May 13, 2005

A Late Start Hasn’t Hurt Gonzalez

By John Philip Wyllie

By the time Jacob Gonzalez began playing tennis at the age of 12, many of his peers had already been playing for several years. Now a senior at Bonita Vista High School, Gonzalez is a team captain and a big reason why the Barons went undefeated (10-0) in league play.

“I first played soccer for about eight years and then roller hockey and flag football,” Gonzalez explained. “When I was in the sixth grade I saw an ad in the newspaper for a free tennis lesson. My mother enrolled me, I took the free lesson and I just got hooked on it.”

Improving each year, Gonzalez eventually became ranked by the USTA and has played in tournaments in places as far away as Puerto Vallarta. For the Barons, he often fills the role of third singles and is half of its first doubles team along with Yoshii Yu. Other major contributors for the Barons include singles players Nissim Cohen-Sabban, David Saad and Nathan Burakoff and second doubles players, Ivan Esparza and Edward Alentoga.

“Tennis requires both mental and physical toughness. Physically, you have to be very fast on your feet, but you also have to be fast in your mind,” Gonzalez said. “My strengths are my forehand, my ability to get to the ball quickly and my ground strokes.” Gonzalez says that he struggles more with the mental aspects of the game.

“I tend to be a perfectionist, so sometimes I get down on myself when I don’t hit great shots.”

The son of Mexican immigrants, Gonzalez grew up in an athletic family, but not a tennis playing family.

“My Dad played football as a kid and my Mom played volleyball and badminton. My brother is a golfer.” Tennis however, is what captured his attention. His parents supported his decision to develop athletically on the tennis court by paying for his lessons and driving him to and from an endless number of tournaments and matches. Whenever they can, they attend his high school matches.

“They put their confidence in me and gave me their support. If I lost, they would focus on what I did well in the match and they encouraged me to do better the next time.”

Gonzalez has Pete Sampras and Fernando Gonzalez at the top of his list of favorite professional players. Gonzalez in particular has won his admiration.

“Fernando Gonzalez is a hard-nosed player. He hits every serve and forehand at about 95 miles per hour. I like that kind of intensity.”

North County powerhouses La Jolla Country Day School and Torrey Pines High have won all of the last five Division I CIF tournaments. Gonzalez expects that they will be every bit as tough this year. The Barons qualified for the tournament, but were eliminated in round one.

Gonzalez hopes to continue his tennis career at Southwestern College next season and eventually play at San Diego State.

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