At 16 he was considered a prodigy, poised to be the next tennis great to come out of Spain. But, with in a year of his professional debut, Jaume Martinez-Vich left the sport all together and found himself on the streets. That's when a road paved with 2nd chances led him from a life of crime in Mallorca, to winning a national title with the Hawaii Pacific University men's tennis team.
"At that time I was going home at like 4 am everyday. I was drinking. I was smoking. I was doing everything, everything that an athlete wouldn't do, that's what I was doing," said Martinez-Vich.
Not long after Martinez-Vich hit the highest peak in his career, troubles within his family sent his life into a tailspin. The then 16 year-old pro traded his life on the court for one on the streets, where he found himself involved in drugs and regularly having run-ins with the law.
But the Spaniard was determined to turn his life around.
"I realized that if I don't do nothing, nobody's going to do anything for me at that point because it was bad, and it was getting worse and worse and worse," said Martinez-Vich. "I had to change something."
With his pro career gone Martinez-Vich looked stateside to play Division I tennis. But, after failing a year of school in Spain he was deemed ineligible. Then, Hendrik Bode came calling and offered him he'd been hoping for; a spot on the HPU men's tennis team, where he could play at the Division II level and regain his academic eligibility.
"When I arrived I was like wow, these people they are helping me a lot," said Martinez-Vich. "They're supporting me a lot because when I came here I still didn't talk with my father. It was really rough on me. So, with Hendrik I was practicing good. But, sometimes after practice he was seeing me..I was going.. and I would start crying right away. Since that day he started supporting me a lot, like, more than coach."
It was that relationship with Bode that convinced Martinez-Vich to stay for all four years. During that time he became an All-American, and in his senior season helped the Sharks earn an NCAA Division II National Championship.
"I would never have the words to say thank you of everything what he have done for me," said Martinez-Vich. "He's such a good person. He supported me always."
Martinez-Vich with the support of this coach and teammates, Martinez-Vich will graduate at the end of this summer. He says he hopes to stay in Hawaii and coach.
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