By Marty Farmer
Carlos Gutierrez is a study in contrast on the tennis court.
The Fenwick senior will graduate this year as a two-time, all-state singles player who also excelled in doubles this spring. He's an uber-competitive yet easy going teammate, and best of all, a selfless leader in a sport that caters to individual recognition.
"Carlos has won more matches at state that any other Fenwick player ever," coach Gerard Sullivan said. "His impact on the record book [the past three years] is nothing compared to what he has done this year in setting a tone of positive and fun energy for our team."
Part of the credit belongs to his older sister, Laura, a former Fenwick tennis star who also successfully switched from singles to doubles her senior year for the betterment of the team.
"Carlos ended his tenure on the team the way his sister ended it, too, as a teammate in a doubles pair," Sullivan said. "The way Carlos rubbed off on his teammates will be remembered and built on in the coming years.
"Carlos is a fun, playful and spirited presence at practices and meets. He puts energy into every drill he does from warmups to post-practice stretches. And yet, he would just as well stand around and talk for an hour. He is a people person who will do very well in life and make others happy."
Junior Ryan Dunlap has been the greatest beneficiary of Gutierrez's influence this spring. They paired together to take second at the Chicago U-High Sectional and consolidated that auspicious showing by winning four of six matches at the state finals.
"There's always more I wish I could have done but you can't live life with regret," Gutierrez said. "Tennis players need a short memory. I'm glad that I helped my teammates grow. I helped show them by hitting with me in practice, you don't need to play 24-7. It's about having fun and playing hard. I'm content with what I accomplished at Fenwick."
Amazingly, Gutierrez and Dunlap joined forces at the start of May so the learning curve was put on fast forward.
"Carlos and Ryan are one of the most athletic teams I've ever coached," Sullivan said. "They begin and end points forcefully. Their tennis is intimidating but both are nice and classy guys. They learned, adjusted and grew so fast every day."
Gutierrez provided leadership for the overachieving Friars, who went 9-5-2 with a 4-2 record in the Chicago Catholic League. Even though Gutierrez is the best singles player on the roster, Pierce Butler, Conor Mullen and Brendan Kane took the top three spots for the conference meet. Phil Sandor and Matt Walsh held down second doubles.
Gutierrez and Dunlap both earned all-conference recognition.
"The only difference between Ryan and me is that I'm a senior and he's a junior," Gutierrez said. "We both control our serves well and have the same feisty attitude on the court. We always have each other's backs."
In the fall, Gutierrez will attend DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. The plan is to major in Economics and minor in Finance, and yes, play tennis for the Tigers. Reflective of his attitude with the Friars, Gutierrez is ready to play wherever DePauw places him in the lineup.
"I love singles but doubles is a lot of fun," Gutierrez said. "You can't go into college just playing singles. It's a team and everybody is out there fighting for a spot. If you're good at doubles and you can also finish at the net, it helps your game overall."
As much an avid fan as an accomplished player, Gutierrez has worked as a ballboy when tennis legends like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras visit Chicago as part of the PowerShares Legends Series.
When he was 10, Gutierrez and current ATP World No. 7 Kei Nishikori were accidentally scheduled for the same court time at a private club in Chicago. Upon urging from his coach, Gutierrez good-naturedly challenged the most popular athlete in Japan to play a point for the court, but Nishikori latter declined with a laugh.
Gutierrez cites Nick Kyrgios as his favorite professional player. While undeniably talented, the mercurial Greek has established a reputation as a tennis brat known for tanking points and making derogatory comments about several of the game's greats like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Interestingly, Gutierrez has a different take on tennis' enfant terrible.
"People say Kyrgios is uncoachable but you don't get to that level by not loving the game," he said. "I really like the way Nick takes the hits and shows he's a true player. He's the underdog and I've been the underdog in some situations so I can identify with that feeling."
During the offseason, Gutierrez works with highly regarded tennis coach Tom Lockhart. He also puts in plenty of time at tournaments and on the practice courts. And if he's looking for some competition, sister Laura remains the ultimate opponent.
"She's a great player, a lot better than me," Gutierrez said. "When I am out there, I want to beat her but she's too good. I think I may have gotten a set or two off her, but she's unbelievable with her consistency and fitness. She always pushes me and after a while I'm like, 'can we get some water please.'"
Laura, who played tennis at the University of Chicago for two seasons, has influenced her brother's game, akin to the effect he has had on his fellow Friars.
"My mindset has changed from being a big hitter to a consistent grinder," Gutierrez said. "I had to learn how to grind out matches from my sister who is a great grinder. I learned from the best. It's a lot more work but the satisfaction of playing good defense and winning is great."
Gutierrez also credits his parents for helping his development on and off the court.
Fenwick and Sullivan deserve a fist pound as well.
"I love Fenwick," he said. "I wouldn't be where I am without Fenwick. The atmosphere is so supportive. There's pressure to do well but in a good way. I'm content with what I had at Fenwick."
Answer Book 2018
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