Hathaway Brown School junior tennis player Nicole Gillinov is the Cleveland Jewish News-Buffalo Wild Wings Warrensville Heights Player of the Week.
Gillinov, 16, defeated Gahanna Columbus Academy’s Sydni Ratliff, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, to defend her Division II state championship. This was Gillinov’s third straight trip to the state finals. She also beat Ratliff in the finals last season and lost to her sister, Lauren Gillinov, in the finals the year before that.
“The last match was a very hard match,” Gillinov said, adding that she was pleased with her performance. “Sydni, she’s a great player and a great competitior. She was playing really well that day and there were times where she was just on fire and it seemed like it was going to be a very hard match but I knew I just had to focus on what was in my control and what I could do to try to keep playing as well as I could.”
Gillinov, a Moreland Hills resident, said she wants to continue to improve next season.
“My main goal is to just keep getting better and really work on certain parts of my game that I want to improve on before going to college,” she said.
Hathaway Brown head tennis coach Greg Aten said it was “pretty amazing” for Gillinov to come into the state tournament as the No. 5 seed and go on to win the tournament like she did this season and the season before, because the fifth seed plays the top seed in the tournament.
“To be able to do that, you have to have a pretty solid mental game and not get flustered by much,” Aten said. “She is probably mentally tougher than any of the kids I’ve seen her play. There are ups and downs in tennis matches from people cheering when you miss a shot to umpires getting involved, and she’s been able to handle that.”
Aten said many of Gillinov’s opponents try to focus on playing offense at all times, a strategy he said fails because eventually a player will make errors playing that way.
“She’s one of the best defenders in the state,” he said. “She makes people beat her.”