Kelowna, BC – Meet Mateo Rizzo, a 9-year old-boy from Kelowna, BC. He began showing interest in tennis at an early age. He was only 3 when he started hitting a tennis ball hung from a string. The family were members of the Kelowna Family YMCA, and looked forward to enrolling him in tennis lessons when he turned 6 years old. The Little Aces program offered at the Y really started his journey. Playing with peers he developed a passion and love for the game. He wanted to play more, and through a referral we signed him up for lessons at Global Fitness & Racquet Club.
Mateo really enjoyed competition, and loved to enter as many tournaments as possible. He finished second in his first Rookie Tour tournament, and that experience encouraged him to continue to strive to get better. After several successful tournaments in Kelowna and Kamloops, Mateo entered a U10 tournament in the Lower Mainland. He faced some tough competition, but managed a 3rd place finish. When he heard that some of the players he faced practiced 5 times a week, he was further motivated to play more.
When Mateo was 7 he went to the local Men’s ITF professional tournament held in Kelowna. He was really impressed by the talent of these young athletes, and was excited to meet and take pictures with local favorites Philip Bester and Filip Peliwo. Both engaged in conversation with Mateo, telling him that with hard work and determination he could succeed. In August 2017 he had the opportunity to go to Montreal to the Rogers Cup with his mom. Upon arriving in Montreal, Mateo was excited to run into French player Adrian Mannarino on the street, and he was gracious enough to take a photo with Mateo. From then on Mateo cheered for Mannarino in his matches.
Mateo also enjoyed seeing Philip Bester at the Rogers Cup in Montreal and Mateo reminded him that they had met in Kelowna. He also talked to Vasek Pospisil and let him know that he was from Kelowna and that he trained at Global, the same club where Vasek used to train.
When he was 8, Mateo’s family offered to billet one of the tennis pros that came to the Kelowna ITF tournament. They hosted Canadian tennis player Steven Diez, who was seeded #2 in the tournament. This was such a wonderful experience as Steven was very well liked amongst the family and he even invited Mateo to warm up with him on the court. This was also the first time that Mateo was given the opportunity to be a ball kid in a professional tennis tournament. He loved being up close to the action, and realized he needed to have quick reflexes when he took a serve to the shoulder by Benjamin Sigouin.
In August, he had the opportunity to once again go to the Rogers Cup, this time in Toronto with his dad. There were very many memorable matches, photos taken, autographs, and even some players giving him towels.
Mateo’s most memorable experience at the Rogers Cup was on his 9th birthday. Mateo and his dad were selected to have a VIP tour of the Centre Court stadium. This meant they had back stage passes to visit the players lounge, the press conference room, locker rooms, and they also got to stand on center court while Denis Shapovalov and Robin Haase warmed up for their evening match. During the tour, Mateo was wearing a Rafa hat (his favourite tennis player) and it was a huge surprise when Rafael Nadal appeared in a hallway and saw Mateo. He came up to Mateo and his dad, and with a big smile on his face he said hello and put his hand on Mateo’s shoulder. This completely made Mateo’s birthday special. What a memorable trip that was!
In September 2018, Mateo was invited to try out for the U10 BC Provincial Team. Mateo was eager to try out, and although he wasn’t selected, his desire to play the game he loves most persists more than ever. He continues to hit tennis balls against the garage door during his free time, and attends tennis lessons twice a week with a great group of peers under the guidance and leadership of Joachim Nierfeld who has been instrumental in helping Mateo develop his tennis skills.
We wish Mateo all the best!
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