Beyond the tennis
By: Pravin Patel // Sports Editor
"I'm known as Laura, and he's known as Danny, but to everyone who knows us, we are 'the Vallverdus,'" Laura said. "I think it's because we are always together and always get along. It's kind of cool, actually."
This is something so seemingly simple, yet something so greatly telling - of the relationship these siblings have beyond tennis.
"We are very close," said Daniel, about his relationship with his sister. "We are really good to each other. We live together and we share everything with each other. Living with her, away from home, makes things a lot easier for me. Being siblings and because of tennis, she understands me better than anyone else. I can tell her anything. I can turn to her for anything."
This relationship of theirs is not simply a product of being together at Miami. The two have been very close since childhood, and it is that closeness which has made them such a dynamic duo.
"We always went everywhere together. We went to the same school. We went to the same club to play sports. We practiced tennis together," Laura recalled. "He is my older brother, so he was very protective. It was annoying at times, but when I needed him, he was always there for me."
Like any brother-sister relationship, though, this relationship too is built on the more interesting memories of their childhood.
"He always had to win against me," Laura recalled with a smile. "And, he loved getting me in trouble. We would be at home watching TV, and I would be minding my own business. Then Danny would yell to our mom, saying that 'Lau is hitting me,' but I would just be watching TV. And, he would always eat my food. He would just pick up whatever he wanted from my plate. He loves to eat."
Daniel, though, remembers things in a slightly different manner, saying: "Dad would get mad at me when we were younger. It was okay when she did anything, but not okay for me. She got away with everything."
The sibling rivalry did not end there, though.
"Danny and my older cousin, it was always the two of them against me," Laura reminisced. "We used to go to a beach every Saturday and Sunday and go on a boat. I used to hate it when the waves were rough and the boat was shaky. I would cry. My brother and cousin made up a song about that, which they used to sing every time I would start crying."
Although the two remember things in slightly different ways, both agree that they cherish these moments, and they know that they are closer because of them. This closeness has translated into an excellent relationship, for the two, at this stage in their lives.
"Danny always supports me," Laura stated. "He always helps me balance myself out. I can always call him or turn to him. I really look up to him."
A major faucet of their relationship, besides being siblings, revolves around the fact that both love the sport of tennis. It was something they both grew up with and have in common.
"I love the fact that we both play tennis," Daniel said. "Even without tennis, I know we would be close, but because of it, I feel we understand each other better."
For both of them, that love and drive for tennis came at a young age, with Laura taking up the sport before Daniel.
"She used to beat me when we were younger," Daniel chuckled. "Until I was around ten or so, she always beat me. She has this video, which she loves watching. We were on vacation and playing against each other, and she beat me. She watches that video all the time."
As the two got older, their love for tennis also grew. Although they were not playing against each other anymore, they were still playing, and they had become a handful for opposing players. Thus, it was almost a no-brainer that the two would play on the collegiate level.
Daniel Vallverdu was first to arrive on the scene, as a Hurricane. He came to Coral Gables a semester before Laura. He loved the city, the weather and the coaching staff. Coming to Miami was an easy choice for him. For Laura, though, things were not so clear-cut.
"I always wanted to come to UM, but there was no scholarship, so I looked at nearby schools. I was really thinking about UF because they have a great tennis program as well. But then, in February or March, I got a call from [Head Coach] Paige [Yarosuk-Tews]. A scholarship had opened up. I said yes right away. It was like a gift from God."
Once at Miami, the two did not fail to impress, as both became instant stars on their respective teams.
"Daniel is amazing," Head Coach Marion Rincon said. "We are very lucky to have him here. He is a great leader and a special talent. He understands his role and his abilities, and he has used them to propel himself and his teammates to the next level."
At first glance, it is easy to simply acknowledge the siblings' tennis skills.
But the Vallverdus said that by relying on each other they have learned more about themselves and the sport.
"She has taught me a lot, about tennis and life," Daniel said. "She has taught me to open up as a person."
Laura said her brother's influence has impacted her life in various aspects.
"He has taught me to be calmer and more patient," Laura stated. "He has taught me to not always show my emotions, on and off the court."
Pravin Patel may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hometown: Valencia, Venezuela
ITA Singles Ranking: 5
Awards: 2006 ACC Freshman of the Year, 2006 All-American and 2007 All-American
Hometown: Valencia, Venezuela
ITA Singles Ranking: 19
Awards: 2007 All-American