On the tennis court, Jorge Rodriguez considers himself a counterpuncher.
“You just wait for the right chance to attack,” he said.
Likewise, Rodriguez has shown a penchant for spotting and maximizing opportunities that have come along in his tennis career.
Looking to earn a college degree while continuing to compete, Rodriguez journeyed from his native Bogota, Colombia, to the the United States to play tennis at Tennessee State and, later, Coppin State University.
And while excelling at Coppin, Rodriguez got to know one of the Eagles’ coaches, Blaine Davies, a connection that opened another tennis door.
After Davies was hired as Hood College’s tennis coach, Rodriguez eventually became his assistant. And now, Rodriguez is a grad assistant with the Blazers, pursuing his masters at the Frederick college while continuing to coach and play tennis.
And as Rodriguez showed on Friday, he still plays at a high level. Rodriguez beat Alec Shortuse 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the Frederick Tennis Open men’s singles final at Baker Park.
Rodriguez, a 22-year-old who lives in Frederick, plays as many tournaments as he can — he planned to play one in Delaware this week. But with college classes set to start soon, he can’t schedule too many.
Still, he’s glad to continue being involved in a sport he gravitated to as a 10- or 11-year old kid who showed up to watch his sister, Laura, play one day.
“One of the coaches said, ‘You ought to come play?’ And from that moment, I loved it,” said Rodriguez, who likes the individual nature of tennis.
Before discovering how much he liked tennis, Rodriguez was a soccer player. As it turned out, tennis helped bring Rodriguez to America.
His sister had come to the United States, and she played tennis at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“She’s how I found out about college tennis, and we decided it was the way for me because before, I wanted to go pro [in tennis] right away, but my mom said I need to get a degree just in case,” he said. “So, coming to the U.S., I was able to do both — play tennis at a good level and get my degree.”
After playing two years at Tennessee State, he transferred to Coppin. At the Baltimore college, he earned All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honors as a junior.
After getting his Bachelor’s degree in business administration, Rodriguez worked at Tennis Central in Washington, D.C. Aside from being an instructor, he was the director of international expansion and helped run tournaments.
Then, in September of 2019, he became Davies’ assistant at Hood College, where Rodriguez will begin taking classes this fall.
“It was better for me to continue my education because I’m an international student,” he said.
He still finds time to instruct others in tennis. One of the young players he helps is Imani Ghosh, who ended up winning the women’s singles title at the Frederick Tennis Open by beating Madison Warren 6-0, 6-0 in the final on Friday.
“I hit with [Rodriguez] a couple times a week, and he’s been a major help and has improved my game,” said Ghosh, who has also been helped by Jim Kohr, the senior tennis staff professional at West Winds Tennis And Fitness.
Ghosh, 16, is a rising junior at Northwest High School in Montgomery County. But for various reasons, she hasn’t played tennis for the Jaguars.
She focused on practicing so she could excel at tournaments and, this past spring, Northwest High’s season was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Also, Ghosh has been looking to bounce back after having surgery on her left shoulder a couple years ago. Being right-handed meant Ghosh could return to tennis, but she had to put in plenty of effort to mount a successful comeback.
“Especially mentally it’s been difficult,” said Ghosh, who hadn’t played a tournament this year until competing in the Frederick Tennis Open. “But I think this tournament, I focused on keeping a cool mind and just focused on my game.”
She hoped her showing in Frederick could be a springboard for future tournaments. Her strengths include a strong forehand and service game.
‘[I’m] trying to play as many tournaments as I can,” Ghosh said. “This weekend I have a tournament, and I’m just trying to bring my ranking up.”