Pulgar Putting Finishing Touches on All-Star Career
May 11, 2012
NCAA Championships | Malibu (Calif.) Regional
Saturday, May 12
RALEIGH, N.C. – Just over the horizon, Jaime Pulgar sees his future.
The senior lefthander from Madrid, Spain, came to NC State to get an American college education and enhance his tennis skills. In four years, he’s become one of the most accomplished players in school history and believes he’s now prepared to pursue his dream of being an international professional tennis player.
Heading into today’s first-round NCAA Championship match against No. 26 Washington, which will be played at 2 p.m. (EDT) at Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., Pulgar is looking to put the finishing touches on one of the most successful seasons in the history of Wolfpack men’s tennis. He and freshman Robbie Mudge have both posted 20 wins this season and can join the three other players in school history who have posted 21 wins in a single season.
Pulgar’s senior season, in which he posted a 20-5 record, has been particularly impressive.
He began the season unranked and gradually moved up to No. 33 in the most recent Campbell’s ITA College Tennis Rankings.
Every match he’s played this year has been at No. 1 singles, so he regularly plays against the opponent’s best player, as he will do today when he faces Washington’s Kyle McMorrow, who is ranked No. 23 nationally.
Pulgar is 5-5 against ranked players this season, with four of the five losses coming against players ranked in the top 10. He went 8-4 against ACC opponents and was named All-ACC for the third consecutive season. He’s 9-0 this year in three-set matches, outlasting opponents with long volleys and his superb athleticism.
Small and wiry at 6-0, 160 pounds, Pulgar is the quintessential fiery redhead, a player who has no trouble getting into an opponent’s head and swimming around from ear to ear.
“Jaime is just a hard guy to beat,” said head coach Jon Choboy. “He plays a lot of long points and makes his opponent work hard.
“He just likes to compete.”
Pulgar has 75 career singles wins, which is tied with former All-American Andy Andrews for fifth in school history. In his career, he has posted a 15-18 mark against ranked players, and also ranks fourth all-time with 60 doubles victories.
“The great thing about Jaime is that he takes care of business,” Choboy said. “He put himself into a great position academically to go over and play on the ITF Tour. He comes to the practice courts every day and puts his work in.
“He’s been a great example for our young players, to show them what they need to do to be successful.”
During his summer and Christmas breaks, Pulgar has gone home to Spain and played in tournaments on the ITF Futures Tour, facing some of the top up-and-coming international players. In fact, because he was ahead in his academic work, he spent almost nine months playing in Kuwait, India and his native Spain last summer and fall.
Despite the one-semester layoff, he will graduate on Saturday with a degree in business administration, an impressive feat for a student who was almost ready to go back to Spain after his first day of classes.
“I didn’t understand a single word the teacher said,” Pulgar said. “I didn’t think there was any way I would be able to do the school work.”
So he will be particularly proud to pick up his diploma when he gets back from California, though he doesn’t regret missing Saturday’s graduation exercises at PNC Arena.
“I’d rather be playing tennis,” Pulgar said. “I can get my diploma when we get back.”
Playing tennis is something Pulgar has been good at since he first took up the sport in his hometown of Madrid, along with twin brother Javier. While Jaime came to Raleigh, Javier started out at Louisiana-Lafayette, then transferred to San Diego State. Javier, ranked No 117 nationally, was recently named the Mountain West Player of the Year.
Besides spending a few days on the beaches of Malibu following practice earlier this week, Jaime was most excited about the team’s cross-country trip to Pepperdine because his brother will be able to travel up from San Diego to see him play in Friday’s match.
“We haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time together since we came to play tennis,” Jaime said.
The downside is that their parents, who long ago planned a trip to Raleigh from Spain to see Jaime graduate, couldn’t make it to California and are spending Mother’s Day weekend sight-seeing in Boston.
That’s okay with Jaime. This is the first time the Wolfpack has played in the NCAA Tournament during his career, and he wouldn’t miss it for the world. He also received an invitation for the 64-player NCAA Individual Championships, which will begin on May 23 in Athens, Ga., following the completion of the team championship.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for, to help our team and to play against some of the best players in the country,” Pulgar said.