Oct. 18, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Talent, development and a willingness to be coached are key ingredients for success for any student-athlete. South Carolina sophomore Ingrid Gamarra Martins already had plenty of talent when she chose to leave her home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to become part of the women’s tennis program last year. As she embraced her coaches and teammates, great results are already evident.
“I have worked really hard,” Martins said. “The coach and team, they were here with open arms when I got here. I didn’t know anyone, so I just want to get better every day. I want to finish in the top 10 in the country, but I want to help my team win by giving all I have in every match.”
Martins was recently the runner-up at a pro International Tennis Federation event and made it to the round of 16 at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s All-American Championships earlier this month. She was the first Gamecock to make it that far since 1999, and she was also the first Gamecock to make it through the qualifying rounds just to get to the main draw since 2000.
“It’s great for the program,” South Carolina head coach Kevin Epley said. “It shows that she can compete with the best players in the country. What’s more important, it’s just great to see someone grow. That’s why we do what we do. You see someone come in a little overwhelmed, and then find the tools that she needs to succeed. It’s just fun to watch.”
Martins had a solid freshman year on and off the court. She was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, becoming the first Gamecock rookie recognized on a season-ending all-conference team since 2007. She was also named to the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll and was an ITA Scholar Athlete.
She is just a really talented player who works hard, and wants it. You don’t get that full package very often.
Martins admits she was nervous at times when she first arrived, and a lot of her growth and success so far in year two has to do with being more comfortable.
“The biggest difference is how I’m handling practice and school,” Martins said. “I’m always giving 100 percent. I’m used to everything now; go to class, come back and go to practice. With my teammates, the girls are like my sisters. We’re all family. I’m understanding my coaches better, and they’re understanding me. We’re working together, and I’m getting better.
“The coaches help a lot. We practice very hard every day. They are always pushing me to be the best. Coming here to go to school was the best decision of my life. I hope I get better every day.”
Epley noted that he began to see her improvement midway through the fall season last year, and he is pleased with her progress, on and off the court.
“Freshman year, she came in and was doing some things technically that she needed to work her way out of,” Epley said. “She started that process about halfway through the fall, and it really started coming into its own during the spring. But it was this summer when she really started getting comfortable with it. Now she is hitting her forehand really heavy, and she’s putting a lot of pressure on people.
“The other part is just maturity and adapting to the culture. I think it was very overwhelming for her in her first year. In the last month, she has really taken a step forward in being more disciplined and professional in how she approaches matches.”
Martins added that her mental growth has helped her as well.
“I think I am more mature,” Martins said. “I grew up a little since last year with coaches and the other girls helping me a lot. The mental part is the most important part of tennis.”
Even with the recent success, neither Epley nor Martins are satisfied.
“I put more responsibility on myself now,” Martins said.
“There is still so much she needs to work on, so we’re focused on that, and we know the results will come,” Epley said. “She is just a really talented player who works hard, and wants it. You don’t get that full package very often.”
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