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Sports Spotlight
West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jul. 1, 2020 2 years ago

Sports Spotlight — Gabriel Cleto

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Gabriel Cleto, a Winter Garden resident and former collegiate tennis player, now offers local tennis lessons.
by: Danielle Hendrix Former Associate Editor

Winter Garden resident Gabriel Cleto has played tennis now for 20 years and teaches both group and private tennis lessons for all ages. He has played on scholarship for both the University of Northwestern Ohio and the University of Mobile, and graduated from the latter in 2017 with a degree in business management. For more information on Cleto's tennis lessons, email him by clicking here or call (407) 620-9082.

 
How did you first begin playing tennis?

I was 5 years old, and we had a tennis court in my hometown, but I was fascinated by soccer. My dad played soccer — not professionally — but he played amateur. I was coming back from my soccer lesson and there was a tennis coach there. He took me and he put me in to play, and I just accepted it. From that time on, I (was) fascinated by the sport, and I started playing and competing.

Why have you stuck with the sport for 20 years and counting?

There are so many reasons. The first is that tennis is a  very complex sport. You really need to understand what you’re doing on the tennis court, and I like to think and come up with strategies. Also, it’s an individual sport for the most time when you’re not playing doubles, so you take accountability for what you do and the mistakes you make, and you have to fix it. It’s a sport that requires a lot of attention to detail and also a lot of persistence. I just like the fact that it made me more of a resilient person overall in my life.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your tennis career?

You’ve got to be competitive, and you’ve got to solve your problems on your own. I think that’s the main thing that I learned. Being an individual and playing an individual sport, you really do focus on fixing things and arranging it in a way to make the best of it always. 

Why do you enjoy teaching the sport now?

I love teaching. I love being with people and making them improve, and looking at them and seeing that they’re enjoying it.

Who is your favorite professional tennis player?

It’s cliché to say, but it’s Roger Federer, by far. He’s such a genius, such class that he has. A play he makes, it looks so easy. He’s an amazing individual, as well. It’s not just about how he plays, it’s also about how he behaves outside of the court that counts a lot. He deals with it with such class, and that’s admirable.

Where would you love to compete? 

I think it would be Wimbledon in London. I always had a fascination with Wimbledon and the history behind it, and it would be a dream come true to be there.

Who would you say is your biggest inspiration in life and why?

My dad. He is an example of dedication and perseverance. The way he raised me and raised my brother, the way he’s a husband for my mom, I cannot think about any other person.

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Danielle Hendrix was an associate editor for the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com.

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