Sports Person of the Week
Gaudioso Made an Instant Impact on the Court
Matt Gaudioso quickly rose to the top of the pack as the No. 1 singles player on the East Haven boys’ tennis team in his freshman season last spring. (Photo courtesy of Matt Gaudioso )
It didn’t take long for Matt Gaudioso to make a name for himself with the East Haven boys’ tennis team. Last year, Matt played his way into the top spot in East Haven’s lineup by earning the No. 1 singles position as a freshman. By the time the season was finished, Head Coach Anthony Perrotti confidently referred to Matt as “the future of Yellowjackets’ boys’ tennis.”
Matt notched nine victories for the Easties in his freshman campaign, coming up just one win shy of qualifying for the State Championship meet. Matt continually got better as the year progressed and felt that he was twice as good at the end of the season than he was at the outset.
“In the beginning of the year, I had very little to no strategy. I had a very weak backhand. As the season went on, I learned how to hit better backhands and started putting slice on it. I started to develop a two-handed backhand, which is almost better than my forehand,” says Matt, who recently finished his sophomore year. “In 8th grade and leading up to high school, I could never hit a smash, which is an overhead spike. Coach Perrotti taught me some things, and now I have a more powerful smash than I’ve seen anyone do in a match.”
Matt started playing tennis at age five when his uncle George gave him his first racket and signed him up for lessons. He would also play tennis with his mother, who played the sport in high school. When Matt got to middle school, his coach Phillip Giuliano worked with him and some other athletes on the team on weekends. After taking his 7th-grade season off, Matt returned to the court in 8th grade and began practicing with Marchello DeLucia, who was one of the Yellowjackets’ senior captains this year.
While Matt has competed in other sports, predominantly baseball, he says that tennis “was always there” and the one sport he knew he wanted to continue playing. Once he reached the high school, Matt realized how much tennis meant to him and began to take the sport more seriously.
“It was my ability level that got me to really like tennis. With baseball, my father coached all the teams my brother was on. He was three years older than me, so I was playing three years up, and I didn’t really get to play,” Matt says. “To be in a sport where I had my own path and it wasn’t directed by anyone else, it’s what made me like tennis a lot more. I understand now that not many people in East Haven play tennis before their first year of high school. It’s been more a part of my life, and I relate to it more than other people.”
Matt’s first year with the Yellowjackets coincided with Perrotti’s first year as head coach of the East Haven boys’ tennis program. Perrotti calls Matt “the tennis guy” at the high school and says he had no issues with embracing the challenge of playing No. 1 singles as a freshman. Perrotti is looking forward to growing alongside Matt in their respective roles during the next two years.
“As I’m learning more about myself as a coach and about the program, I see that Matt is progressing, as well. I feel like I’m growing with him at the same time, and we’re both learning,” says Perrotti. “We are taking this program where we want it to be. He’s definitely a huge help. My job would be a lot tougher without Matt.”
Matt feels that speed is one of greatest attributes on the court. Matt says that his opponents can underestimate his speed at times and that, regardless of the situation, his goal is to return every ball he can. Matt takes pride in his ability to return drop shots, even if he is far away from the net.
Since the end of his freshman season, Matt has continued to sharpen his skills by working with coaches Matt Fraenza and Paul Gagliardi. Matt says that he is developing more strategy and that “it would be an easy win” if he competed against the player that he was last year.
As he continues his career with the Easties, Matt hopes that his quickness and repertoire of various shots will help him achieve goals such as making the All-SCC Team and qualifying to play in the State Championship. He has a long-term goal of playing tennis at the collegiate level.
After coaching him for just one season, Coach Perrotti was impressed with the talent that Matt displayed as a freshman. Perrotti believes that Matt’s aspirations of competing in college are certainly within distance.
“I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Matt absolutely has a shot to further his tennis career beyond high school,” Perrotti says. “He’s definitely got a bright future, and I’m honored to be here along for the ride.”
When Matt steps back on the court, he hopes to keep improving in his quest to make states as a junior. As he continues his journey with the Yellowjackets, Matt wants to establish himself as an elite player in a grueling sport.
“A lot of people think tennis is a very low-key sport, but when you play competitively, it gets very intense,” says Matt. “It takes a lot of strength and technique. People underestimate the sport overall, but in my opinion, I think tennis is the best sport.”