When Thomas Nader fell in love with the game of tennis at 7 years old, he had no idea that it would lead him to Jones County, MS.
An 11-hour plane ride and roughly 5,000 miles separate the Jones tennis player from his family and country. Yet, being able to get a degree and play tennis in the United States had been something the freshman had been working towards since he first picked up the racket.
“My dad introduced me to the tennis life. I started practicing at 6 to 7 years old and from that moment I knew I loved tennis,” said Nader. “I always wanted to come to the U.S. to study while at the same time do the sport I love. In Argentina, we don’t have the option to play tennis and study. If you go to college, you study, and if you play tennis, you gotta go pro.”
With that in mind, Nader began preparing for a life outside of Argentina, to have the possibility to both play and further his education. With the help of his coach, Juan Carlos Castagnaro, and support from his family, Nader finally got the call he had been hoping for.
“There is a company in Argentina that their job is to get athletes to come to the United States, and they got in touch with Coach Brooks, the tennis coach here. I talked to him, and he proposed me to come to Jones to play tennis and study,” said Nader.
However, with the big milestone came the realization of leaving everything he had ever known.
“I was very happy to come to the United States. I always, always wanted that, to come here, play tennis, and study. But at the same time, I was going to leave my family, all my friends; I was kind of sad about that, but I knew it was the best for me to come here,” said Nader. “My family was really happy, especially my mom. She wanted me to stay in Argentina, but she knew I had more opportunities here in the U.S. My dad was a really happy man when he found out I was coming here. It was kind of like his dream, too.”
His family is only one of the driving motivations behind Nader’s tennis career. Coach Castagnaro, who helped him work towards his goal for nearly two years, holds a special place in Nader’s heart.
“My coach in Argentina is very close to me. I play the way I play because of him. He taught me a lot, not only about tennis, but life lessons, too. I’ve always really appreciated that, I miss him a lot, and I always keep in touch with him. So, I think I am the way I am because of my coach and my family,” said Nader. “When he found out, he was really, really happy for me.”
However, living out one’s dreams doesn’t always come with a full heart. Most days Nader struggles with missing those pieces of him 5,000 miles away.
“I’ve made a lot of friends. My roommate is Argentinian, too, which is nice, and the tennis team is amazing. We got a nice group. It just was hard being here the last semester,” said Nader. “Leaving my family and friends has been the hardest part for me. There are some days I miss them a lot, and I just want to go back, and that’s the hardest part.”
Nader has only been home once since arriving August 2021. Although he will work through the summer, he plans to go back home in December and hopes his family will travel here for his graduation. Although it is hard battling homesickness, Nader doesn’t see himself moving back anytime soon.
“I see myself staying here. If I don’t get a chance to play tennis, which I think I can, I heard that Mississippi State has a great engineering program, but I would like to keep playing tennis, so that’s my goal,” said Nader. “My dream is to go play tennis at a D1. I know that is really hard, but that’s what I’m working towards. I would like to transfer to a four-year college here, but wherever I get a scholarship, I’m going.”
The possibility of Nader continuing his tennis career in the United States seems high according to Coach Brooks Buffington.
“Tomi is a very talented player and one of the best to come through Jones,” said Buffington. “His preparation for classes, exams, practices, and matches is the best that I have seen. He also has a good work ethic and desire to win. Through the course of this season his mentality has become stronger and stronger, making him one of the best players in the conference.”
by Megan Matthews