Haga clic aquí para la versión en español

USTA Florida is kicking off its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month this September by putting the spotlight on members in the Hispanic tennis community.

We want to introduce you to 23-year-old Santiago Castro. He’s been playing tennis for 13 years and is part of the leading team for the Special Olympics. Santiago is originally from Colombia, South America, and has lived in Miami, Florida for 20 years.

Tell us about your life?

I graduated from FIU (Florida International University) last year and now I am working at Mack Cycle. I hang and organize the clothes, vacuum, fold the shirts, clean the windows and greet the clients.

I play tennis at Tamiami Park, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and I have a private lesson on Fridays. I have a tutoring session once a week to improve in math and writing. I have a girlfriend who I love, she is great with me. I have a mom who does great things for me. I have a brother and love to spend time with him. I have a sister who I went to Colombia with to visit my dad. I have a nephew named Joseito, he loves me a lot and hugs me. And I have my stepfather who does great things for me as well. 

I am part of the leading team for Special Olympics and I actively participate. In 2015 I was chosen as Athlete of the Year and last year I won the National Games in Tennis High Competition. I was part of the High School tennis team. On my graduation day, I was awarded the Varsity award. Babolat sponsors me. I participate in the USTA 3.0 Leagues.

How long have you been playing tennis?

13 years.

How did you start playing tennis?

I always played sports, I learned how to swim when I was one year old, then I played soccer, basketball, baseball and then started playing tennis with my loving coach Sharon Arneses, who taught me all fundamentals. In 2014 I received a scholarship from USTA and since then I have practiced every week in Tamiami Park where I have made tons of friends and I have received love from everyone. I take a weekly private lesson to improve my technique.

What do you like most about tennis?

Play games with my friends, do my drills with my team.

Do you have any message for other young people?

To be responsible and to attend all lessons so they can improve every day.

What his family has to say:

 Mom: What can I say about my loving son, who has always been strong since birth and who has lightened our world like a sun. He always shines and smiles. Seeing the world through his eyes is amazing. Living each day with him is a privilege. I love you with all my heart, and more. I am always going to be by your side as far as you want to go, without limits. I am so proud of you!

I want to say to all families who have a loved one with special needs to please not put any limits, believe in them, help them make their dreams come true. Step by step and maybe with the need of more practice and falls, but at the end of the day, it is worth it, no doubt.

Stepfather: Santiago is a true inspiration not only to his family, but for all those who cross his path.  His character, demeanor, attitude and infectious good mood, leaves a mark on everyone’s heart. When one witnesses his tennis skills, they are left speechless in how well he plays the game.  With his natural instinct to adapt to very rapid situation and see the way he commands the court, everyone who sees him in action, is stunned and inspired.

Tennis Coach Mark Chellas: I had the great pleasure in working with and knowing Santi due to him having a passion and love for playing tennis. I was the Director of Tennis for Friends of Miami Tennis from 2015-2018 and due to Santi’s passion for tennis we had the privilege and were honored to provide scholarships for all of Santi’s tennis coaching to help him fulfill his dreams of playing and competing at the sport he loves! Santi has since gone on and won a Gold Medal in the Special Olympics and competed throughout many parts of the US and internationally, and has been incredibly successful. He has learned how to play, score, compete with great sportsmanship, work on different technical parts of his game, and ALWAYS give his best!

Santi is truly one of the most positive people I have ever met. He is upbeat every day, always bringing up the people he shares the court with, always trying his best, always complimenting others, and never has a bad day. His positivity is contagious and simply everyone Santi meets loves him. He has an incredible sense of humor and quite often is playing tricks or joking with the pro staff and office staff and again leaving everyone smiling and without effort. To know Santi truly is to love him, and he deserves all the recognition possible and I hope in general, we can all learn from him how to treat people on a daily basis.

To learn more about USTA Florida’s diversity initiatives, click here.