Cesar Escobar Serrano: Smooth transition

Cesar Escobar Serrano was in a hurry to get ready for the celebration.

"The first time, I didn't know that I was nominated for the award," Serrano said. "They called me on the same day as the celebration and told me that I needed to be at the hotel in 20 minutes with a tuxedo on. I was just like, ‘OK.' "

Serrano was rushing to receive El Salvador's Sport Excellency Award, an honor given by the Central American nation's president. Serrano won the award twice for his play on the tennis court.

"The award is a big deal back home and there are a bunch of media there," Serrano said. "It was great after receiving that award and to be part of the little group of athletes in El Salvador that got

Serrano's journey began long before that honor.

He grew up in Merliot, El Salvador, in what he called "a small He started playing tennis and soccer around age 7, before sticking with tennis at age 10 and competing both nationally and internationally.

"I have been playing tennis for about 12 years now," Serrano said. "My number one goal was to come here to America and have a scholarship. Thank God, I got it."

The scholarship was not the only reason Serrano decided to come to the University of Detroit Mercy in January 2010.

Titan coach Grant Asher was a factor, too.

"He was really interested in me," he said. "We sent over 150 emails to each other. I like his attitude, his character and he's really enthusiastic about the sport."

For Serrano, adjusting to American culture has not been difficult.

"There is a lot of American influence in El Salvador," he said. "I tell my friends back home that El Salvador is like a mini-America because we have almost everything I have here in Detroit. You name a restaurant here and we probably have it back home, too."

But on the court, the differences in tennis play are substantial.

"Tennis back in South America is way different from here in America," Serrano said. "Americans tend to use more power in their games and South Americans are all about long points, long rallies and sprinting."

Serrano compares his own style of play to a famous tennis player.

"Rafael Nadal," he said. "But my favorite players are Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, like the complete opposite of me."

In his first two seasons as a Titan, Serrano has recorded 21 singles match victories and 17 doubles match victories.

His coach likes what Serrano brings to the team and the court.

"When Cesar is on his game, he is as good as anyone in the entire conference," said Asher, in his third season. "He is a feisty, competitive player who wears his emotions on his sleeve. He does a great job of influencing his teammates and has a lot of team spirit."

When not on the court, Serrano, a junior, studies electrical and computer engineering. He is a good student, having been named last year to the athletic director's honor roll.

"I just have to keep pushing myself to the limit every time, and take care of myself," Serrano said. "It doesn't matter if it is workouts, in the classroom or in practice, I just have to keep thinking about what's best for me and what's best for the team."