Sports April 15, 2016 | 9:35 am

History in the making: USF tennis player Roberto Cid prepares for his pro career

Following his upset of Tulane’s Dominik Koepfer, the No. 1men’s tennis player at the time, senior Roberto Cid has risen to No. 3 in theindividual rankings.

As the final weeks of Roberto Cid’s time at USF tick offthe calendar, he’s left in a familiar place.

The senior tennis player, who is ranked the third-bestsingles player in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA),is mere months from returning to professional tennis — a life he temporarilysacrificed 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 Iwasn’t ready to be a professional when I was 18. So that’s when I startedcontacting the coaches who had talked to me before and that’s when I decidedcollege would be a great option for me to continue to improve and get adegree.”

Cid was ineligible for his freshman season due to his timespent at the professional level, but quickly made his mark on the up-and-comingUSF men’s tennis team.

In his first season on the court, the 6-foot-3 DominicanRepublic native was already setting records. He became the first ITAAll-American in program history, with a 25-6 record in singles matchesincluding a 10-5 record against ranked opponents.

But it would be later that season when Cid would truly puthis 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 reachingthe quarterfinals before suffering defeat.

“When I beat the number one in the country first round inthe NCAA’s when I was like 40th in the nation, that was a huge, huge win forme,” Cid said. “It gave me a lot of confidence throughout my whole collegecareer.”

Since that record-breaking first season, both Cid and therest of the men’s tennis team have been on the rise.

Now a regular top-20 team featuring a top-five player inthe nation, the Bulls have undergone a transformation into one of the country’sbest programs, with back-to-back AAC championships and NCAA Tournamentappearances to show for it.

“There’s a lot of people involved in what’s happening hereand to think that one person, whether it’s a coach or player, is the one that’smaking 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 andany player in the country that’s played in the last three years,” USF coachMatt Hill said.

“It’s definitely helped with people having a differentperspective of what USF tennis means and stands for. There’s no doubt heepitomizes what this program is designed for, which is helping young playersmove forward in their tennis careers.”

While Cid has come a long way in his USF tenure, Hill saidthe senior still must learn to harness his emotions as he approaches his secondcrack at a professional career.

“He’s a pretty emotional guy on the court, he gets fired upand pretty upset at times too,” Hill said. “There’s times when it can be a verystrong weapon for him, but there’s times when it can hurt him.”

Cid is still learning, but doubles partner IgnacioGonzalez-Muniz said those emotions and energy is something the rest of the teamuses as motivation.

“He gives me so much energy,” Gonzalez-Muniz said. “Whenyou’re next to him, you see him play and you know he’s going to win. Every timeyou 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 stillsupports everyone around him and makes them feel better.”

Cid’s growth as a tennis player is well documented in thevarious accomplishments, accolades and broken records over the past threeyears.

After he’s finished at USF, Cid may be regarded as one ofthe best athletes to play for USF, but you wouldn’t know it by talking tohim.

“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 knowswe’re a team and he knows everyone is important. Even though he’s probably thebest player in USF history and the best player on our team, he would neverconsider himself different from any of us.”

Opportunities still remain for Cid to further entrenchhimself in the USF history books, as the AAC tournament and the NCAAchampionships are on the upcoming schedule. But regardless of what’s to come inthe next month, Hill said he’s already cemented himself as one of the bestplayers he’s ever coached.

“I’ve coached 10 to 15 All-Americans and for me, he’sprobably the most accomplished one out of that group,” Hill said. “He has moreupside 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 betop-10 in the country as well.”

Cid’s upside as a professional came to light last summerwhen he traveled to Turkey to compete in tournaments to gauge where he neededto be.

To Cid’s surprise, he was beating players ranked in thetop-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’tgood’, 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 toin close matches and now you’re killing them.’”

Unlike Cid’s first attempt at being a professional tennisplayer, Hill said he has no doubt of the senior’s ability to succeed at thatlevel of tennis.

For Cid, he’s enjoying the last few weeks of his collegiatecareer. He savors the matches, playing FIFA and dinners out with teammates, andhe knows he will miss it.

But he also knows he’s accomplished more than he ever setout to do as a Bull and he’s anxious to see what more is in store in the nextstep of his tennis career.

“My dream is to make a living, travel every week todifferent places, play the grand slams, just live the life of a professionaltennis player,” Cid said. “Since I was little, that’s what I’ve wanted to doand now that I’m getting closer to graduating, I feel like I really need tomake a push before I go out there.

“I think this semester really I’ve just been pushingmyself. One of the motivations is that in a couple months, I’ll be on my own soI definitely want to give myself the best chance, but also the team. Since thecoaches came, we went from 74th to top-20 in the nation for the first time inschool history so I feel this year we can do something special.”

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