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My Signature: Ingrid Martins on Winning the SEC Championship
Women's Tennis  . 

My Signature: Ingrid Martins on Winning the SEC Championship

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

Senior Ingrid Martins recently became the first South Carolina women’s tennis player to earn SEC Player of the Year honors after helping the Gamecocks knock off No. 1 ranked, and previously undefeated, Georgia 4-3 in the SEC Tournament Championship match. Martins defeated the No. 1 player in the nation in Georgia’s Katarina Jokic in three sets to clinch the match and secure South Carolina’s first SEC Tournament trophy while also taking home Tournament MVP honors. The native of Brazil has come a long way since her freshman year when she struggled with adjusting to the language and culture in the United States.
To be honest, the night before the championship, I had a dream that we had already won. I dreamed we were taking pictures with the (championship) shirts and hats as champions. I remember waking up and saying, ‘oh, it hasn’t happened yet. It’s today!’

We wanted to play against Georgia in the final. I was looking forward to it because they beat us last time, but I didn’t get to finish my match because they had already won. We were tied in the third set, so I wanted to play (Jokic) again.

I told myself to be aggressive, but to just play one point at a time. I was playing with my heart, and I needed to do that for my team.

I knew it was coming down to my match when (head coach) Kevin (Epley) came to my court and said, ‘We need you.’  I had the pressure on me to finish, but it was a joy for me to be there. I enjoy that environment. I like the challenge. I like the pressure.

I won the first set (6-1). I was just playing loose and playing my game. I think she was a little nervous at first and missing shots. I was up 3-0 in the second set, but then I got a little tight and started thinking too much ahead (and lost 6-4). I had to pull my head back into the present.

I did beat her last year. That helped me a lot. I tried to find that mentality I had for that. I tried not to think about the rankings or anything like that. I just had to believe in myself.

“I had to go through all those struggles that freshman year to be where I am now.”
– Ingrid  Martins

In the third set, I came back from being down 4-2. All the girls (teammates) were on my court. They were cheering every point, and I would give them a fist pump. I needed to do this for them.
During the last point, I was returning, and I just kept saying, ‘One at a time. One at a time.’ When the ball came short, I approached with a slice forehand, and then I came to the net. She hit with her backhand, and I saw the ball coming high. I thought, ‘That’s going out.’ When I saw it go out, I just fell. It was a relief. I was so happy.

All I could think was that my dream from the night before was coming true! We did it! They jumped all over me, and I think my back cracked three times, but it was great!

When I first came here, I didn’t know what the SEC was. I didn’t know what it meant. Now that I’ve been here for four years, I know how important it is. I see other sports winning here, and I’m just really grateful that we could be the team that won this year.

Looking back, South Carolina was my only visit and my only choice. Everything I heard from Kevin was what I wanted to hear. He is very passionate about his work. He has been committed to me as a player and as a person. I was very lucky.

If I look back now, I would tell my freshman self to enjoy every moment and spend as much time with your friends and teammates as you can and enjoy the process. I’m more open-minded now and that gives me strength.

The toughest part was the language and the culture. The coaching was different. I remember crying almost every day when I first got here. I was homesick. I told myself that there is a reason for everything to happen.  I had to go through all those struggles that freshman year to be where I am now. I’m so grateful.