Mateas siblings follow tennis dreams
Like countless others before, Calin and Angela Mateas departed their homeland overseas to pursue the American dream. They are well on their way.
The couple left Romania in 2004 so that Calin could pursue a job as a tennis pro in New Jersey. Their children, Catalin and Maria, followed a year later.
Calin, a national tennis champion in Romania in 1985, moved to Braintree in 2008, accepting a position as tennis pro at the Weymouth Club, where he works with a number of the top junior players in New England.
His two children are now considered among that group.
At 15, Catalin, a student at the US Tennis Association Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., is ranked 14th in the country in his age category.
Maria, 13, a seventh-grader at the South Middle School in Braintree, is a five-star blue chip player on the Tennis Recruiting Network.
She is ranked second in New England for U14 girls and is in the top 40 in the country for her age category.
“We were following the American dream, and obviously we don’t regret making the move,” said the elder Mateas, now 45. “The kids are very happy here.”
Catalin Mateas dreams of becoming a tennis professional. He is in his second year at the USTA Training Center, and alternates time there and at home, where he receives coaching from his father and training from his mother. He is competing in three tournaments in California, including next week’s Easter Bowl in Palm Springs. Catalin expects to be a No. 3 or 4 seed in the 16-year-old division.
It appears that his time at the USTA Training Center is paying off. Catalin is ranked in the top 15 in the nation among 16-year-olds, and is in the top 100 for players 18 or younger. Last summer he won the New England Sectionals in the boys 18 division despite being unseeded and only 15 years old.
“The biggest reason I came to Florida is because the level of competition is higher,” said Catalin, who takes online high school courses in between his time on the court.
“It was getting to the point where there wasn’t a lot of kids to hit with and the level of competition wasn’t as high.”
“My fitness on the court has really improved and I’m working a lot on my game. I’m moving into the court more and hitting more winners. That has been my goal lately. I’ve been hitting much better and my serve has improved.”
Catalin enjoys playing in tournaments with Maria. Last year they both reached the finals at the New England Sectionals, with Catalin winning his division and Maria finishing as runner-up. Both siblings will compete in the Easter Bowl.
“She’s playing much better,” Catalin said of his sister. “We both did well in the last tournaments we were in. She won one of them (a Level 3 tournament in Miami) and I was second, and then a couple weeks later I won (at a Level 2 tournament in Austin) and she got to the finals. It was disappointing that we both didn’t win in the same tournament.”
The next step for Catalin? Deciding whether to play at the collegiate level or turn pro. He will certainly garner scholarship offers from Division 1 programs. Another option is to attend college for two years to further refine his game and then turn professional.
“I think in their eyes they’d both love to be professional players but it’s a long road,” said Steve Goldman, the owner of the Weymouth Club.
“The USTA is looking at Catalin as a future for US tennis. Catalin is definitely in that environment of training like a pro. They do love the game of tennis. It’s certainly something that was not forced on them. They have a true passion for the game.”
It remains to be seen if that passion translates into handling the rigors of professional tennis, where it can be hard to make a secure living until players crack the top 200.
Catalin has already brushed elbows with some of the greatest; he played alongside Roger Federer during an exhibition match in 2007. Federer is currently ranked No. 2 in the world and owns 17 Grand Slam titles.
“It’s definitely very challenging,” said Catalin.
“The traveling, the tournaments, and the training are challenging. My dad has asked me many times if I really want to do this. It’s tough, and this is only the beginning. But I love doing this. It’s not as bad when you enjoy playing and you know the training only makes you better.”
Here and there
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John Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.