CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Change is never easy. Moving from home to go somewhere new is equally as difficult. Now imagine if you made the journey all the way to Japan to a city you did not know.
That is what Islanders tennis player Ryuya Ata has done.
"It's different," Ata said. "The food, the culture, everything."
Ata arrives at the Island university as one of the best young tennis players on the planet. He was ranked in top 100 amongst juniors in the world and even participated in the 2018 Junior Australian Open. He came to Steve Moore's tennis program for one reason only.
"I want to be a pro tennis player," he said. "So the best choice is to go to this university."
Recruiting international players not unusual. Steve Moore has found plenty of talent by looking outside the United States. When it came to Ryuya, he saw something far greater than just his talent level.
"I loved his character from the very beginning," he said.
Ata's english is not great. He is still struggling to understand homework and different tennis concepts. Luckily for him, junior Kyohei Yamanaka is by his side. Yamanaka is also from Japan and was one in Ata's shoes. He has taken on the role of being his mentor.
"I help him with his homework," Yamanaka said. "If he doesn't understand what coach says then I translate it to Japanese."
The two have become good friends and have become doubles partners as well. They are becoming quite the formidable duo and have a secret weapon up their sleeve.
"We talk in Japanese during our matches and no one can understand us," Yamanaka said.
Ata has had a great start to his freshman season with the Islanders. He has been named the Southland Conference player of the week four times already this season and says that he hopes to make the NCAA tournament.