Tennispic

Freshman Oscar Hernandez prepares to hit the ball.

After having its 2019-20 campaign cut short, JMU men’s tennis was forced to turn its attention to 2020-21, which meant adding a new piece to the lineup. Head coach Steve Secord’s recruiting was successful in the past with Spain, and he looked there, finding current freshman Oscar Hernandez on the Spanish Canary Island Tenerife. 

This is the same area where Secord discovered current starter and redshirt junior Alvaro Arce— Hernandez has known Arce since he was 7 years old. Secord said he knows the region well based on the success from Arce and Hernandez.

Secord first heard about Hernandez because both he and Arce happened to have the same group of coaches. They met while Hernandez was touring multiple schools, and Secord said he made sure to keep in touch from that point to when he eventually chose JMU. 

“Coach [Secord] showed so much interest in me, and I chose here because JMU has a really good campus and really good people,” Hernandez said. “We are like a family.”

Hernandez made an impact from the beginning with the combination of play and energy on the court. Both coaches and teammates said they were impressed with the energy he brought from day one, winning five out of his first seven singles matches. 

“He brought a lot of energy—  it’s kind of like having a puppy around a bunch of older dogs,” Secord said. “I thought his game [on the clay court surface] would translate to the college game, and he’s been able to help us in singles and doubles, which is always a plus.”

Hernandez finished 9-6 in singles matches and 8-6 in doubles, tallying to a 17-12 record this year. He won singles matches at multiple positions from No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 on top of his wins at No. 2 and No. 3 in doubles. Redshirt sophomore William Karpinski, one of his doubles partners for the majority of the season, attested to the liveliness and talent Hernandez brings to the team. 

“He’s a very social kid, which helps the team atmosphere,” Karpinski said. “He’s a team guy, and everyone on the team loves him. He just plays a very simple game, so it’s very easy to communicate with him on the court.”

When asked which professional player he tries to model his game after, Hernandez chose the No. 1 player in the world, Novak Djokovic. His favorite part about Djokovic is his on-court behavior, his point construction and how hard he competes from the start of a match to the end. 

Secord hopes that Hernandez can continue to improve after an impressive freshman season by keeping up with his improved diet and strength. Everyone on the team is rooting for Hernandez to get to where he’s pushing himself to be — on the court and in the classroom.  

“I want to graduate and improve my level of speaking English,” Hernandez said. “I want to be happy after my four years here with my play and my academics.”

Hernandez is certain to become a household name at JMU, if he builds off his freshman season that exceeded expectations from both himself and the team. 

Contact Craig Mathias at mathiack@dukes.jmu.edu For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.