Maria Blanco is a sophomore on the SIU women’s tennis team. She will be one of three Salukis competing this weekend at the ITA Midwest Regionals in Kalamazoo, Mich. Blanco took a few minutes before practice Monday to talk with Todd Merchant of the DAILY EGYPTIAN.

By Gus Bode

Daily Egyptian:What’s it like playing on a team with your sister, Alejandra?

Maria Blanco:Last year when we were playing doubles together, sometimes it was hard because on the court we have chemistry and everything. It’s hard to play being sisters and everything. This year, since we don’t play doubles anymore, it’s really good. We get along so good.

DE:What’s the biggest difference for you this year compared to last year?


MB:Last year I was scared because I was just a freshman, I’m playing No. 2 singles, and I’m playing No. 1 doubles. I was so scared. I think I handled it well and everything, and this year I’m in my spot. I know that I play No. 2 singles, I know exactly what girls I’ll play, how I can play them, what girls I’ll be equal to. Now I know where I am exactly and I know that I can play. That’s the big difference – I’m more confident.

DE:How hard is playing at No. 2?

MB:I’m used to playing under pressure and everything, but last year I didn’t realize until the second or third tournament that most of the girls that play in the top three spots are juniors or seniors. That’s when I kind of freaked out. I was like, “what am I doing playing No. 2 and then No. 1 doubles?” That was like really hard. People don’t really know about it because they see only the wins or they see only the record. I go and always give 100 percent, and I can’t win all the time because those first two or three spots are so hard to play. There’s a big difference between the first three and the lower three.

DE:Are you pumped for the ITAs this weekend?

MB:Obviously we get tired with school and practice, but when [Coach] Judy [Auld] told me we were gonna go, I was so excited because last year I think I was the only one who was all the time asking, “Judy, are we gonna go to regionals? Judy, are we gonna go?” So this year she decided to take me and qualified for it. Yeah, I’m really, really excited. I even brought my running shoes to practice because I know I can run faster now.

DE:What’s the difference in competition between Mexico and SIU?

MB:It’s about the same, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Even though there aren’t any big names in Grand Slams that are Mexican players, it’s really, really competitive. We have a really good level of play back in Mexico, and I wasn’t expecting to play as hard here. I’m playing like Russian and Czech girls. The big difference was that there, I used to play for myself; I would travel with my family, with my mom. And here, we’re a team.


DE:What’s the biggest difference in terms of culture or lifestyle?

MB:The food. There is nothing compared to Mexican food. Also, I’ve always lived with my family, always had someone cooking for me, doing all the stuff like laundry. Once I came here, you go and live by yourself in this small room in the dorms. I did laundry for the first time here. Living with people that aren’t your family, that was tough. But now I’m used to it.

DE:Has it been rough with your family moving from Mexico to New Zealand and back to Mexico?

MB:Yeah, it’s tough. But it’s tough because I miss New Zealand, and at the same time I miss Mexico. When I was in New Zealand, I missed Mexico, but I also missed Carbondale. So, seriously, I don’t know where I belong now. I love being here, but sometimes I get homesick for New Zealand or obviously Mexico. I really, really want to go to Mexico.

DE:You’re majoring in radio-television; what do you want to do when you get out of here?

MB:I’m also a music major, so I want to work at a music channel. My plans are, after graduating, I want to go to New York and get a job at MTV or VH1. I want to earn money there and then go to Australia and invest in TV and music. That’s basically what I want to do – a lot with records or producing, a lot with audio or TV.