By Gabriela Paz, Tennis Coach and Former Tennis Professional
My name is Gabriela Paz, former professional tennis player and current tennis coach. I am 28 years old and live in Miami Fl. As a tennis player and tennis coach, I have had the pleasure of being behind both sides of the racket. I can assure you, they are completely different experiences being a player and being a coach.
I started playing tennis when I was 6 years old. I grew up playing in my origin country, Venezuela, where I grabbed the tennis racket for the first time. In order to seek a better future, my family and I moved to the U.S when I was around 11 years old. I had the luck to train with many great coaches and learned from people who taught me the real value of the sport and life.
As a junior, I had the opportunity to compete at the highest level of the game reaching the Top 10ITF ranking in the world. It wasn’t without much effort though. My life as an immigrant was quite a challenge. Unfortunately, I was only able to compete inside the United States throughout my whole junior career. My father did everything he could so that I could travel, but I wasn’t able to attend every event. Since the age of 13, I traveled on my own to follow my dreams. Somehow, challenges make you stronger, and I decided to make the best of it. In 2008, I reached the finals of the US OPEN Juniors defeating every seeded player in the draw until loosing against opponent Coco Vandeweghe in the finals.
My transition to the professional tour was smooth. I reached the top 300WTA quite fast and winning a couple titles on the way. I had wins in the pro tour against players such as, Karolina Pliskova, Sloane Stephens, Allison Riske, Madison Brengle, Mirjana Lucic, Christina Mchale and more. At age 18, I reached my highest career ranking of 230WTA. After being at my best, several unfortunate injuries didn’t allow me to play for a whole year. I tried to make a come back 3 times, recovering my ranking from a scratch back to the top 300, but I kept developing different health issues. In 2012, I won several tournaments back to back and placed myself in a good position to play the qualifiers of the US OPEN.Unfortunately, playing a week before the open in a 100k in the Bronx, I tore my rotator cuff. That was the last tournament I played. It was difficult to come back to 100% after that, physically and mentally, and even though, I tried a few times again my shoulder wasn’t the same.
Although my professional career as a player has been tough, my career as a coach has been rather pleasant.
Right after being done at the tour, I got my degree in psychology and made the decision to coach.
I have a small academy in Aventura FL, where I am able to coach performance players from all ages. In the past 7 years, I have had the pleasure of coaching high level female players from all over the world. I have coached WTA and Junior ITF Players such as, Lauren Albanese WTA (158), Amanda Anisimova WTA (29) and ITF #2 (Jr US OPEN Champion and Roland Garros Finalist), Alexandra Yepifanova ITF (23) and (US OPEN FINALIST), Jimar Gerald ITF (200) and many more ITF female players from many different countries.
I have collaborated in the past with friend, Laura Siegemund WTA #29, as her hitting partner and coach assistant. I have also worked with many USTA girls TOP 100 in the Nation and College players from different divisions.
Being on both sides of the racket has let me appreciate the game even more and understand aspects of it that were difficult to see while playing. At the end of the day, tennis is a game of life. You earn what you put in and you succeed if you are able to endure through the rough circumstances like a champion.
This blog is part of our new series highlighting various tennis players throughout the United States. Each blog will feature stories, experiences, or techniques these players are willing to share with the GAMMA audience. If you’re interested in seeing more from Gabriela Paz, click here to follow her on Instagram.