Wednesday, May 22, 2024

From the courts of Portugal to the courts of Blacksburg – Virginia Tech Athletics

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Virginia Tech men’s tennis seniors Hugo Maia and Manuel Goncalves have a story unlike any other.

From meeting at the age of 8 at a tennis tournament in Portugal to playing doubles together at the Division I level, the two truly have a unique bond that runs far deeper than the tennis court.


Hugo Maia, originally from Braga, Portugal, began playing tennis at the young age of 4 years old after being exposed to the sport through his parents. Maia has been a standout player for the Hokies since his time wearing the maroon and orange began in 2020, appearing in 22 singles matches and 10 doubles matches in his freshman season.


“When I was younger, I did pretty well in the tournaments, so I just kept playing because the results were good,” Maia said. “When it came to a college decision, it helped that I knew Portuguese people here and they all had really good things to say about it, so I eventually chose Virginia Tech.”


His senior year, Maia secured a starting position on court three/four in singles and eventually earned a spot in the doubles lineup with partner-in-crime Manuel Gonçalves. In singles, Maia would go to upset No. 117 Luciano Tacchi of Wake Forest and secure a three-set victory against Chase Thompson of Notre Dame to help secure Tech’s come-from-behind win. Maia ended his senior season tied with teammate Alberto Orso for the most singles wins on the team (11).


Manuel Gonçalves, a Porto, Portugal native, began his tennis journey at the age of 3. Gonçalves transferred to Virginia Tech after playing two seasons at USF. After overcoming an injury at the beginning of his senior season, Gonçalves would get back into the doubles lineup, playing on court three with Maia.


When asked why he was drawn to make the move from USF to Virginia Tech, Gonçalves said that it was due to the community environment of the school, along with previous successes of Portuguese people at the university.


Gonçalves and Maia grew up a few towns apart in Northern Portugal, eventually meeting at a tennis tournament when they were only 8 years old.


“I remember playing him once when we were 8 at his club a long time ago,” Gonçalves said. “[Hugo] was always a little more competitive than I was.”


The two would play with and against each other throughout their lives at various tournaments across Europe, growing their competitive relationship and friendship.
“Our relationship was always very healthy,” Gonçalves remarked. “We’ve never had fights on the court. We played doubles all the time. It was competitive, but in a good way.”
“We would always hang out at the tournaments,” Maia said, “and I mean even after we played [singles against each other] we would probably have to play doubles right after so there was no way we could get mad, because we’d have to play together one hour after.”
The pairing has had incredible success, both at Virginia Tech and in their years growing up, including roaring comebacks.
“We were playing a U-14 tournament in Italy in the quarterfinals, and we were losing the super tiebreaker,” Gonçalves noted when asked about a favorite tennis memory from their time overseas. “But we ended up winning 11-9. We ended up winning the match, and then we ended up winning the tournament.”
Maia and Gonçalves also previously won two national championships together while competing in Portugal. The duo also came close to winning their first professional tournament together last summer but ended up falling short in the final.
At Virginia Tech, the dynamic duo has been a dominating doubles pairing for the Hokies. This past season, the two clinched the doubles point in the second round of the ACC Championship (6-4), leading the Hokies against eventual ACC champions Florida State. The pairing also had successes against George Mason and Boston College. It is no question that their on-court chemistry is in part due to their lifelong friendship.
“I know what he’s going to do because we played so many times together,” Maia recounted. “Sometimes I don’t even have to think about what he’s going to do because I feel like I know, and that comes from playing a lot of times together.”
The two completed their time as Hokies in the second round of the ACC Championship, but they hope that Virginia Tech and the tennis community will remember them for much more than their skills on the court.
“I hope I am remembered for being a good teammate,” Gonçalves said when asked what he hopes his legacy at Virginia Tech will be, “having good energy and always representing the university in the best way possible.”
Maia had a similar response.

“Obviously, I had some good wins and some good results,” Maia closed. “But I feel like that’s not what I want people to remember. I want them to remember me for being a good teammate and for always being there for other people and always giving my best.”



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