Murry Lokasundaram was hesitant to evaluate the tennis ability of 7-year-old Andres Martin back in 2008. He hears all the time that the next child up with a modicum of athletic ability will be the best player to ever grace the courts from Hall County.
However, upon the urging of a friend, Lokasundaram took time almost 12 years ago to watch the boy from Flowery Branch hit the ball over at Lakeview Academy. Right away, the seasoned private coach with a discerning eye for talent knew Martin was different that the rest.
Fast forward a dozen years, Martin is one of the top-60 ranked college players in the country and in the beginning stages of what he hopes is a memorable career at Georgia Tech. Martin was a primary target in the high school class of 2019 for the Yellow Jackets and 23rd-year head coach Kenny Thorne. Once Martin, who completed high school online, was on board, he helped bring in what amounted to the nation’s sixth-best recruiting class, according to Lokasundaram.
“Andres is a fantastic kid and works as hard as anyone I’ve ever known,” said Lokasundaram, who continues to work with Martin at Longwood Park in Gainesville.
What makes Martin unique is that he’s earned everything through sweat and perseverance. He comes from modest means and doesn’t have the country club background as most top tennis players. Instead, Martin devoted himself to tennis and since has been a point of pride among the people in Gainesville, who have helped finance his endeavors.
“That’s what makes our community so great,” said Lokasundaram. “We have so many wonderful people willing to help.”
The 18-year-old Martin had a strong freshman season for the Yellow Jackets, earning the No. 1 singles spot for a team he feels can compete for ACC and national championships in the future. Thanks to an NCAA waiver, Martin will be able to play as a freshman again next year, since the current spring season ended in March due to COVID-19.
Now back in Hall County for the summer, Martin is right back on the familiar grounds of Longwood Park, where he works tirelessly with Lokasundaram on improving his game.
It’s been a whirlwind of world travel and top-level opportunities for Martin. In 2019, he made it into the main draw of the Junior Wimbledon Championship in London, shortly after taking part in qualifying for the Junior French Open at Roland Garros.
Martin ended up in Hall County with his family, mainly by chance, his mother Andrea Del Valle said. Back in 2001 while living in the north Atlanta suburbs, Andrea and her husband, Rafael, were looking for an affordable home to raise a family. It just so happened, Flowery Branch is where they found the perfect spot to call home.
Andres’ mother said the family has endured many financial hardships, like many are experiencing with the shrinking economy during the coronavirus.
Still, from a young age, Andres was willing to pull his own weight to keep playing the sport he loves so dearly.
Andrea said her son would go around their subdivision washing windows for $1 each to raise money he needed for the necessities to play tennis.
He’s also generous with his time, working with younger players, hoping to keep them interested in playing as they get older.
At home, Andres was diligent about putting in the work his coach required, often doing pushups on the floor during commercials while watching television with family.
With tough love, Lokasundaram always knew how to push Andres’ buttons to get maximum effort.
“You never know who will be on the other side,” Lokasundaram said. “You’re competing against a ghost out there.”
Andres also had the athletic family to be successful. Andrea played for the Venezuelan national beach volleyball team for five years, while Rafael played for Costa Rica’s national basketball team.
The youngest member of the family, Andres’ 14-year-old sister, Eva, is proficient on the soccer pitch.
This year at Georgia Tech, Martin showed enough promise to earn the coveted spot at No. 1 singles. Still, he is far from satisfied after dropping a number of close matches during the season.
Fall and spring seasons combined, Martin was 14-7 overall, going 4-4 against nationally-ranked opponents.
An engineering major, Martin picked Georgia Tech over offers from Stanford, Dartmouth and Columbia, among others.
“This guy, I just love him,” Lokasundaram said. “I want the very best for him”.