by Rob Moseley
Right from the start, Alex Rovello gravitated to the center court on the north side of the UO Student Tennis Center. From his freshman year on, the Ducks tennis standout played all of his indoor matches there.
Oregon lacrosse player Holly Johnson, Rovello's girlfriend of six months when he passed away after a diving accident in May, has an idea why that spot was Rovello's preference.
Instead of playing at one end of the facility, the outgoing Rovello — who could call seemingly every other athlete at Oregon a friend — always had multiple teammates by his side.
"I think he liked that," Johnson said. "He was very outgoing; he always told people he was shy, but he could relate to anyone, just connect with anyone on any level."
On Saturday, Rovello's favorite court will be named in his honor. A ceremony will be held in the UO Student Tennis Center at 3 p.m., with proceeds from the $20 entry fee going to the UO Men's Tennis Foundation and the new Alex Rovello Award.
Johnson attended Rovello's matches at the facility, and hasn't been back since his passing. She'll return for the first time Saturday.
"It will be tough, but I'm glad they're doing it," Johnson said. "I think it's important."
At the time of Rovello's passing, he was a standout for the Ducks, having won 60 singles matches and 53 doubles matches in three seasons.
But the overwhelming grief felt across the athletic department in the wake of the accident had little to do with Rovello's athletic exploits. He was one of the most universally well-liked student-athletes at Oregon, counting among his friends members of the football, baseball, softball and lacrosse programs, among others.
"He would do anything to help you out," said UO football player Eric Dungy, Rovello's roommate at the time of his passing. "He made a lot of friends that way, and a lot of people have a lot of fond memories of him."
Johnson described Rovello's innate ability to connect with people, regardless of the circumstances. He had a "random" sense of humor, she said, that appealed to many.
"He could brighten your day in an instant," Johnson said.
With his favorite court being named in Rovello's honor, the hope is that his spirit will continue to touch future generations at Oregon.
"When they come to the court they can ask, 'Who was Alex Rovello?'" Dungy said. "Then a coach or teacher can explain to them. And that way, his legacy can keep living on."