Tennis has always been in Eleni Gianelos’ blood since she was born.

There’s no denying the fact when you look at her family.

“My aunt played on the Tour and was also ranked nationally,” she said. “My mom followed her footsteps.”

It comes as no shock to see Gianelos picked up a racquet at the tender age of 4.

“I loved it and continued with it,” she said. “I got competitive with tournaments at 10 and started competing nationally.”

Roughly two years ago, she even hit the international stage, competing against other kids, such as CiCi Bellis, who just competed at the U.S. Open in August.

“I won a few rounds in them, but they’re very hard,” Gianelos said. “There are kids that are training to go pro. Bellis won the tournament that I played in.”

Even with all the tournaments going on, Gianelos still found the time to play for her own Unionville High School tennis team, which is a top contender in the Ches-Mont league.

In fact, the team has gone an astounding 13-1 on the season.

“We lost one strong player, but we are still dominating this year,” Gianelos said. “We only lost to Henderson and that was a really close match. All of us train really hard on and off the court, so it’s really paying off.”

They might not be on a national or international level, but the senior is enjoying her time with her teammates.

“I love playing for this team,” Gianelos said. “All the girls support each other and we always have each other’s backs. We all give good feedback and uplift each other and continue to do better than the year before.”

Heading into the Ches-Mont American Singles Championships on Sept. 26 and 27, Gianelos was the top seed, and she showed why with her play.

“I think I had a little bit more experience in tournaments than some of my opponents, so I guess it gave me an advantage over them,” she said. “I just went out, had fun and enjoyed competing.”

She advanced to the semifinals against Great Valley’s Torey Powers, who she defeated 6-0, 6-0 to move onto the final round against someone she knew well.

It happened to be her teammate Sophie Wilks.

“When I went against Sophie, I pretended I didn’t even know her,” Gianelos said. “Obviously, it was really hard to compete against a teammate and a friend, but on the court, I just had to forget that we were even friends. I had to treat her like any other opponent I didn’t know.”

The strategy worked because she defeated Wilks 6-2, 6-1 to claim the Ches-Mont American Singles title for the first time in her high school career.

“It’s a great feeling,” Gianelos said. “All the hard work I’ve put in my whole childhood has definitely paid off. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”

Gianelos’ now advances to Districts on Oct. 2 and 3 and if she does well there, she can qualify for States.

Past that, she plans to continue to play tennis through college and, if possible, beyond.

“I plan on playing Division I and maybe after, there’s a possibility I may play the circuit for a short time period and travel and have fun with it,” she said. “Of course, getting a job and continuing my education is my No. 1 priority, but maybe, if I have time, I’ll do the pro circuit a little bit.”

But no matter what happens, she is taking the opportunity to enjoy the ride she’s on right now.

“This is a great way to end my senior year and my high school tennis career and it’s a great way to go off and start my college career,” Gianelos said.

Spotlight of the Week is a new, weekly sports feature for The Kennett Paper and Avon Grove Sun, where we highlight someone in sports who we feel deserves, well, a spotlight. He or she doesn’t always have to be the best, just someone who may stand out from the rest. If there is someone you feel is a good candidate for the Spotlight of the Week, please call 610-235-2652 or e-mail sports.kennettpaper@gmail.com

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