Sophomore women’s tennis player Guillermina “Gigi” Grant was awarded all-SEC tournament honors for her role in helping the Georgia Bulldogs win the SEC tournament on April 23. Grant, a native of Montevideo, Uruguay, won both her singles and doubles matches in the team’s defeat of Texas A&M in the final. As Georgia prepares to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament this Friday and Saturday, Grant talks about her performance at the SEC tournament, her background in the sport and her love for the UGA campus.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Q: With your team’s defeat of Texas A&M last weekend, you were able to avenge your only SEC loss of the season. What kind of personal goals did you make before in preparation to help you with that match?

A: Well, my goal was obviously to try to do the best for the team. We played during the regular season, and it was like a tough loss because we were so close. Everyone was trying really hard. But I felt like during the (SEC tournament) final once we won the doubles point, it was special. And the team was just like, we were all together, I was just thinking about the team.

Q: On one of your last points of your singles match (against Texas A&M’s Jeanette Mireles), you served underhanded. Can you talk about why you might have done that or if it was a conscious choice?

A: Yeah so I was super nervous. We had been talking with coaches about maybe sometimes underhand-serving to the opponent (so they’re) like, ‘What’s going on?’ So I did on the first point of that last game, and she missed it. I saw (head coach) Jeff (Wallace) and I was like, ‘Well, I guess we need to give it another shot.’ So I tried it again. And I mean, I won the point so I was like, ‘Well I think this really works.’ And when I was serving (regularly) she was returning big. But I served twice underhanded and she missed it or she barely made it in. So I was like, ‘Well, maybe this can work for the end of the match. And it can help us.’ It helped me win the match.

Q: Your doubles win with Mai Nirundorn over Texas A&M’s Mia Kupres and Mary Stoiana was their first SEC doubles loss of the season. What can you attribute to y’alls’ performance together that helped you?

A: That was probably one of our best matches. We were barely holding our serves and they were winning each of theirs. But we just stayed together the whole match and we were just like, our own goal was do it for the team, stay together and keep fighting and try to put a point on the board for the team. And that was what kept us trying hard. It was actually for me, it was the best doubles match.

Q: You’re from Uruguay and Nirundorn is from Thailand. How have these diverse backgrounds helped you all together as a team?

A: With Mai I think we connect really good. She’s really good from the baseline and I’m really good at the net, so we just complement each other. And every single point, we try to get down to a point in which she’s in the back and I’m at the net, and use our strengths.

Q: What made you think about coming to the University of Georgia from Uruguay?

A: It’s random because I actually didn’t even visit. I just committed without even visiting the school. I had no idea where I was going. I never saw a university in the U.S., but I just trusted the coaches. I knew for me, studying always needed to be there and I wanted to play tennis because I really liked the sport. So if I stayed in Uruguay, it was not going to be possible to combine both. Also, I love to play team sports. Growing up I played field hockey, handball and track and field. So as soon as I heard about playing tennis as a team, I was already fired up. I think this was probably one of the best decisions ever.

Q: What was your first impression of Athens when you came?

A: I was in shock about the size of tennis stadiums. Uruguay’s a small country and like our biggest stadiums are for soccer, we’re a big country in soccer, and like the biggest stadium is like 50,000 people. And it’s like the biggest you’re going to find in the whole country. And here Sanford Stadium is for 93,000, so it’s crazy. We don’t have any tennis stadiums as big as we have here; the culture is insane. I fell in love since the first minute I stepped on campus.

Q: You have played tennis since the age of 3. What is your favorite thing you love about the game?

A: I started playing tennis because my mom is a tennis coach, and I just really liked spending time with her. Probably one of my favorite things about tennis was growing up, I used to play doubles with my mom, so that was really fun for me. I really like traveling and tennis gave me an opportunity to go to like 24 countries, which is like something crazy for a girl my age.

Q: What kind of takeaways have you gained from your experiences playing in high-pressure arenas like the junior Australian and French Opens that have helped you at Georgia?

A: Those are insane tournaments that have always been a dream for me. One of the biggest things for me was sharing training rooms and a coach with the pro players. Seeing how they prepare for matches was super important because I made a couple of changes in my routine.

Q: What have you learned from tennis that has helped you succeed in other areas of life, like your personal relationships, school, or work?

A: Growing up playing tennis and being from Uruguay, there’s not many people that play, so I had to travel alone a lot. That means when I was like 16, I went for a month just by myself to Europe. I felt like since then that helped me grow, not just on the tennis court because I was alone and I had no coach, but also because when you need to travel and you learn how to manage your life. So when I moved to college and I was living alone, it was nothing new.

Q: Looking ahead to the NCAA tournament, are there any things you’re working on in particular to help you prepare? Or any advice you’ve gotten that’s going to help you?

A: Yeah, I’m definitely super excited for the first rounds. There’s always things to keep improving my game. I’m not a perfect player. So we will be working so that I can be ready to be at my best and try to help my team pass the first rounds.

Katie McKenna is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.