With one crack of the forehand, Jordi Massallé Ferrer claimed immortality within Charlotte athletics.
The sizzling sun rays beat down on the darkened green playing surface at Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex. Massallé Ferrer stood with two feet planted behind the white end line. He gripped his Babolat AeroPro Drive racquet in his right hand as his left palm caressed the vibrant yellow, felt tennis ball. Fairfield’s Ofir Soloman stood across the net, swaying back and forth as Massallé Ferrer tossed the ball above his head and served.
Fans looked on as the senior hailing from Sant Feliu de Guixols, Spain volleyed back and forth with his opponent. Massallé Ferrer danced and slid from left to right before claiming the match-point and his 85th career singles win, the most in Charlotte 49ers program history.
“It’s an honor,” Massallé Ferrer said. “I think it’s just hard work, dedication and the willingness to do the little things.”
Massallé Ferrer grew up with a racquet in his hand. He remembers traveling with his mother to play games with friends, strictly for fun at three years old. He adapted to tennis naturally even though he cherished soccer as a child.
“I’m from Spain, I love soccer but my mom always wanted me to play tennis,” Massallé Ferrer said. “I was brought in that direction and I never complained. I love the sport and when I was smaller I was good at it. That just made it easier.”
The Spaniard accomplished noteworthy feats by the time he boarded a plane for the United States.
Massallé Ferrer claimed the singles title in Catalunya, Spain and reached the Spanish National Championship finals in doubles. He ranked 112th in the Open rankings in Spain and reached the International Tennis Federation finals in 2011. However, it took more than just a polished backhand to succeed across the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to his acclaimed tennis skill set, Massallé Ferrer excelled in the classroom and spoke proficient English by the age of 16. A close friend that experienced the intercontinental transition four times with his own children advised Massallé Ferrer to take the “great opportunity.”
Massallé Ferrer flourished in the United States and winning became routine. In his freshman season, Massallé Ferrer won 25 singles matches, seventh most in program history and fell one short of matching the mark in his sophomore campaign. Last season, the Spaniard claimed 29 singles victories and played an integral part in helping the 49ers reach 18 wins, second most in school history.
The trend continued this season, as the senior has tallied 15 victories in 21 matches thus far, but not because of his physical attributes.
“Right now, I don’t win the majority of my matches because of physical strength, “Massallé Ferrer said. “I win because of my experience.”
Massallé understands the game better than most and he’s become accustomed to various play styles and tactical approaches. In his three previous seasons at Charlotte, Massallé Ferrer played alongside Jack Williams and Kamil Khalil in doubles. Massallé Ferrer’s teammates’ approaches differed, but molded him into a versatile player.
“With Kamil and Jack, I used to return on the deuce side and now I return on the ad side, which I like better,” Massallé Ferrer said. “Jack liked to finish points faster, therefore I knew I had to adapt, while Kamil liked to make the opposition miss.”
This season, Massallé Ferrer plays beside classmate Vikram Hundal and recently shattered the record for most career doubles wins in 49ers history. Additionally, with a handful of matches remaining, including the Conference USA championships, Massallé Ferrer and Hundal are chasing the program record for most doubles wins in a single season.
“Jordi is the greatest player to come out of here [Charlotte]. It’s definitely comforting to have him on the court next to me,” Hundal said.
Those close to Massallé Ferrer boast about how hard he trains and the focus he dedicates to his craft. According to head coach Jesse Tarr, the hours his senior has committed to tennis over his career are uncountable.
“I don’t know if I could count,” Tarr said. “At least two or three hours a day for 17 straight years. I’m only the tennis coach, not a mathematician, but it’s not a little bit.”
Tarr isn’t the only witness.
“Other coaches say he doesn’t have a weakness,” Tarr said. “Tennis-wise, he can do a little bit of everything on the court. The guy hates to lose. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a practice match, a match over the summer or the conference championship. He competes at the same pace simply because he hates to lose.”
Massallé Ferrer’s work ethic is evident in his prosperity on the court, but his success expands beyond the four white boundary lines.
The senior shines in the classroom and in his sophomore year, the university recognized his efforts and presented him the Hugh McEniry Award – given to the 49er male student-athlete with the highest GPA.
“Jordi is a very business-oriented guy. He’s on top of everything [school and tennis],” Hundal said. “You wouldn’t guess it because of all his success, but he’s a very humble guy.”
Despite Massallé Ferrer’s prestigious accomplishments, he still finds a way to fulfill what he feels is a leadership role this season.
“This year, I feel like a mentor trying to help the young kids,” Massallé Ferrer said. “Trying to give them a desire to become better and do the extra things that in my case helped me.”
Tarr recognizes Massallé Ferrer’s contributions as a leader within the 49ers men’s tennis program.
“He’s a good person. He’s reliable, he shows up on time and the guys respect him,” Tarr said. “Even if he’s stressed in his own personal life, with his school or tennis, he’s always present in everyone’s lives. If someone’s having a bad day, he’s talking to them without me asking. He lives with some of the guys and they rely on him. We joke that he’s a father figure.”
It’s what Massallé Ferrer has become known known for. His smooth forehand and swift reaction time propelled him to unprecedented heights on the court, but becoming a household name and leaving a lasting impression within an athletics program requires the full package.
“If you’re lucky as a coach, you’ll coach someone like Jordi in your career.”