December 2, 2020

Francisco Cortez has immediate impact on Webster’s men’s tennis team

Webster University junior Francisco Cortez hits a forehand during a March 7 match against Fontbonne University at the Webster Groves Tennis Center. PHOTO BY SEAN SANDEFUR.

Michael Siener, Webster University’s men’s tennis coach, describes junior Francisco Cortez as a role model for the Gorloks’ tennis team.

“Francisco leads by example and sometimes as a coach you don’t see that,” Siener said. “He has such a positive attitude; he’s always on time for practice, and he brings something to the table everyday.”

Cortez was named the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week for Feb. 27-March 4.

“It was such an honor to get Player of the week,” Cortez said. “The honor helps me stay confident and play a lot better.”

Cortez describes his tennis style as consistent. His smooth groundstrokes have helped Cortez compile a 5-1 singles record and a 4-1 doubles mark. Cortez has helped the Gorloks to a 10-2 overall record and a 3-1 SLIAC record.

“I like getting the balls back and getting in play,” Cortez said. “I like to play a conservative game, then going out there and hitting a bunch of balls.”

Siener said Cortez’s forehand and backhand strokes help make him a solid player in both singles and doubles.

“Francisco’s mechanics are really good,” Siener said. “They’re almost flawless.”

Siener recalled a match in which Cortez was down 3-8 in a third-set tiebreaker against Dominican University’s No. 1 singles player.

“He was really backing against the ropes there,” Siener said. “He had a lot of pressure on him. But Francisco overcame it and had a phenomenal win.”

Cortez, a junior international business major, was born in El Salvador. When he was 6, his family moved to Quincy, Ill.

“I always loved sports as a child,” Cortez said. “I really loved soccer, but when I was in seventh grade, my brother, Diego, started to play tennis. I wanted to learn as well.”

Cortez remembered when he and his brother would play tennis in the driveway. Eventually, they found a coach to teach them the proper way to play tennis.

“My first tennis match, I wasn’t that good, but that strived me to get better at the game,” Cortez said.

Cortez graduated from Quincy Senior High School in 2008 and went to Missouri Baptist University, an NAIA school. Cortez played on Missouri Baptist’s tennis team for two years. But the school did not offer international business, the major Cortez wanted to pursue.

So, Cortez decided he wanted to transfer to Webster. But he did not have the proper grades, so he transferred to St. Louis Community College-Meramec to improve his grades.

While at Meramec, Cortez stayed in touch with Siener, who encouraged Cortez to apply to Webster. Cortez did and was accepted.

He said he enjoyed playing his first tennis match at Webster.

“I got to play in No. 3 singles (and) No. 1 doubles with my teammate and friend, Diego Alarcon, who is from Quito, Ecuador,” Cortez said.

Cortez said he is happy there is another Hispanic player on the team. He and Alarcon can communicate effectively in their first language, Spanish, during both practices and matches.

“I love it when me and Francisco play in matches and we speak in Spanish,” said Alarcon, a junior engineering and business administration major. “It intimidates the other team because they think we are talking about them, but we’re not. Me and Francisco are talking and are focused on the match.”

Cortez plans to graduate from Webster next year. Depending on what happens after graduation, he said he might consider pro tennis. But for now, Cortez remains focused on improving as a tennis player and helping the Gorloks try to win a SLIAC championship.

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