As the final weeks of Roberto Cid’s time at USF tick off the calendar, he’s left in a familiar place.
The senior tennis player, who is ranked the third-best singles player in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), is mere months from returning to professional tennis — a life he temporarily sacrificed to come to USF.
“It was a tough decision at first,” Cid said. “My family, we all talked about it and we decided to just go pro, but I started realizing I wasn’t ready to be a professional when I was 18. So that’s when I started contacting the coaches who had talked to me before and that’s when I decided college would be a great option for me to continue to improve and get a degree.”
Cid was ineligible for his freshman season due to his time spent at the professional level, but quickly made his mark on the up-and-coming USF men’s tennis team.
In his first season on the court, the 6-foot-3 Dominican Republic native was already setting records. He became the first ITA All-American in program history, with a 25-6 record in singles matches including a 10-5 record against ranked opponents.
But it would be later that season when Cid would truly put his name on the map for the first time at USF.
In his first appearance in the NCAA Singles Championship, Cid defeated the top-ranked singles player in the nation on his way to reaching the quarterfinals before suffering defeat.
“When I beat the number one in the country first round in the NCAA’s when I was like 40th in the nation, that was a huge, huge win for me,” Cid said. “It gave me a lot of confidence throughout my whole college career.”
Since that record-breaking first season, both Cid and the rest of the men’s tennis team have been on the rise.
Now a regular top-20 team featuring a top-five player in the nation, the Bulls have undergone a transformation into one of the country’s best programs, with back-to-back AAC championships and NCAA Tournament appearances to show for it.
“There’s a lot of people involved in what’s happening here and to think that one person, whether it’s a coach or player, is the one that’s making the brand or the name to garner the exposure it’s getting is unlikely, but I will say Roberto has definitely got a lot of respect from any program and any player in the country that’s played in the last three years,” USF coach Matt Hill said.
“It’s definitely helped with people having a different perspective of what USF tennis means and stands for. There’s no doubt he epitomizes what this program is designed for, which is helping young players move forward in their tennis careers.”
While Cid has come a long way in his USF tenure, Hill said the senior still must learn to harness his emotions as he approaches his second crack at a professional career.
“He’s a pretty emotional guy on the court, he gets fired up and pretty upset at times too,” Hill said. “There’s times when it can be a very strong weapon for him, but there’s times when it can hurt him.”
Cid is still learning, but doubles partner Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz said those emotions and energy is something the rest of the team uses as motivation.
“He gives me so much energy,” Gonzalez-Muniz said. “When you’re next to him, you see him play and you know he’s going to win. Every time you see him step on the court you see him play, you think he’s going to win. Because of his energy, his emotions, he’s always competing and he still supports everyone around him and makes them feel better.”
Cid’s growth as a tennis player is well documented in the various accomplishments, accolades and broken records over the past three years.
After he’s finished at USF, Cid may be regarded as one of the best athletes to play for USF, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to him.
“He’s the best player on our team,” Gonzalez-Muniz said. “He knows it and he would never think he’s different from any of us. He knows we’re a team and he knows everyone is important. Even though he’s probably the best player in USF history and the best player on our team, he would never consider himself different from any of us.”
Opportunities still remain for Cid to further entrench himself in the USF history books, as the AAC tournament and the NCAA championships are on the upcoming schedule. But regardless of what’s to come in the next month, Hill said he’s already cemented himself as one of the best players he’s ever coached.
“I’ve coached 10 to 15 All-Americans and for me, he’s probably the most accomplished one out of that group,” Hill said. “He has more upside for his pro career with a country behind him and his athleticism. To me, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever worked with and I’ve had other guys be top-10 in the country as well.”
Cid’s upside as a professional came to light last summer when he traveled to Turkey to compete in tournaments to gauge where he needed to be.
To Cid’s surprise, he was beating players ranked in the top-300 with relative ease. Unlike his first attempt at the professional level, Cid was dispatching opponents with his newfound athleticism.
“He’s going to do well, he showed that this last summer,” Hill said. “I remember last summer him messaging me saying, ‘These guys aren’t good’, and I’m like look, ‘They’re top-400 in the world, they’re very good. Your drive and your level have just changed. These are guys you used to lose to in close matches and now you’re killing them.’”
Unlike Cid’s first attempt at being a professional tennis player, Hill said he has no doubt of the senior’s ability to succeed at that level of tennis.
For Cid, he’s enjoying the last few weeks of his collegiate career. He savors the matches, playing FIFA and dinners out with teammates, and he knows he will miss it.
But he also knows he’s accomplished more than he ever set out to do as a Bull and he’s anxious to see what more is in store in the next step of his tennis career.
“My dream is to make a living, travel every week to different places, play the grand slams, just live the life of a professional tennis player,” Cid said. “Since I was little, that’s what I’ve wanted to do and now that I’m getting closer to graduating, I feel like I really need to make a push before I go out there.
“I think this semester really I’ve just been pushing myself. One of the motivations is that in a couple months, I’ll be on my own so I definitely want to give myself the best chance, but also the team. Since the coaches came, we went from 74th to top-20 in the nation for the first time in school history so I feel this year we can do something special.”