A Choice Between Hard Courts and Fairways
By Kevin Ivany
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Deciding between a pair of ‘stick and a ball’ activities, University of Miami sophomore Adria Soriano Barrera chose the hard court and didn’t look back.
“I started playing tennis at around two-and-a-half, three years old,” Soriano Barrera explained. “It was a sport neither of my parents had previously played, but I remember my neighbor gave me a racket and the first time I used it to hit around at a tennis court, it went well.”
Born into a family with a pair of golfers as parents, Soriano Barrera found himself putting on the greens the very moment he was able to take his first steps.
His father, Anselmo Soriano Pujol, was an amateur golfer who would go out every weekend for a couple rounds, while also playing and coaching in a competitive indoor soccer league in Spain, while his mother, Claudia Patricia Barrera Reyes, grew up playing golf in Columbia, where Soriano Barrera would visit every summer up until his 15th birthday.
Despite all of the time he spent on the fairway, it was the “freedom” he felt while playing tennis that stood out to the sophomore.
“I liked sports a lot and I used to play golf and tennis all the time,” Soriano Barrera said. “The biggest difference between the two is that tennis gave me a little bit more freedom and I loved that aspect. I love being able to try new things and tennis gave me that opportunity and is something I just enjoy doing.
“There is a lot of emotion in tennis and it really is a complete sport,” he continued. “Actually, you can love it, you can hate it, you can learn from it, and really I am very grateful for it.”
Fast forwarding 15 years, the right-hander was beginning the next chapter of his life, deciding on where he would spend the upcoming four years playing collegiate tennis. Ranked as high as No. 1,623 by the ATP World Tour in singles and among the top 10 of Spain’s 18-under tennis rankings, Soriano Barrera’s options were limitless.
Making the 4,685-mile trek across the Atlantic Ocean from Barcelona, Spain, Soriano Barrera factored in the city’s culture and weather, as well as Miami head coach Aljosa Piric’s first incoming recruiting class to help aid his decision.
“Honestly, Miami helps, because so many people speak Spanish here,” Soriano Barrera said. “But at the end of the day, meeting new people is a key part of the transition. And when I got here, I joined four other incoming freshmen [Pablo Aycart Joya, Bojan Jankulovski, Tatsuki Shimamoto and Jake Kuhlman] which I knew was going to be a great opportunity for me to make new friends. It helped me to not feel alone in the process.
“So, really the biggest transitions were food and the different lifestyle, but you get used to that. I also have some family around here, which helped.”
In his first collegiate tournament in 2017, Soriano Barrera made an immediate impact by claiming the Blue Draw singles title at the Rice Invitational.
He capped his freshman campaign with a 21-10 singles mark, while working up the singles lineup to the No. 1 position and leading the Hurricanes to their first NCAA Team Championship bid since 2011.
Ranked as high as No. 67 in singles, he also made a major influence in doubles, teaming up with Christian Langmo at the top spot. The duo became the first Hurricanes to reach the NCAA Doubles Championship Second Round since All-Americans Daniel Vallverdu and Carl Sundberg accomplished the feat in 2008.
This season, he continued to have success, boasting a team-high 21 singles wins, including a 13-9 mark during the spring, while guiding Miami back to the NCAA Team Championship, the program’s first back-to-back appearances since 2006-09. Yet despite his individual success, Soriano Barrera said he has learned even more while competing as part of a team.
“I had always played individually, never as a team, so I am seeing things in a new way,” Soriano Barrera said. “It also gives you more experience as the years go by and helps strengthen your maturity. So, really, what you learn from [the team] is the group culture, how to spend time with your teammates, how important it is to have teammates and you learn more about how a group works than anything else. That is also important because surrounding yourself with a great group of people will ultimately help you in life.”
The sophomore will only be the second Hurricane to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship over the past decade, joining Piotr Lomacki (2016). Currently ranked No. 33 nationally, Soriano Barrera has collected a combined 15 career ranked singles and doubles wins heading into Monday’s opener of the NCAA Singles Championship in Orlando.
“At least I know how the tournament works,” Soriano Barrera said with a laugh when referring to competing in Orlando next week. “I’m not going to be there this year not fully understanding the process or what to expect like last year. Also, I’ll be playing in Orlando, and I know those courts after playing there a couple times this season. So, basically I know what to expect.
“I know singles is very tough and everyone plays so well, but it is a pretty amazing tournament and I am so excited to be competing,” Soriano Barrera said. “I think if I play well I can expect a lot of great things to come from it. The main thing is going to be to show up in Orlando, fight, perform my best in that moment and to keep it going. If one match goes well, carry that momentum into the second and so forth. Basically, I have to try to be my very best, continue to learn from it and try to get as much experience as I can.”
Soriano Barrera still picks up a driver whenever he gets the chance, but thanks to the thoughtful gesture of a neighbor 17 years ago, he is excelling on the tennis court and will be representing The U at the NCAA Singles Championship next week.