Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Raony Carvalho can remember that as a young boy, his dad would take him to a place where he would watch his father hit yellow balls over and over again. Then one day when he was six years old, his father asked him, ‘don’t you get bored just watching me?’ From that day forward, Carvalho didn’t sit and watch, he picked up a racket and started playing.
“I like it because it’s just you playing,” Carvalho said. “You don’t need to depend on others like soccer, where if one person plays bad you cannot do anything about it.”
His passion has led him to help the Texas Tech men’s tennis team to one of its best regular seasons in school history. The Red Raiders finished off the season with a 21-5 record, ranked No. 14 in the nation and a No. 1 seed in their region for the NCAA Championships.
Carvalho, a sophomore from Brazilia, Brazil, is the No. 17 ranked player in the nation in both singles and doubles. He has enjoyed the opportunity to be the No. 1 singles and doubles player in the Red Raiders lineup this season and has tried to be a leader for his team.
“You have to be really excited every day at practice and work really hard,” Carvalho said of his leadership role.
With a young team—six freshmen, four sophomores and one junior—Carvalho has tried to help his younger teammates as much as possible.
“The fact that I was here last year, I can talk to the team and be positive,” Carvalho said.
The team has a strong South American connection as Carvalho is one of five Brazilian players on the roster, along with two Ecuadorians. Assistant Coach Marcelo Ferreira, a native Brazilian, helped bring this team together and has made Carvalho more comfortable with his decision in coming to Lubbock, Texas.
“Now that the team is mainly from Brazil, I don’t really miss home or anything. It feels like we’re playing in Brazil still,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho played with many of his current teammates growing up.
His freshman year wasn’t the same story. Carvalho explained that he had a hard time his first year not being around fellow Brazilians and not knowing how to speak English.
“When I got here, I had no idea how to say ‘hi, how are you?’” Carvalho said. “I always wanted to learn how to speak English and when I got here, I thought it would not be possible.”
The hardest part for him may have been the communicate gap with his teammates. This year, he has had no problems communicating and believes that is why the team has been able to find success.
“I think we have a really good chemistry,” Carvalho said. “For our first year as a team, we did really well.”
The Red Raiders have a chance to be something special over the next couple years and Carvalho knows it.
“I think the next two years, we have a chance to win the conference and the NCAA Tournament,” Carvalho said.
As Carvalho continues to improve and grow in different facets of his game, he has identified what he believes his strengths and weaknesses are. His strength being a power baseline game.
“Yeah, I like to hit the ball as hard as I can,” Carvalho said with a laugh.
However, he recognizes that he needs to show improvement on his game at the net.
Head Coach Tim Siegel believes that Carvalho has played extremely well this year, but still would like to see more out of his top player.
“He’s as talented a player as I have seen in college,” Siegel said. “He has tremendous shot-making ability, but he can still get a lot better.”
If Carvalho does make the necessary improvements, there is no telling what his future holds. He hopes to have the chance to play professionally after he graduates, but wants to make sure he handles his business in the classroom.
Carvalho was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Men’s Tennis Team, registering a 3.58 GPA in human development and family studies. Whatever happens, whether a chance to play professionally is presented to him or not, one thing is for sure – he’ll never stop hitting the yellow ball.
“If I feel playing professionally is not for me, I’ll start my career with my degree but I’ll definitely keep playing tennis after college,” Carvalho said.