Rincon-Otero on spring singles winning streak

The senior has won her last four singles matches in a row in the spring season.

Gophers senior Paula Rincon-Otero returns the ball to South Dakota in the Baseline Tennis Center on Saturday, Jan. 30.

Joe Sulik, Daily File Photo

Gophers senior Paula Rincon-Otero returns the ball to South Dakota in the Baseline Tennis Center on Saturday, Jan. 30.

Jack White

Paula Rincon-Otero knocked off University of New Mexico sophomore Dominique Dulski at the Courtside Classic on Feb. 7, which gave her a fourth consecutive singles victory.
The senior has been nearly unbeatable five weeks into the spring season, with a 5-1 record in singles and a 7-1 record in doubles.
“She’s really, really talented. I think we’ve always known that,” head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “Now it’s just she’s matching mental toughness with that talent. She’s matching intensity and focus with that talent, and that’s why she’s been really tough to beat.”
Six of Rincon-Otero’s seven doubles victories this season have come alongside freshman Annemarie Emme. The pair competes in the Gophers top doubles spot and is 6-1 this spring.
“Whenever I miss a shot, she tries to bring me back up. There’s never any negativity, really,” Emme said. “We always try to stay positive, no matter what’s going on. We know what level we can be at, so no matter how we’re playing, we just try to do our best.”
In the fall, Rincon-Otero was paired with redshirt senior Julia Courter and freshman Camilia Vargas Gomez and finished with an overall record of 5-4.
She carried an eight-match winning streak from fall to the spring until she and Emme were defeated for the first time on Feb. 6 by a DePaul doubles pair.
The senior is also 10-3 in singles overall this year and finished 3-0 at the team’s last fall tournament, the Big Green Invite. She was named to the all-tournament team for her performance.
“It was my last fall tournament ever, so I wanted to do great, and it worked,” Rincon-Otero said. “I was very focused every single match.”
Rincon-Otero’s success this season came after the senior arrived in Minnesota looking for tougher tennis competition.
The Madrid, Spain native competed for a Madrid-based club and studied at the Autonomous University of Madrid before deciding to challenge herself further on the court.
“I realized that it was very difficult back home to keep a good level of tennis and get a degree,” Rincon-Otero said. “I knew in the U.S. it was going to be easier to keep up both things at the same time and still keep a high level of tennis, and that’s why I decided to come here.”
Rincon-Otero is handling the increased competition this year, and Merzbacher said it goes back to her footwork.
“If she gets her legs underneath the ball, she’s going to be able to hit a good shot because she’s so talented,” Merzbacher said. “She used to just kind of reach for those balls, and now she’s getting her feet there.”