Natalie Espinal is a freshman international student from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She has a career-best ITF rating of 532 and Universal Tennis Ranking of 10.56. Over the summer, Espinal played in the Fed Cup for Honduras alongside her NSU teammate sophomore Daniela Obando.
How did you start playing tennis?
“Well my uncle taught me how to play at the country club with my brothers and the first time I took my racket, I loved it. So I started playing tennis with him and my brothers. But my brothers retired and I still play.”
What interested you about tennis?
“My dad played tennis, so I want to be like my dad. [My father] and my family support me in everything.”
Why did you come to Nova?
“I’m an international student, so Florida is the nearest state [in the US]. And one of my friends from Honduras is here too. I came in November and I love the campus and the team. I love everything.”
Being a freshman, how have you adjusted to being a student athlete in college?
“It’s hard, it’s very tough, but I like it. If I didn’t have tennis, I don’t know. But just being a student is not me— I have to be playing tennis.”
How would you describe the relationship with your teammates?
“I love the relationship with my teammates, because in the tournament, they were there to support me. They help me, and not just with tennis, classes too. If I need help with homework or something, they help me.”
What is difficult about being a student athlete?
“Sometimes you don’t have enough time to study or you have a lot of homework and a tournament and you have to play. Even if you have injuries.”
What is your favorite thing to do after a big match?
“First I stretch, then I take a breath, and then I eat.”
Do you have any pre-match rituals?
“I warm up with the team and we have a little speech about being supportive and a team [that we chant before every tournament].”
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
“I listen to music and spend time with my friends.”
How is playing tennis here different than playing in Honduras?
“Well here, we work harder. In Honduras, I go to school first and then I practice for one hour in the afternoon. Here it’s two hours and we have to do weights, so it’s harder. Here it’s too humid [sometimes].”
What is advice you would give to other student athletes?
“They need to work hard in classes and athletics, and they have to be strong [to play college-level tennis].”