Far from a lifelong player, Pine View ninth-grader Gabriel Von Kessel began his tennis career only three years ago. After switching from soccer to tennis, Von Kessel’s meteoric rise landed him a spot on Riverview High School’s varsity team.
“I became interested in tennis a few years ago when I was taking a break from soccer, which I played up until that point,” said Von Kessel. “When the time came to decide between the two, tennis won.”
Initially, tennis was just an engaging activity, but as Von Kessel continued to practice and refine his skills, the sport piqued his interest. Currently, he practices three to four times a week with Riverview’s varsity team in addition to working with the Celsius Tennis Academy program at the Bath and Racquet Fitness Club and private lessons at the Landings Racquet Club.
Von Kessel appreciates the persistence that the sport requires. “In tennis, there are no limits, no stopping,” he said. “Once one skill is mastered, you move on to the next, while still constantly thinking of everything that requires coordination to be successful. Tennis is both mentally and physically tiring.”
Of the seven Riverview tennis team members, five are players and two are alternates. Von Kessel is ranked fourth on the team and therefore the highest-placing freshmen. This year in their classification, Riverview was undefeated and placed first in district qualifying competition out of nine teams. The team continued to the statewide tournament in Altamonte, finishing in fourth place.
Von Kessel plays competitively in both doubles and singles matches, but enjoys singles more. “Tennis is a very solitary sport, and I enjoy it more when I am playing by myself against one opponent. There is very little coaching allowed during matches, which creates mental challenges in the aspect that it’s all up to you. It’s really important to be in the right mindset,” said Von Kessel.
Story by KATHERINE SALVATORI