BRADENTON, Fla. — Sophia Cedeno is a rising star on the tennis court.
“I started playing tennis when I was four, almost five,” Cedeno told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “It instantly really clicked for me. At the age of seven, I wanted to get really serious.”
She’s now 14 years old and comparisons with her game are right up there with world-class players.
“As soon as she steps on the court for shot one, she is ready to go,” IMG Academy tennis coach Margie Zesinger said. “It’s very similar you see the intensity from a (Rafael) Nadal, or Serena (Williams). You can just feel it. It’s very similar to Sophia.”
Cedeno and her family live in Lakeland. Attending IMG Academy was always just a dream. That’s until an IMG Academy coach marveled at her on-the-court skills and then became familiar with her story.
“My family has had obstacles in the past. My parents are very hard-working, but not huge jobs that bring in a lot of income for a family,” Cedeno explained. “That will help us to come to a school like this. We never could have afforded it.
“My dad has been having hard last years because he is, unfortunately, facing cancer, he’s a fighter and he is one of the biggest idols in my life.”
IMG Academy identified Cedeno as one of six student-athletes to receive the inaugural Women in Sports Committee full scholarship. The scholarship will begin in fall 2022 and continue through her high school graduation.
“This scholarship has really helped us calm down in the sense we can keep going and growing and we don’t have to worry about my future as long as I keep working hard,” Cedeno said. “Now, everything has been provided for me.”
The Committee was established to improve the accessibility and participation of young women in sports. Each student-athlete is also teamed up with a Committee member as a mentor. Cedeno’s member is sports broadcaster, Michele Tafoya.
“The greatest thing about the Women in Sports Committee is that they don’t just talk the talk, they are walking the walk,” Zesinger said.