By T.J. Stricklin
Auburn’s Edward Nguyen is a junior men’s tennis player hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. You might wonder how someone from such a prime hockey area got into tennis. For Nguyen, the answer is family.
“My parents and my older brothers drew me to tennis. They started playing tennis first, and then I got into it. I did camps that let us swim for half of the day and tennis for the rest of the day. I never really picked up the swimming, so I stuck with tennis.”
Nguyen’s brother, Eric Nguyen, played tennis at Bradley University. He, in particular, had a big impact on Edward’s decision to play tennis and attend college in America.
“He was always on my case. Every time I was traveling, I would talk to him. He would say, ‘Focus on your preparation. Focus on recovery.’ He was a big factor in my tennis career. Whenever I had a bad day, he would always talk me through it. He helped me refocus and get back into it. He’s always been a good supporting factor. He also pushed me to look into American colleges. There are more and more Canadians going, but his going definitely contributed to my decision to come here.”
If it wasn’t obvious already, Nguyen is a big family person. His favorite moments growing up all involve being surrounded by family. His decision to attend college in America took him away from his family, but he believes the NCAA gives him the best opportunity to advance his academics while playing the sport he loves. With his affinity for a family atmosphere that Auburn prides itself on, it’s no surprise that he fits in so well here.
Nguyen started his collegiate career at Valdosta State, but after a year, he decided to transfer to The Plains, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I decided to transfer for better academics. Tennis-wise, I would also say it was the best decision. All of the support we get from the university is perfect. I have the opportunity to get better in tennis, and I’m also in the business school. I think it’s a really good program.
“Auburn is just perfect. You’re playing outside pretty much until December, where you have one or two months indoors, compared to Canada, where we’re indoors for five to six months a year. That was a big thing. It’s been awesome here.”
Nguyen may be a long way away from his roots, but that’s nothing new for him. His tennis career has taken him all over the globe. Being one of the top three U18 tennis players in Canada and top 100 in the ITF, he certainly earned his opportunities.
“I was lucky because our federation let us travel a lot. I got to play in Asia, Europe, some parts of Africa and South America. We were traveling a good 25-30 weeks a year, so that was pretty fun. I’m always going to cherish that.
“But I got kind of tired of it during my last year of juniors. It was annoying to deal with along with school. It would get toward the end of the year and I would have all of these exams. It just got hard to balance both, but it was always fun.”
To say Nguyen has had a decorated tennis career would be an understatement. To start, he won three singles championships and five doubles championships in Canada.
“It felt really good. I would say they are all equally as cool. Playing in finals is always fun. It’s always been nice to play at home in Canada. You always get a good crowd. A couple of our matches got televised in Canada, so that was nice. I got to win one in my hometown, so that was pretty fun. It’s always something really cool.”
One title was particularly special. Nguyen won the Les Petits As in 2008, joining a group of champions highlighted by international superstar Rafael Nadal.
“That was my best experience in tennis so far. I was playing against a good friend of mine in the finals, and we played in front of 3,000 people. The atmosphere was amazing. The way they hosted the tournament made it feel like a real, professional tournament. The funny thing coming out of that was I had to do a speech in French. It’s not my best language. Obviously, I speak English a lot better. That was one of the toughest things, but it was my best memory in tennis by far.
“When you go to the tournament, you see all of these posters of past champions and competitors. You see Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Just being mentioned along with those guys was such a good experience.”
At Auburn, Nguyen and Marko Krickovic were ranked as high as No. 37 in the ITA doubles rankings last year. When asked what made their connection so successful, he believes communication is the key.
“We communicated really well on the court. I think our games really complemented each other. We both had a really good net game, which helped us through a lot. We barely missed the tournament, which was kind of frustrating. At the same time, considering we played maybe 15-20 matches together in such a shortened season, it was a good accomplishment to get to 37.”
Keeping up with academics isn’t the easiest job for a Division 1 athlete. Nguyen has had no issues, however, as he was on the SEC Academic Honor Roll last spring. His solution to maintaining good grades is quite simple.
“Working hard and trying to balance my time -- I try not to waste too much time sitting around. You just have to study and enjoy what you’re doing. Some people just go through the motions, but if you actually enjoy what you’re studying, it’s a good benefit that helps you study.”
Along with being a good student in the classroom, Nguyen is a student of the game. He molds his game from the likes of tennis great Pete Sampras. Along with that, Nguyen attributes his style of play to his homeland.
“The best part of my game would probably be my volleys. I would say it’s a Canadian thing. Canadians are known to play at the net. We play indoors all the time, so our coaches back home are always telling us to get to the net and be aggressive. I’d say my net game is the best.”
After college, Nguyen hopes to pursue a professional tennis career. After his tennis career, the finance major plans to work with a financial firm. If the past is any indication, Nguyen will succeed in whatever he puts his mind to.
T.J. Stricklin is a student assistant in the Auburn athletics communications office