After practice on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, senior UT tennis star Matteo Fago said he had no regrets in his decision to play tennis at a collegiate level and earn a degree.
Hailing from Ceprano, Italy, Fago learned the English language, spent many hours studying and worked even harder on the court. His passion to learn, his love of tennis and the friendships he has built have influenced him greatly and have given him the drive to continue.
"I just wanted to take this challenge as a way to get better," Fago said. "I mean, I just wanted to live a different experience that I wouldn't have had if I had never come here. I wanted to see something different from my home country, and I think I definitely got that."
Senior Boris Conkic said that, after meeting Fago while playing in Egypt for a few consecutive years, the two discussed his plans for college, and Fago eventually said he wanted to join Conkic. Conkic informed Tennessee tennis coach, Sam Winterbotham, of his decision, and everything fell into place.
As the two prepare to graduate, along with senior John-Patrick Smith, and move on to the professional world, Conkic said he hopes Tennessee continues to perform well. He hopes fans will remember them as players and contributors to the team and the university.
"I'm sure that they will think of us as three really good players and three really good leaders," Conkic said. "I just hope the next generations will be as successful as we were."
Fago has managed to overcome several obstacles during his time at UT. From juggling a hectic class schedule and tennis to understanding a second language, Fago has worked hard and has managed to achieve it all.
After four years at the university, Fago said he can look back and see the rewards, but understanding the teachers and learning to process English quickly enough to take notes is something that was very challenging for him at first.
"It was not too hard, but challenging," Fago said. "It requires a lot of time. And you have to spend extra time, because sometimes I wouldn't know what a word meant. I remember when I first started, it was really hard for me to take notes because I could barely understand what the visual was saying."
Though Fago's desire to learn and to achieve a degree was not related to a specific field, he is now finishing up college and plans to graduate with a degree in economics. Fago said the time and effort put into tennis and school took away from his private life to a degree, but he still made time to build lasting friendships with his teammates and others during his stay at UT.
"I feel like in the team we are extremely close," Fago said. "I consider my team as my family."
Fago said his teammates care for one another, share with one another and look out for each other, and this is something that he will miss after graduation. Everything considered, Fago's has enjoyed his time at UT.
As he looks back, he is encouraged with his progress and achievements.
"I'm really proud of what I did," he said. "I think it was a really big challenge for me to come here not knowing much about it as a freshman, but I think I really used the challenge to develop as a person and to get better and to learn more. I think my tennis skill is better now, too, and I really enjoyed my time here. Overall, it was a great decision."