By Matt Wright
Roberto Guimaraes took my call on a Friday afternoon and politely explained his background and how it led to signing a scholarship to play tennis at Mississippi State University. After 5 minutes I could tell that the young tennis star would be successful on court but just as successful off court.
Mr. Guimaraes, who has lived in Lakeland with his family since 2014, is a senior at Memphis University School, but his path to becoming a collegiate athlete is somewhat unusual. “My parents are immigrants,” he told me. “They met while studying English at the University of Memphis,” he said. His father is from Mexico and his mother from Brazil, but his love for tennis came naturally. “My creditor was the state tennis champion in Mexico at the time and started teaching me at a very young age,” he said. “In fact, he and I train together quite often at the Lakeland tennis courts.”
Roberto’s track record on the court is pretty impressive and that’s what made recruiting Roberto from Mississippi so difficult. Roberto has won the USTA Junior State and Southern Championships in the U16 division and recently made back-to-back finals in the Winter and Summer Southern Championships in the U18 division. He has also won multiple USTA tournaments, qualified and competed in exclusive national tournaments such as the prestigious Orange Bowl and Kalamazoo tournaments. He also competed in team events such as the Ozaki Cup and represented the state of Tennessee. Most impressively, Roberto is ranked #1 in the USTA Jr. rankings for Tennessee in multiple age divisions. He is also currently first in Tennessee as well as No. 30 in the Southeast and No. 40 in the nation for his age.
Mr. Guimaraes, who is considered a five-star national recruit, has also been heavily recruited by the University of Memphis and Liberty University. But he said the opportunity to play SEC tennis at a top program with a high-performance culture is just too hard to pass up. “They have such great facilities and a lot of resources,” he said. “The coaches are great and the boys (players) are a good match. They work hard and expect a lot from each other, but they also have fun.”
Once Roberto completes his senior year at MUS next spring, he will be on his way to Starkville and expects to be able to contribute immediately. “Yes sir, that was another reason for my decision to choose State. It looks like I play both singles and doubles as a freshman. It’s going to be hard work, but I’m looking forward to it.” According to a Mississippi state press release, tennis boss Matt Roberts said Roberto is “self-motivated, likes adversity and likes a challenge. It will thrive in our culture.”