For all of Gabrielle Gatewood's accomplishments on the tennis court, she was caught a little off guard by the attention she received from some opponents during her final season at Redwood High.
Like when Central's Dao Chang, who would go on to be selected the MVP of the Tri-River Athletic Conference, asked for Gatewood's autograph on a T-shirt after a match.
"I am a modest person and I'm kind of shy," Gatewood said. "So I was like wow, I didn't know how to react. But she was cool and nice so I signed it for her. I had a couple other times where people asked for my autograph. It's crazy. I don't think of myself as that good. It's just kind of a weird thing for me."
That's what happens when you're one of the most accomplished girls tennis players the Central Section has produced in recent memory.
Gatewood went 90-3 with two Central Section individual girls tennis titles and a runner-up finish during a four-year career.
And Gatewood a four-time champion of the Visalia Invitational and West Yosemite League tournaments was the top seed and clear favorite to win this season's individual section title before back pain she had played through for months forced her to retire while ahead 6-4, 2-3 against Bakersfield Christian's Chelby Cooke in the semifinals.
"It was so hard, my parents had to force me off the tennis court," said Gatewood, The Bee's girls tennis Player of the Year for the third straight year. " I just wanted to stay there and try and find a way, but they didn't want me to hurt my back and be out a long time."
Following some rest and physical therapy, Gatewood's back has healed and she is preparing for the next step in her tennis career, as a scholarship player for Cal Poly.
Redwood coach Rosemarie Lewis said Gatewood will be tough to replace for reasons that go far beyond her success on the court.
"There is more to her than a forehand and a backhand," Lewis of a student who carries a 3.8 grade-point average. "She isn't a cocky little tennis brat. That's the best thing she left the Redwood tennis program. You can be good, but you can also be humble and appreciative and a good sport."
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