Senior Amadeo Blasco ’20 has won more than 84 percent of his matches while at Longwood and was named to the All-Big South first team in his freshman, sophomore and junior years (Photo by Mike Kropf ’14).
It would be an understatement to say Amadeo Blasco ’20 didn’t make a good first impression on his new head tennis coach, Jhonnatan Medina Alvarez.
It was January 2018, and Medina Alvarez had just arrived to take over a re-energized Longwood men’s team. At the center of that rebuild was Blasco, a sophomore coming off a Big South Freshman of the Year campaign who, by all measures, had the makings of a talent never before seen in Lancer tennis whites.
But the Blasco that Medina Alvarez saw in that first match wasn’t the ace he had envisioned.
“I watched him lose his temper. He had an attitude. He wasn’t able to gain control,” Medina Alvarez said.
Yes, Medina Alvarez saw flashes of the Blasco he had been told about: a sinewy Spaniard who wielded his racket like an extension of his own whiplike arm and hit shots that most players couldn’t dream of making. However, Blasco’s self-destructive emotional reactivity sabotaged his first chance to impress his new coach that day and contributed to the Lancers’ season- opening 4-3 loss to Bluefield State.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Blasco recalled. “Coach knew I was good, but he told me I wasn’t good for the team.”
That initial evaluation proved to be the first building block for a relationship between coach and player that has elevated Blasco’s game to the elite tier of the Big South and brought the Longwood men’s program along with it.
'Coach Medina, he became like a father to me. It’s not even really about the tennis. I focus more on changing as a person and growing up than playing tennis.’AMADEO BLASCO ’20
Through a steady stream of tough love and blunt criticism of his previously overlooked shortcomings, Blasco ultimately relented to Medina Alvarez’s brand of coaching. Now, after nearly two years of working together, Blasco has set numerous school records and is in position to own them all by the end of his senior season.
Moreover, the once-rocky relationship with Medina Alvarez has evolved from mentor-mentee to something well beyond that.
“Coach Medina, he became like a father to me,” Blasco said. “He took care of me, and he changed me as a person. It’s not even really about the tennis. I focus more on changing as a person and growing up than playing tennis.”
Since Medina Alvarez’s arrival, Blasco has gone 58-11 in singles play, winning more than 84 percent of his matches. In their first year together, Blasco won 30 bouts to break Longwood’s single-season record, and last year finished 24-4 en route to his third straight All-Big South first-team recognition.
Now it’s not just the Longwood crowd that is taking notice. This year the senior was handpicked to represent the Big South Conference at the prestigious ITA Oracle Masters, a three-day tournament in Malibu, California, that is the premier fall tournament in college tennis.
Punctuating his fall season was a championship at the first-ever Big South Fall Invitational, where Blasco made an undefeated run through a bracket filled with the best players in the conference.
And Blasco has grown just as much as a person as he’s grown on the court.
“His grades have improved, his command of the team has improved, and he’s matured tremendously,” said Medina Alvarez. “He embodies what we are trying to build here, and his team completely respects him on and off the court.”