Not even the chance to become one of a select few college players to win four straight NCAA team titles was enough to keep Colin Altamirano in school for one more year.
Altamirano, who helped the University of Virginia win team titles from 2015-2017, was taken the distance in his two quarterfinal matches on Friday at the Long Beach Pro Futures Tournament Presented by the Southern California Tennis Association, advancing to the Saturday semifinals in singles and doubles at the USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 event being played at the El Dorado Tennis Center.
“I didn’t go to college to win titles,” said Altamirano, who needed three sets to beat TCU junior Alex Rybakov, 6-2, 1-6, 6-2. “Luckily I got to experience that, and I’ll always be thankful for that. But to win four titles wasn’t always on the goal list, to be honest.”
Altamirano said he made the decision to turn pro one year early exactly one year ago, and informed then-Virginia coach Brian Boland of his decision last January.
“Tennis has been my focus for my entire life, and I was just so eager to get out here and start doing this for a living,” he said. “I just wanted to. At the end of the day I wanted to just do what I loved. I loved it at Virginia; I love that program. But this is what I really want to do. I want to take school seriously when I’m ready.”
Stanford’s Paul Goldstein, and USC’s Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen are the only players to have won four straight NCAAs team titles, and no one on Virginia’s current roster has the chance to be a four-time winner with Henrik Wiersholm’s decision to redshirt after three seasons.
Altamirano played “a couple of tournaments” after school but mostly spent the summer and fall simply training. “I just wanted to get the game ready and the body right and healthy,” he said. “I didn’t really play anything after school. I played the [Futures] last week and now this one. I’m not sure what’s next. I’ll go home and evaluate things and will kick things off soon.”
Altamirano and University of Notre Dame player Alexander Lebedev beat Austin Krajicek and Jack Pulliam, 6-1, 3-6, 10-7, to make the doubles semis.
Altamirano will face 23-year-old Kaichi Uchida from Japan in the first singles semifinal starting at 11 a.m. Uchida has trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for the past five years, and is traveling with his coach Norberto Valsecchi of Argentina.
“I’ve been trying to change my style and be more aggressive,” said Uchida, who currently sits just outside the top 350 in the world rankings. “I believe I can make the next step into the top 100. My confidence is high, I just have to go out and do it. When I was a junior I could beat everyone with my power, but in the pros it takes much more. It’s more mental.”
In the other semifinal it will be former USC star Emilio Gomez against Altamirano’s former Virginia teammate J.C. Aragone, who also has three NCAA team titles but finished his senior year up in May.
Gomez beat top-seeded Austin Krajicek, 6-3, 7-6 (8) on Friday. It was a very similar score line when they met last in July of 2016 in the final round of qualifying at the Canadian Open in Toronto with Gomez winning by the same 10-8 second-set tiebreak score as Friday, 6-4, 7-6 (8) in their only other head-to-head meeting.
The No. 6-seeded Aragone beat No. 4-seeded Jan Satral of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
The USC wild-card brother pairing of Tanner and Riley Smith fell short in their bid for the semis in doubles, falling in a tough super-tiebreaker after holding several match points falling to the No. 2-seeded team of Croatia’s Antel Pavic and Satral, 2-6, 6-2, 13-11.
Friday’s Quarterfinal Singles Results
wc: wild card; q: qualifier
Emilio Gomez, Ecuador (q), def. Austin Krajicek, U.S. (1) (wc), 6-3, 7-6 (8)
J.C. Aragone, U.S. (6), def. Jan Satral, Czech Republic (4), 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
Collin Altamirano, U.S., def. Alex Rybakov, U.S., 6-2, 1-6, 6-2
Kaichi Uchida, Japan (3), def. Daniel Cukierman, Israel (q), 6-0, 6-3
Friday’s Quarterfinal Doubles Results
Luke Bambridge, Great Britain / Hans Hach Verdugo, Mexico (1), def. Miles Seemann, U.S. / Alec Adamson, U.S., 7-5, 6-1
Collin Altamirano, U.S. / Alexander Lebedev, U.S. def. Austin Krajicek, U.S. / Jack Pulliam, 6-1, 3-6, 10-7
Antel Pavic, Croatia / Jan Satral, Czech Republic (2), def. Riley Smith, U.S. / Tanner Smith, U.S., 2-6, 6-2, 13-11
Deiton Baughman, U.S. / Kaichi Uchida, Japan (3), def. Jordan Bridge, U.S. / Alexander Ward, Great Britain (wc), 6-4, 6-2
Final Community event for the Long Beach USTA Pro Circuit presented by USTA Southern California:
Saturday, Jan. 13: High Performance Clinic, Presented by SC Tennis Academy & USTA Net Generation, 10 am-11 am.