The Smith siblings continue to reign over Louisiana tennis
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -It didn’t take Lusher’s head tennis coach Gian Balsamo take more than a few shots to see their abundance of talent, And now six years later, Zach and Gavriella continue to dominate the Louisiana tennis scene as four-time state champions.
“They make my job very easy,” says Balsamo. “Regardless of the other players we have on our team, they give our team a chance to win year in and year out.”
And while they share a lot of the same accomplishments, Zach and Gavriella Smith also share that last name.
“Brother-sister duo, there’s not too many in the country,” says Zachary. “I can’t think of that many others.”
“I’m the younger sister,” says Gavriella. “I always looked up to him as the great 6-foot-4 lefty brother who could just blow me off the court if he wanted to.”
As you’d expect between siblings, there’s a rivalry there, whether they’re playing against each other or not.
“They’re used to winning,” says Balsamo. “So when they are winning, they’re competing on who can win faster or who can allow the least games to their opponent.”
But as Zachary prepares to head to the Ivy League to compete at Penn, and Gavriella’s recruitment as a five-star athlete begins, they’re also each other’s biggest supporters.
“We can really be honest with each other,” says Zachary. “I’m not going to hold anything back. Maybe some coaches will, but I’ve known her since forever. We’re always together. So we just speak the truth.”
That’s part of what’s pushed their games to this level, as well as the unwavering support from their mother and father, who had them on the court as early as three-years-old. Their dad, Jefferey Smith, says it took a little bribing to keep them on the court as kids, but soon, their love for the game and everything that comes with playing at such a high level took off.
“We work out with each other, a lot,” says Gavriella. "We’ll go on runs early in the morning and late at night and make sure we have a good balance of our social lives too because that’s important. "
In fact, that’s often overlooked. It’s not uncommon for players with Zachary and Gavriella’s skill set to train at tennis academies instead of attending a traditional high school. The dedication that they’ve both shown to climb the ranks into the top 40 players in the country, as well as perform at an Ivy League level in the classroom, is nothing short of remarkable.
“That balance between school and sport, it’s one of the hardest things,” says Zachary. “It’s what burns out a lot of people because you have to willing to give up a lot. You can go straight from school and have a terrible day, and you can’t let that affect your game. You could be driving straight from school for 15 minutes and go to tennis to train for three hours. You’ve got to be willing to sacrifice. If you can do that, that’s what separates the best from average.”
While Zachary and Gavriella have obviously made a huge name for themselves here in Louisiana, their tennis careers have taken them across the globe. From Israel to Canada and plenty of places in between in the United States, their upcoming schedule this summer includes San Diego, Little Rock, Mobile and Philadelphia, among many other tournament destinations. And now with college on the horizon, and possibly pro careers after that, the sky is the limit.
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