Many college athletes spend their collegiate careers preparing themselves for the pros.
Paty Aburto, a senior tennis player, already has been there.
After finishing high school in Veracruz, Mexico, Aburto decided to play professional tennis with the Mexican Tennis Federation.
Aburto’s long resúmé includes 25 Mexican National Championships and her current status as the No. 1 singles player for TCU.
“She’s a great cheerleader,” said head coach Dave Borelli, who has nothing but praise for Aburto.
He said her strength is her competitiveness, not to mention her tremendous speed and power.
“She’s been able to channel that,” Borelli said. “She can put the ball back into play instead of going for no-brainer, zero-percentage shots — that’s confidence.”
Borelli said he thinks she realizes that if she plays well she can beat the No. 1 player in college. He said she takes that attitude on the court with her every time.
Aburto has received the Conference USA Women’s Tennis Player of the Week award twice this season, most recently for the period ending Feb. 28.
Aburto said she identifies with professional tennis player Jennifer Capriati because of Capriati’s strength.
“Her tennis is awesome, so I try to be like her,” Aburto said.
Gustavo Kuerten, a professional tennis player from Brazil, also inspires Aburto.
“He’s so intense,” Aburto said. “He always fights and never gives up.”
Aburto’s tennis career started by accident.
At age 8, she frequently attended her then 10-year-old brother Santiago’s tennis tournaments and would play around on the courts while waiting for the tournament to start.
One day, the women’s team approached her. They were short a player, so they recruited her to fill the spot.
Aburto won the tournament.
After that, Aburto’s parents enrolled her in private lessons, which she continued until she was 18.
High schools in Mexico did not have competitive sports teams, so Aburto formed rivalries between the young women from other cities that she faced in tournaments each weekend.
“Every tournament I won against those girls are my favorites,” she said.
Karla Mancinas, one of those rivals, currently shares the court and the claim to the No. 2 TCU women’s doubles title with Aburto.
Mancinas, an international finance major, has known Aburto for 10 years. They were partners in the 1998 Mexican National Championship.
“She’s a great doubles player, always cheering me up,” Mancinas said.
Aburto is the reason Mancinas came to TCU.
“She called me up and was like, ‘I love this school, you should come’,” Mancinas said.
Aburto’s journey to TCU was a little more complicated, though.
As a youth, she played tournaments in the United States, Brazil and throughout Mexico.
Then in 1998 Aburto traveled to Russia with the Mexican team to play in the Olympic Youth Games.
From there she went on to play pro for a year, an experience that she said changed her life.
“In that year I realized tennis was not everything,” Aburto said. “I needed something for after tennis.”
That opportunity came during a tournament in Florida. The Ole Miss tennis coach approached her and planted the idea of attending college in the United States in her mind. The coach spoke with Roland Ingram, then the head coach of TCU women’s tennis, and in the fall of 2000 Aburto enrolled in TCU.
Four years later, she says she does not regret leaving her family or Mexico.
Aburto said she sees her family about twice a year. Her father, Santiago Aburto, is a lawyer; and her mother, Delfina Garcia, is a housewife.
Both her parents play tennis.
Aburto said her brother Santiago, who attended the University of Veracruz and now works for their father as a lawyer, inspires her the most.
“The way he sees life — it’s so relaxing,” Aburto said. “I would like to be more like him.”
Growing up, tennis was taken very seriously. Aburto remembers traveling with her mother and often spending vacations and holidays away from her father, brother and grandmother.
Aburto said if given $10,000 to do what she pleased, she would take her family to Cancun and spend time shopping and hanging out at the beach.
Now, however, tennis keeps her from her family and from school.
“It’s hard to play tennis and do school seriously,” she said.
Classes require her to be in town, but she has missed six days already this semester. Professors have given her a hard time when she tries to explain her absence, even though the schedule shows she won’t be in class.
Aburto said she chose her advertising/public relations major because she loves interacting with people. She looks forward to spending next year finishing her degree.
Aburto’s not sure what the future holds, but Borelli has little doubt in his mind.
He hopes that she will help out with the team next year, even though she will no longer be eligible to compete.
“I’d love to have her involved,” Borelli said. “She’s up-beat, funny and she’s always got that smile on her face.”
Borelli said he thinks she should continue playing after college.
For now, Aburto has the rest of the season to worry about.
Although she is not currently ranked nationally, she has recently upset nationally ranked players, including No. 4 Anda Perianu of Oklahoma.
Borelli is confident that when the rankings come out in the next two weeks, Aburto will find her name on the list. In order to qualify for nationals, players must be nationally ranked.
If Aburto wins conference in April, she will qualify for regionals. By that time if she has a ranking in the top 32, she will advance to the NCAA Tournament in Georgia.
“Since this is my last year, my goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament,” she said.