While most seniors are enjoying happy hours and spring weather during their last weeks of college, Francisco Dias will be preparing for and competing in an NCAA Tournament, after his victory at No. 1 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals Sunday clinched the team’s second straight championship.
And when he does walk at Commencement, in addition to a diploma, Dias will leave GW having completed the most successful career in the history of the men’s tennis program.
He came to GW having already played tournaments in 22 countries and ranked No. 954 on the Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour. He was already used to the travel schedule and the competition, but discovered a team environment he’d never had before college.
“When I was back home, it was very individualistic. It was all about me,” Dias said. “And here, freshman year I felt that I continued to get better by doing so, but I’ve come to realize that I feel much better with myself if I perform for my team and my school. It gives me great pride to be able to win for them and for the athletic department.”
Dias had already broken GW’s career wins record with his 85th victory in the team’s regular season finale. The record had been in place for 36 years after David Haggerty, a member of the GW Athletic Hall of Fame, set the previous record with his 84th win in 1979. Haggerty is also the chief executive officer and president of the USTA.
Dias broke the record with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win over Georgetown’s Daniel Khanin, who had defeated Dias when the teams met the year before.
Dias controlled the first and final sets, but lost some of his precision in the second when Khanin began to dictate the points.
“His whole game is about power. If he is in control of the points, it is tough to beat him,” head coach Greg Munoz said. “Only players that have found a way to move him have found success. If he is in control of a rally, the winner will come very soon.”
After graduating Dias will head to New York to pursue a master’s degree in business at Fordham, though not before his European tour to cities like Dublin, Brussels and Munich and a visit home to Lisbon to see his family.
He’s only been home twice in the past three years, and will enjoy the chance to see his grandfather, who introduced him to tennis when Dias was four years old.
“He’s also one of the reasons I’ve kept playing tennis,” Dias said. “He plays four times a week for three hours at lunchtime with his buddies. He’s just an incredible person and I want to be like him.”
Dias was locked in on the court for four straight years, both in doubles and singles. It helped that he was already more independent than most other college freshmen.
“I was already used to being on my own,” Dias said. “So I came here as a freshman and my freshman peers looked at me. ‘Why are you cooking?’ and I was like ‘What, you don’t cook? I cook all the time!’ I’m used to cooking because I had to do that for myself.”
Dias especially loves grilling, which he said he’ll have more time to do after graduation. His other hobbies include playing Xbox and golfing, which he said gets his “mind off things.” The East Potomac Golf Club at Hains Point is a favorite spot.
Dias also wants to continue playing tennis as he gets older. He said he’ll always keep a racket with him and that his experience as a competitor will help him when he goes into finance.
He said he originally wanted to compete in professional tournaments after college, but said that as he got closer to graduation he decided it was time to become a “career man.” And as he goes out on his own, what he said he’ll miss most is the camaraderie found on his small team at GW.
“Four-hundred-mile van rides, Greg driving, all those hours spent in the van. We were crammed. We were uncomfortable,” Dias said. “Those are going to be the some of the greatest memories we could possibly have. Eight guys in a nine-person van, the heat, the jokes, the games we would play on our phones.”