Thursday, April 18, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Despite getting nearly a month away from UNLV basketball's last game, the Rebels are still making news. Las Vegas Sun sports writers Ray Brewer, Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss that plus Frank Mir's chances this weekend at UFC on Fox in San Jose, Calif.
UNLV sophomore Ace Matias has the name, the genes and the determination to be a great tennis player. Now if he could just get his band, Bud Light Weekend, off the ground.
“It’s kind of a hobby but I actually want to get into it,” said Matias, the group’s lead guitarist.
That’s one of many things Matias does away from the court (more on that later) but when he’s on it, he’s the Rebels’ top performer, boasting a 22-8 overall singles record on the way to a possible Mountain West Player of the Year award. His record includes 4-1 against conference opponents and a 3-4 mark against nationally ranked players.
Matias is also 18-10 in doubles competition alongside partner Bernard Schoeman, a senior from South Africa. You can see them and the rest of the Rebels at noon Saturday when UNLV hosts Fresno State for a dual. Then next week, both teams will travel to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the Mountain West Championships.
We caught up with Matias, who started his career at Utah, before practice Wednesday to discuss his tennis-playing family, finding his game at UNLV and where you can catch his next gig:
At what age did you start going by Ace?
Ace is my middle name, and ever since I’ve grown up, the only people who’ve called me Geoffrey are teachers, but my friends in school still called me Ace. My parents always called me Ace.
How were you the only one given a perfect name for your sport?
Actually my siblings* are also named after tennis-related things. It’s not as obvious as mine. My brother’s middle name is Ivan after Ivan Lendl and then my sister is named after a tennis racket. I don’t want to say it, it’s pretty bad (laughs). I got lucky.
*Matias’ brother played at UC Riverside while his sister, Diana, was ranked in the top 500 in the world in high school before playing at USC. Ace is the youngest of the three.
Who’s the best tennis player in your family?
In the beginning it was my sister, probably because she was older, but she achieved a lot more than my brother and me. They haven’t been playing tennis lately so right now it’s me.
Was your father, George, your first tennis instructor?
Yeah, he taught my siblings and me since we were young.
Did you like that?
No, I used to hate tennis (laughs). Then I grew into it after I found out why my dad was doing it for me. Right around when I started getting college offers, that’s when I understood and started enjoying it because all of the hard work paid off.
What made UNLV the right spot after you were looking to leave Utah?
I talked to a lot of other colleges. UNLV was close to home, but not too close to home and I thought this would be a good spot. I thought Utah was good but then it was a little too far. UNLV is only like a four-hour drive. Las Vegas is nice, I like it, plus I knew some people on the team from youth competitions. Every time I would come here growing up, I was amazed by the Strip. Not so much anymore since I live here now, but it’s still pretty cool.
Was being homesick the reason Utah wasn’t the right fit?
I wasn’t really homesick. I was actually glad to get away from home to be independent. But it was a really new experience, I didn’t know much and unfortunately my coach didn’t really help me out too much. I was basically lost the whole year. When I got here, I had more experience and I knew what I was doing. It’s been a much better year.
Have you thought about what a conference player of the year award would mean?
Not really. Coming from last year, when I was doing so badly, to do a whole 180 is a pretty big achievement in itself.
How much do you have to change what you’re doing, either mentally or physically, in a doubles match instead of singles?
Doubles is a lot different because you’re also counting on your partner to execute the plays. If they’re not playing well, you have to pick up the slack and not get frustrated. You need to always be positive. In singles, you’re counting on yourself. You know what you’re going to do and where you’re going to go, but in doubles you’re accountable for another person.
Do you want to pursue tennis after college?
Yeah, I’d like to try to go pro, just see how it is. I’ve already played about 15 years, so I might as well go all the way, not waste the talent. I want to try it because you never know, it might work.
Do you know any pro tennis players?
I used to practice with Daniel Kosakowski and he’s now top 250 in the world. I keep up with him because maybe I’ll be there some day.
How well does your game translate to Nintendo Wii tennis?
I’m good. I actually get pretty into it, I start grunting and stuff. I let go of a Wii controller and nearly broke it.
Does the Wii level the playing field between actual tennis players like you and someone like me?
Yeah, I remember playing this 12-year-old kid and he beat me and I got pretty mad. I was like, “I’ll take you on the real court,” and he said, “What’s a real court?” (laughs). I was like, “Forget this game, I don’t want to play anymore.”
You’re the only person sitting in the team photo (right). What should we read into that?
I don’t know why they made me sit down. And I’m frowning in the picture because I thought everyone else was going with a serious face. Then I see everybody smiling and I’m like, “Shoot, I look stupid.”
When you’re posing for a photo, do you go smile or mean mug?
I smile. I try to look cute for the ladies.
So Bud Light Weekend is you on guitar, senior Charlie Alvarado on lead vocals, junior Willie Sublette with backup vocals and bass and assistant coach James Wilson on drums. Where can I watch you play?
I told Coach (Owen Hambrook) that we want to do a concert at the end of this season on the tennis courts. Invite the other student athletes and do some fundraising. We did the talent show and it was super fun, even though it was only 10 minutes. All of that preparation is good.
Do you feel, like everyone else I talk to, that you guys got robbed in the talent show?
(laughs) Yeah. Me and my bandmates are pretty upset, but I think it’s pretty understandable because two of the guys aren’t even on the team*. But we rocked. Everybody said we rocked.
*They used Alvarado’s frat brothers to form a six piece.
Who do you guys sound like?
Blink-182, I guess. Charlie kind of sounds like Tom DeLonge.
Have you gone to any of the concerts in town lately?
We went to a show last week and it was pretty bad. My roommate told me we should go, we went and we almost got in a fight with the crowd. It was like a Goth show at the Palms. The band was How to Destroy Angels with the lead singer from Nine Inch Nails. We go there and everybody’s just standing there, there’s no energy in the crowd. We start talking and people in the crowd started getting mad at us and cursing at us saying, “We’re trying to listen here.” I don’t know if I want to do that again. At least it was only $5.
Tupac or Biggie?
Tupac, of course.