Alex Diaz, a redshirt sophomore from Athens, Georgia, looks across the courts during a match against Presbyterian College players on Feb. 14, 2019 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia. The Bulldogs defeated the Blue Hose 7-0. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

Though he did not know it yet, what seemed like just another singles match for Alex Diaz would actually become one of the defining moments in his college career with the Georgia men’s tennis team. Diaz, a redshirt freshman at the time, was set to play against Kentucky’s Gus Benson.

The Bulldogs and Wildcats were tied 3-3 ahead of Diaz’s showdown against Benson. Diaz took the first set and with everyone from both teams watching, he managed to suppress Benson’s second-set comeback with a win in the tiebreak. This would win him the match and seal the victory for Georgia.

Alex Diaz does not share his last name with esteemed men’s tennis head coach Manuel Diaz by mere coincidence. He is the younger son of the head coach, and to him, this win was a moment that made his father proud, and that defined his position on the team. It would solidify the fact that he was more than just the coach’s son, he was a passionate player that could lead the team to victory.

“He was out there by himself and he knew how to react,” Manuel Diaz said. “He led us to victory that day and I was very proud that he was able to come through [with the win], but I would’ve been proud just by the way he competed and he fought for his teammates.”

For Alex Diaz, playing tennis was something he knew he wanted to do from the moment he could walk. But being a star tennis player would never have been enough for him. His dream was to play for Georgia’s tennis program, a team he has been around for as long as he’s been able to hold a racket.

“He was very excited about his tennis, always, and I think being a part of a team like the University of Georgia men’s tennis team is something that was exciting to him,” Manuel Diaz said. “Watching us as a 10-year-old win the NCAAs and running around the tennis courts after our victories, he felt a part of this program even before he got here.”

Growing up, Alex Diaz would be hitting tennis balls anywhere and anytime he could. His passion was always tennis, and eventually that passion would be what drove him to the successful career he had in juniors. He became one of the nation’s top recruits of the 2016 class.

Along the way, Alex Diaz was able to earn himself a five star recruitment classification, while reaching the quarterfinals of the USTA Southern Level 1A Championship. At the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Selection tournament in 2015, he managed to reach the semifinals in singles and won in doubles.

His success was driven by the desire to compete at the college level, for the program he had been growing alongside his whole life. Eventually, Alex Diaz’s triumphs in his juniors career would secure him the long-sought-after spot on Georgia.

“UGA was my first choice, I didn’t even visit any other schools," Alex Diaz said. "I talked to a few, I got emails from some, but I never went [to visit] to any of them."

The same fierce mentality with which Alex Diaz approached his juniors career, he then carried over into his collegiate career. He managed several notable victories early on, including the clinching win against Kentucky and a doubles win that same year against Ohio State alongside now-senior Robert Loeb. Though the win did not translate to an overall victory for the team, it was another testament to his on-court passion and ability to succeed.

“When he plays he’s super aggressive and has a lot of fun,” Loeb said.

Though they have not consistently been doubles partners, Loeb described his experience playing with Alex as being positive. The two have known each other since they were fourteen, a friendship that blossomed as opponents during their juniors career.

Despite the early highs, Alex Diaz’s last couple of seasons have been marked by a shoulder injury that has prevented him from consistent appearances on the court. Regardless, he is optimistic towards the remainder of his collegiate career. He is now almost fully recovered, looking forward to earning his spot on the starting lineup again and hoping to lead the team to more victories.

“I’ve basically just now started back full practice,” Diaz said. “It was a longer break than expected, but I’m getting back into it now so we’ll see where it goes.”

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