By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, FEB. 20, 2014 – Roberto Cid has traveled the world to play tennis but there’s no other place he’d rather be than in Tampa serving it up as a member of the No. 56 Bulls for the next few years.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore’s decision to compete at the collegiate level already has paid dividends in his first semester of action. Cid picked up consecutive American Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors while improving to 5-0 in singles during dual match play this spring. He’s 7-1 overall in singles play and 5-0 with doubles partner Sasha Gozun.
“He’s been pushing it to the max every day and it’s showing in his results,” said head coach Matt Hill of Cid, who is now ranked No. 64 in the country as an individual. “He’s only been playing college tennis for about a month and the guy is ranked. He’s continuously improving, he’s very coachable and he’s an incredible athlete.”
Talk to USF coaches and players and they’ll use “mature” to describe the team’s rising star and it’s hard to argue with them because of the path 20-year-old Cid took to get to the college stage.
The Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native and his family moved to the United States when Cid was 13, so he could get serious with tennis while his sisters, Rosena and Racio, continued their education.
“My parents always made a huge sacrifice with me since I was little with sending me to an academy, traveling and everything,” Cid said. “I’ve always had in mind going pro, traveling and making this my career and my living.”
Cid picked up tennis at the age of 4 after making frequent trips to the court with his father, Rosenda, who enjoyed playing the sport.
“After that I fell in love with it,” Cid said.
Once the family moved to Florida, Cid spent a couple of years at an academy in Boca Raton before heading to another academy in Port St. Lucie. After the second move, Cid started traveling the world as a junior player and he was competing on pro tours as an amateur at 16. Cid went on to crack the top 900 on the ATP Tour and he’s competed for his country as a member of the Dominican Republic Davis Cup team.
“He has a super high ceiling. He could be one of the best in college for sure,” Hill said.
Some of Cid’s favorite hot spots around the globe have been Chile, Argentina and Asia after he spent a month there as a junior player.
“It was a lot of fun, but it was definitely tough,” Cid said. “You mature a lot when you’re traveling by yourself because you have to do everything on your own.”
Cid realized along the way the importance of getting top-level coaching to reach his ultimate goal and that’s when he inquired about a possibility of playing at USF, who signed him over top programs like No. 10 Texas, No. 17 Kentucky, No. 19 Wake Forest, No. 28 North Carolina, No. 37 FSU and No. 60 Miami among others.
“I visited here and really liked the school, the coaches and their philosophy on the game. It was a great combination for me and it’s close to home,” said Cid, whose sisters now live in Delray Beach and Miramar, Fla.
Cid, who is interested in earning a degree in advertising, admitted the college experience is sometimes “easy” compared to his life as a traveling tennis player and that’s quite OK with him because of all the resources available at USF.
“I was very pumped to start school (last January) and now have training every day with coaches and with the team,” Cid said. “Everything is already there and all you have to do is show up to practice and listen to the coaches.”
What makes Cid extra pumped about college is getting the chance to form a strong bond with his teammates. The group has become close quickly because of the fact that USF’s players are from all over the map – Mexico, Spain, Moldova, Ukraine, Germany, Canada, Denmark and Colombia.
“We’re from everywhere and we’re united,” Cid said. “We hang out a lot off the court, which makes it better to train. I think that’s really important when it comes to competing because everyone needs to be close and cheer for each other.”
Cheering for a teammate does come with an exception for Cid when he’s competing against fellow Bulls for fun when the guys together for poker games.
“I used to play with my family. I’ve always liked it and now I get to with the guys,” Cid said.
Cid sported a look like he does on the court against tough competition when asked who the best poker player on the team is right now.
“I will be,” Cid said before breaking out into laughter.
Cid’s competitive fire has been welcomed by the coaching staff on the court and it’s already paid dividends for the Bulls in match play. USF was in Coral Gables, Fla., taking on then-No. 54 Texas Tech on Feb. 8, when a rain delay put competition on pause at a time when the match was very much up in the air.
“Before resuming the match he went over to Finn (Meinecke) and was in his facing saying, ‘We’re winning this. Let’s go!’” Hill said. “(Cid) went over to his match and he just took the 65th-ranked player in the country apart for the rest of the time.”
The Bulls went on to defeat Texas Tech, 4-2, and the team has climbed back into the national spotlight with a No. 56 ranking in the latest ITA poll.
“College was the best idea I had and right now it’s showing,” Cid said.