Despite the inconsistency of Vandal men’s tennis this year, one thing rung true — the No. 1 doubles pairing of Jose Bendeck and Cristobal Ramos Salazar was a force to be reckoned with in the WAC.
After being put together two-and-a-half years ago, Bendeck and Ramos Salazar have become one of the top pairings in the nation. The duo won the Indoor Regional Championships at doubles in the fall, before falling to Florida State’s No. 3 ranked doubles pairing Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez. The duo also defeated a Top 75 ranked Fresno State team last year in conference play.
“In your mind, you can feel you’re good. But when they’re going to play the No. 1 doubles team in the nation in USC, and you’ve already had a good match with the No. 4 team, it’s all about going in with confidence and being able to play well,” said Idaho coach Jeff Beaman.
It’s not phasing his players either.
“I’m up for the challenge — I am excited to play against them and see the difference between their level and our level,” Ramos Salazar said.
It also helps that many players on the team have experience playing in professional tournaments as amateurs, so being “star struck” shouldn’t be a problem, Beaman said.
Bendeck, a native of Colombia, was looking for schools all over the country to play tennis at, sending emails to coaches and recruiters from all over the United States. Soon after Beaman contacted him, and Bendeck knew it would be a good fit.
Bendeck ultimately chose Idaho over Auburn and Louisville.
While being recruited by many programs, including Tulane and Northwestern, Ramos Salazar said he instantly threw out any college that didn’t offer a
civil engineering program. Before his recruitment began, Ramos Salazar was training at the Guizar Training Academy in Orlando.
Although the Vandals don’t generally do much traveling in recruitment, nor do they bring many potential Vandals in for visits, Beaman said after Bendeck and Ramos Salazar seemed interested he after he looked into their amateur careers.
Ramos Salazar was one of the few players to visit campus before signing with Idaho, and he verbally committed on a visit to campus.
The standout duo live together and over the last few years they have become close both on and off the court. Beaman said when you find a pairing that clicks as well as they have, you don’t do anything to change it.
The duo had to spend a little bit of time apart on the court, as Ramos Salazar was nursing an elbow injury. The injury gave Ramos Salazar a chance to step away from the courts for a few weeks and really work on his conditioning.
With the graduation of four seniors, including Bendeck and No. 2 singles player Artemity Nikitin, Beaman is expecting the Hermosillo, Mexico, native to really step up as one of the leaders on the team. Ramos Salazar has played most of the spring at No. 3 and sheer numbers could pencil him in as the No. 1 singles next fall, Beaman said.
Bendeck plans on coming back to UI in the fall to finish his degree and help Beaman as a student assistant coach next year. Ramos Salazar also plans on helping out on the coaching side for a year or two after his career is over.
“That’s something that we’ve really done well with here,” Beaman said. “Having kids that have been a part of the program stay on a year or two and get some experience coaching and they’ve also used that to transition into coaching jobs elsewhere.”
Joshua Gamez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org