PHOTO | Tara Espinoza
When Daniela Baez stepped on the airplane three years ago, it was her first time in America and away from her family. Originally from Spain, Baez is now in her junior year, majoring in business and digital marketing and a member of the Tech tennis team.
Baez was handed a racket at the age of four, after her father became bored watching her swim meets.
“I did both sports until I was fifteen, but when we started getting more homework and exams, I could not do both, so I picked the one I liked best,” Baez said.
The rest was history.
“In Spain, you cannot play sports at a higher level and get an education. I wanted to keep playing, so I contacted an agency that helped me. I had to send videos of me playing my sport, what I wanted to study and do interviews,” Baez said.
Baez was able to tour Tech through online videos and photos. She spoke with head tennis coach, Abby Davis, before committing to Tech. “I liked that my coach was happy about the idea of me coming here, how she talked about the opportunities and her goals for the tennis team,” she said.
Baez also notes how Tech’s educational classes were a part of her decision to come to Russellville, “Tech has a really good business program. I talked to the professors and realized that one day I could see myself working in an office.”
Baez thinks of the match as a physical and mental sport when playing tennis. She said, “You work on your weaknesses in practice, so you get better. It is at least 70 percent mental because you are the only one on the court, and if you go down, you are the one who picks yourself up. The mind has to be up with you and be positive.”
When she plays the forehand swing and serve are some of her favorite moves to execute. Having time management skills and staying on top of due dates helps her balance the life of a student and an athlete. “You have to be on top of everything and put in the work. Being organized is the main thing,” she said. When she has free time, her favorite things are going to Tech events, spending time with friends, and watching movies. “I like comedies and romantics, but Titanic is always a classic,” Baez said
When she can travel home, she enjoys spending time on the beaches, being around her family, and the food. “My role model for tennis is Rafael Nadal; he is a legend, and he works well with the community. For my personal role model, I would say it is my dad. He was the one that started it all. He is a hard worker and always pushes me to do better. I realize now he is the reason why I am who I am. Even now, with him being far away, he is still checking in, giving me advice and making sure I stay on top of my work. All my family has been a part of this journey,” Baez said.
During her sophomore year, the tennis season was cut short due to COVID. “I went home after Tech said everything is done for now. At this time, Spain ruled that you could not leave your house. It was a hard time. I started to worry if I would even remember how to play tennis. But we made it,” she said. During the lockdown, Baez was named ITA Scholar-Athlete and posted a 5-3 singles record and a 7-1 doubles record.
As this season gets started, Baez is looking forward to playing against Harding, and she wants to win the conference.”This year I think we have an excellent team and no one knows what will happen, but I think the work we are putting in will help us reach the conference and win. I want to play Harding because they push us and it is very competitive, and I like to play competitively,” she said.
As for future plans, Baez is unsure if she wants to stay in the U.S. or go somewhere in Europe, but she said, “I would like to go somewhere I can study masters’ and still be able to practice or play tennis. I would maybe find an assistant tennis coach job or do some particular tennis classes to support my studies.”
To follow Baez’s career and the Tech tennis team, you can follow their Instagram @atutennis.