It’s been more than a year since March 8, 2020, the last competition of the 2019-20 season for Georgia’s men’s and women’s tennis teams.
Among the student-athletes to lose their seasons was Marta Gonzalez, then a senior for the Georgia women’s tennis team.
The NCAA canceled all 2020 winter and spring sports championships. It hit home for players like Gonzalez, as they were left wondering if their collegiate careers had officially come to an end.
“It was really tough and frustrating for [Marta],” said head coach Jeff Wallace. “All of a sudden the season just ended abruptly, and the team felt as though they had unfinished business.”
A semblance of hope was given through an extra year of eligibility granted to all Division I student-athletes by the NCAA. Gonzalez heard about the opportunity and took advantage of it immediately.
“I didn’t think twice,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve enjoyed the four years of tennis I’ve had here, so why not one more? It was like a full 180 turnaround from the initial cancellation.”
With unfinished business on the mind of the Georgia women’s tennis team and a true spring season in 2021 on the horizon, the long road created by the pandemic seemed to be getting shorter by the day.
For Gonzalez, the road only got longer. Before the start of dual-match play, Gonzalez, who is ranked 50th in the ITA singles rankings, suffered a case of wrist tendonitis. The injury sidelined her for the start of the spring season.
“I wasn’t able to practice,” Gonzalez said. “Just last week was the first week I was able to practice everyday.”
Now over halfway into the spring season, Gonzalez said she is just now getting back to full health after missing the first four matches of the season. She has returned to the court, at the fifth spot in the singles lineup, a change from when she played on court two during Georgia’s 2019 indoor national championship run.
“She’s been one of our best players her entire career,” Wallace said. “We’re certainly a deep team, and right now she’s being challenged at the five. This whole process of what she’s going through is going to make her tougher and better.”
Gonzalez’s return has not resulted in the level of production she is used to. She’s gone 1-1 with five additional unfinished matches. However, compared to the road it took to get back to playing, Gonzalez has a positive outlook on the season so far.
“I really want this, I’m just excited to be out there,” Gonzalez said. “I want to enjoy it as much as I can and really remember it.”
With an already positive outlook on the season so far, the rest of the season could become brighter. Now practicing full time, Gonzalez is getting back into a rhythm on the court.
“We have a week and a half of practice coming up, so I’m looking forward to focusing on getting that repetition and grind in,” Gonzalez said. “I just need to reset my game and focus on the basics.”
Gonzalez has endured and overcome unforeseen obstacles over the past year, each challenge making her tougher than the last. She’s back to focusing on the game she loves.
“I believe her best stuff is still in front of her,” Wallace said.