I started off as an 11-year- old at my Uncle Martin’s tennis camp. I had a racket with rainbow colored strings and I entertained myself by picking up all the balls and dropping them right before I got to the basket. To me, it was basically an hour or two to socialize and cause trouble with my younger cousin, Ali.
I’d been a failure at every other sport. I had butter fingers when it came to basketball. In baseball, all I seemed to do was attract the ball and ended up getting hit at almost every game. Soccer wasn’t my thing either. Tennis was the only sport that seemed promising, and with a little bit of motivation, I decided I wanted to get better.
My dad, whose only experience with a racket sport is racquetball and ping pong, began taking me out every day. I would serve bag after bag (because we didn’t own a basket at the time, just Wal Mart bags full of tennis balls), until it hurt. People must have thought we were crazy as they drove by the courts when it was 35 degrees out with the wind blowing. When there was too much snow, we would go to the racquetball courts at Highlands and hit against the wall for hours. Once I even got stuck in one of the courts and a security guard had to throw down a crowbar so I could pry the door open.
A year or so after I started playing tennis I had planned on meeting a friend to hit at the Highlands courts. The Robertson boys were practicing, so I waited for them to finish. Joe Maestas, who was the girls’ coach at the time, came up to me and invited me to go practice with his team. I was overjoyed, and began going every day. I would usually hit on the wall and listen to the older girls talk about high school and boyfriends and Valentine’s Day. Luckily, I was allowed to go on a few trips to play exhibition matches, and I was even given a red warm-up uniform to wear.
The summer before high school started I began practicing with the boy’s coach, Juan Carlos Fulgenzi. I still remember the first day I hit with him. He worked me so hard that I got sick behind the school. Eventually, though, I learned to “suck it up.” Even though I didn’t feel so good at the time, he was getting me ready for the real thing — high school tennis, district, and eventually state. I experienced my first time playing at state as an 8th grader with my doubles partner, Kristin. We barely lost first round to some older girls. Freshman year we competed at state again and lost in the finals, but we experienced a feeling like no other. It was amazing to be interviewed by journalists in Albuquerque and to know we had made it so far.
I think one of the best parts of tennis has been all of the memories of my family enjoying life together. Every year, my dad, mom, little brother, and I have attended the El Paso tournament and then traveled to Juarez where we would get a caricature of ourselves. Each tournament would also be a new educational experience. Carlsbad meant the caverns. Tucson meant the old west town and the outside desert gardens. These were all memories for life.
Now it’s my senior year ee it’s crazy to think how fast it has all gone by. I’m not sure what my future in tennis has in store for me, but I’m hoping that this season is one to remember!
Raven Romero , a Robertson High School senior, is an intern with the Las Vegas Optic. She can be reached at