Queen of the court

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Juan Villa / The Collegian

With her second-place spot in the nation this year in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings, Melanie Gloria has found her element on the tennis court.

Although she has a place in her heart for singing, along with the radio and playing with her dog, tennis is her true passion. She has brought her talent to Fresno State for two successful years now.

This Canadian of Portuguese heritage has a true natural ability for the sport that cannot be learned, according to Fresno State women’s tennis head coach Simon Thibodeau.

“The way that she plays is effortless; it is incredible the way that she can generate power,� Thibodeau said. “She is not big or very muscular, but she is very coordinated. She just has fluidity in her stroke.�

She may appear shy at first, but Thibodeau said her shyness can blind opponents to her competitiveness. “She hates to lose, but she doesn’t show it,� he said. “She is very competitive.�

A competitive streak is one thing, but Thibodeau said her polite and humble nature is genuine. “Although she is ranked number two, she doesn’t have a big head,� he said. “She is nice to everyone and that is why everyone likes her.�

Gloria first picked up a tennis racket at age 8. Her older sister Sandra used to play and it was their father who encouraged Gloria to participate.

“At first I didn’t like it,� she said. “But now I am glad that my dad made me play.�

Thibodeau, who like Gloria is from Montreal, has known her since she played on the junior’s level at 10 years old when he was a juniors’ coach.

“The tennis world was not too big in Canada and she was one of the best juniors,� he said. “She was always good.�

He later left Canada and came to Fresno State to be the head coach for the women’s tennis team four years ago.

Gloria, 19, said she sees a professional tennis career on the horizon. Currently she is a sophomore with a 3.8 GPA, but she will more than likely play professionally for a year or two after graduation, she said.

No matter what her professional career holds for her, Gloria will always have her college degree and her fluency in English, Portuguese and French to fall back on. “One reason that I came to college is so I would have a degree as a backup,� she said. “It was a good opportunity for me to have a scholarship and get to continue playing tennis.�

Gloria said she is glad she made the difficult decision to accept a scholarship to play tennis at Fresno State over other highly-ranked schools.

In fact, it was Thibodeau who played a pivotal role in snatching Gloria up to play for Fresno State. “I was hesitating between going pro and going to college,� Gloria said. “It was a last-minute decision. I had tennis scholarship offers from UCLA and Northwestern, but Simon already knew me from coaching in Montreal. He said, ‘Come and just see if you like it.’ He made me feel comfortable in coming here.�

Once she arrived, Gloria also reconnected with her Fresno State teammate Vanessa Heroux whom she had known from the tennis world in Canada. Gloria met new people too, such as Jakub Cech, a Czech tennis player who is the star of the Fresno State men’s tennis team. The two have been dating now for just over one year.

“I really don’t ever think about her tennis playing,� Cech said. “She is just a really nice girl, but when you have things in common, it helps.�

Gloria said that her life is pretty typical for a college student. “I like to go out and watch movies,� she said. “It doesn’t really matter what I do as long as I’m with friends.�

As for her plans at Fresno State, Thibodeau has hopes for Gloria to win the national title in May, which he said would put her right on the map. “There are not too many players who are bigger than her,� he said.

Gloria said she looks forward to playing in the national tournament this spring, but she is also keeping an open mind. “You don’t know what’s going to happen,� she said. “I’d rather live life one day at a time.�

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