF Spring Classic. He was previously ranked as high as No. 67 in the NCAA.

“He is always ready for battle and he doesn’t overlook anybody,” Barr said. “I never have to worry about him when he goes on the court because he’s a fighter and he refuses to lose, which makes him so strong mentally.”

Barr also appreciates how Lucas has rubbed off on the rest of his teammates.

“He has a fighting spirit he has really become a leader for our team, and we have taken that and ran with it,” he said.

As he continues to grow comfortable at USF, his teammates and Bulls fans across the campus are beginning to rub off on Jovita as well.

“I love the school spirit,” Jovita said. “It makes me feel responsible for representing our school. I’m proud of being a Bull.”