Thanks to a natural love for the game, senior tennis player Giovana Guimares has become one of the better female tennis players in Ulster County. If she can develop her mental side of the game, there’s no telling how far she’ll go.
Guimares, who will be entering her senior year at Saugerties High School this fall, finished second in the Ulster County Junior Tennis Open/Tony Bell Memorial tournament at Forsyth Park, which wrapped up Aug. 9.
This is the teen’s second year competing in the tournament and her best finish so far in the singles, the event she had her sights set on. (Last year, she and then-fellow Saugerties High School student Meg Creen took first in the doubles competition.)
“It’s the sport I love,” she replied.
Guimares is originally from Brazil, where she began playing tennis when she was 10. “My grandfather belonged to a tennis club there, and I began to go with him, and fell in love with the sport and began to take lessons,” she said.
The move to Saugerties, while a happy one for the family, left Giovana a bit disappointed.
“I was in seventh grade and was looking forward to playing tennis here,” she said. But at the time, there was only a varsity team, no modified or JV programs for younger students. (And unlike the other teams, tennis players hold car washes and fundraisers to buy uniforms since they are not provided by the school.)
So Guimares played tennis with friends, eventually signing on for private lessons with Kingston pro Andrew Contract, whose dad is the coach of the Kingston High School team.
“It was a tough start for my daughter when we came here,” says her mom, Adrianna, who was a competitive swimmer back in Brazil. “She had no English. But she took one year of English as a Second Language at the high school, and by the end of the year she was speaking perfect.” She’s now a member of the National Honor Society.
All of the playing, despite no modified or JV team at Saugerties, paid off when Guimares became a freshman. She started out playing on the second doubles team, but an injury to one of the first doubles players moved her up to the top team, and they clicked so well they finished second in the Mid-Hudson Athletic League that year.
Her sophomore year, she made it into the sectionals and the quarter finals of the MHALs as a singles player, and this past year played well as a doubles and singles player. Just after the season ended, she broke her femur while running wind springs, which took seven months to recover from. “But I never thought I would not play again,” she said.
She came back from the broken leg to finish in the semi-finals in the doubles section of the county tournament.
This year, she hopes to win the MHALs, finish high in the sectionals, and make the states.
Her second place finish in the just completed county tournament will serve her well in the coming fall high school season, Guimares said, especially since her semi-final match in the county tournament was such a tough one.
“It lasted three and a half hours,” Guimares explained. She lost the first set to the tournament’s eventual winner, Stephanie Smith, but made show of it in the second set, which went to a tiebreaker.
“I was down 0-3 in the tie-breaker, but came back and we went back and forth,” before Smith finally put the game away, she said.
“I lose a little focus at the end,” she admitted. She said she really needs to work on the mental side of the game if she wants to make it to the next level — winning MHALs and playing collegiate tennis. Her favorite two tennis players are Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal because they both stay so focused throughout their matches and never give up. “That’s how I want to be,” Guimares said.