Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Edson Ortiz’s worldwide journey led him to Alabama

Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

The boy boarded the plane and took his seat. This was his first time leaving his hometown of Chihuahua, Mexico. It also happened to be his birthday.

Edson Ortiz celebrated his twelfth birthday on a plane by himself with complete strangers heading to Spain. There were not any family or friends to celebrate his birthday with, no cake or cool gifts that many kids are accustomed to when it’s their special day. What Ortiz received was an 11-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

When he was three years old, Ortiz was first introduced to the game of tennis. In a way, tennis ran in his family. Edson Ortiz’s older brother, Jorge Ortiz, and his mother both played for fun. Since he was too young to be left home alone, Edson Ortiz would go with his mother to watch his older brother practice every day.

“I would just sit outside and watch my brother, and sometimes during practice I would grab a racket and try to hit the ball with my mom helping me,” Edson Ortiz said. “Then when I hit the the age of six, that’s when I started taking lessons of my own, and I just fell in love with the game from there.”

When kids hit the preadolescent stage, they start worrying about their social status in school, how they look or if their crush likes them back. Not Edson Ortiz. He was more concerned about how he could better his tennis game, which meant moving to Spain to attend a prestigious tennis academy. Similar to the United States, tennis is not a popular sport in Mexico. Soccer, or Fútbol, rules the sporting world in Mexico.

Both Edson Ortiz and his family understood that he could not improve his game if he stayed in Mexico. Tennis was simply not a sport people cared about, so he decided to take his game where people care about tennis.

At any age, it is tough to leave home for a long period of time. At 12 years old , it is even tougher. However, to succeed, some sacrifices have to be made, and young Edson Ortiz understood that moving to Spain to pursue his love for tennis was the right decision. Jorge Ortiz thinks that Edson Ortiz’s decision to move helped him in the long run.

“It was really hard for my parents to watch him leave, especially being so young, but we all knew he couldn’t get better if he stayed in Mexico,” Jorge Ortiz said. “Every time he would come back you could tell he was a better player. He had already won some national tournaments and was one of the best players for his age.”

Edson Ortiz attended Ceteval High Performance Tennis Academy. Success did not come right away. He recalled his very first practice: when he was warming up, he tripped on the court. Not only did he feel embarrassed for making a bad first impression, but it was a clay court, and the fall hurt. To make matters worse, Edson Ortiz was wearing all-white clothing. 

It is a laughable story Edson Ortiz can share today, but that is just one of the many reminders of how far he has come.

In Mexico, there are only three years of high school, unlike the United States. Having won many tournaments while training in Spain, Edson Ortiz knew he could compete with anybody, so he decided to do something unique when it came to high school. Edson Ortiz spent one year of going to classes just like a normal student, but the last two years he finished online.

During those last two years, he was training at the Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy in Naples, Florida. Edson Ortiz has always been the type of person who looks for anything that will help improve his game, so attending another tennis academy was a no-brainer. 

In the beginning of 2016, Edson Ortiz faced a tough decision: should he go to college and play tennis at a university or should he turn pro? A professional salary entices many kids to turn pro, but Edson Ortiz decided he wanted to attend college, where he could play tennis and get an education. His decision was down to the University of Miami or The University of Alabama.

Having already lived in Florida while training at the tennis academy, Edson Ortiz thought that his decision was going to be easy. Miami offered a vibrant Latin American culture which appealed to Edson Ortiz, and what was there to dislike about the food that was similar to the Mexican home cooking he grew up with. Even with all those pros for Miami, there was something about the Capstone that made Edson Ortiz feel Alabama was the right choice for him.

“When I came on my visit it was nighttime when I first arrived so I really didn’t see everything until the next day,” Edson Ortiz said. “But when I was getting driven around by coach [George Husack] at night, I got this feeling that this was the place for me. I ended up committing like a few weeks later.”

Since day one as a freshman, there was one thing that Edson Ortiz possessed that caught the eye of Husack.

“Edson is always prepared, he’s like, more prepared than someone who’s already prepared,” Husack said. “He takes that to heart, he’s got extra shoes, shirts, socks; Anything you name he’s got it in his bag every day.”

As a sophomore Edson Ortiz and the Crimson Tide are 15-8. Alabama won a total of 11 matches last year. During the offseason, Edson Ortiz worked on bettering his mental approach. He wanted to focus on putting his emotion and energy in the right place, because at points last season, Edson Ortiz felt that he let his emotions get the better of him. Ever since he was little, Edson Ortiz hasn’t been shy of expressing his emotions.

“Edson has always been really passionate about tennis, when he was little he would break like every racket he had because losing would hurt him so much,” Jorge Ortiz said. 

This season the team has seemed to feed off Edson Ortiz’s energy he brings to the court. At every match he can be seen pumping his fists or shouting to energize himself and his teammates. Edson Ortiz has even been coined the nickname “El Torro” [the bull] by the team.

After college, Edson Ortiz hopes to go pro, but for now he is focused on shaping the tennis team into a successful program for years to come. The boy who hasn’t stopped traveling since the age of 12 has finally found a home.

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