Next time you’re struggling through a match, think about Eduardo Lugo.
Lugo, who was born without a fully-developed left arm, doesn’t let that stop him from slapping ace after ace at his opponent.
“Ever since I was born, I’ve been dealing with it – it’s just who I am,” Lugo said. “No matter what, I can still play.”
He makes one thing clear: no opponent is going to scare him. If there’s an opponent out there to be played, Lugo is going to take the challenge.
Born in Mexico, Lugo moved to the United States 12 years ago, living in Connecticut and then moving to New Jersey. The electrical engineer always took to sports, enjoying squash, basketball and baseball, and was looking for a new hobby. Tennis fit the bill. “At first, I didn’t know if I would even be able to play,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I could serve or how easy it would be to run. It was difficult, but I tried it and loved it. After once, I just kept doing it.”
Lugo said he loves the way tennis demands a mental and physical ability unlike any other sport. For him, the mental came easy, while the physical took some time.
When serving, Lugo sets the ball on his racquet and braces his lower body. In one swift movement, he tosses the ball high with his racquet, loads up and fires. He said that opponents and people watching his matches constantly compliment his serve, which took more than a year of practice, by himself on the local, public courts.
“It did not happen overnight. I’ve gotten much, much better,” he said. “It took me a lot of time to get comfortable, but I feel good about it now. Tennis has been open to me and the people are nice to be around. For me, this is the best sport.”
Lugo has faced more than just the challenge of serving. Getting ready to begin the 2011 season, Lugo lost his balance while hitting a return. He fell awkwardly, dislocated left ankle and broke his fibula. Two surgeries followed, and Lugo missed nearly 10 months of tennis. He expects another surgery at some point in the next year, but didn’t want to miss out on the upcoming season.
Today, Lugo is playing at the 4.0 level, initially surprising opponents but quickly fitting in wherever he goes. The rest of his game still improves with each match as he works on each shot from every angle of the court.
“I like my backhand, and a lot of people mention the high-bouncing forehand I hit. It has a lot of spin,” he added. “I think I can still get better. I definitely will be trying.”