Barretto brings global experience to Warhawk tennis


Parker Olsen, Sports Editor

The UW-Whitewater women’s tennis team has been known to be the top dog in the WIAC for over a decade. Their current win streak against WIAC opponents is 116 dual match victories in a row and the team has won the WIAC conference championship 15 consecutive times. This season, and for upcoming seasons, the Warhawks will get help from Zenia Barretto.

Barretto is a freshman on the team, she majors in biology and hopes to go to graduate school in pursuit of a career in veterinary medicine. She also came to Whitewater from half a world away. Traveling her way from her home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, she came to Whitewater for the first time in May last year after Warhawk tennis coach, Frank Barnes, responded to her when she was searching for a place to play college tennis. 

“After speaking to a lot of different colleges I thought Whitewater was a good fit and that’s why I came here,” Barretto said. “I came mainly for tennis because I really wanted to play college tennis and this was a really good program.”

Barretto began her tennis career at age twelve, training constantly and got continually better. After beginning with playing in local tournaments, she worked her way up to traveling to compete in international tournaments. Now she finds herself on the Warhawk tennis team, where she has gone 3-0 with two victories in singles and one in doubles.

Despite being half a world away from home, Barretto said her biggest support in her move to the US is her parents who are still in Dubai.

“In the beginning it was a bit difficult, just because you’re in a new place… But you have video calls and things like that so it has been easy to communicate,” Barretto said. “Even though they are not here. They are always supporting me… Even if I need to call them when it is 2 a.m. there, my mom will pick up the phone and just help me with anything that I need.”

When asked about the biggest difference between the UAE and the US, Barretto answered immediately that she had a hard time adjusting to the weather. In Dubai, she said it is always 70-80 degrees and because of that indoor tennis doesn’t exist there. Now as a Warhawk she plays indoors for over half of the season.

The team has been welcoming to Barretto and has provided great competition for her. She said she was impressed with the level of play when she first came to Whitewater and that she has had to fight in order to find a spot in the lineup.

Barretto explained that the team has used some new drills to keep on top of their game, however the biggest key to her is enjoying the game.

“These new drills are definitely going to help us and I think enjoying it will too. That’s what we did in the fall season,” Barretto said. “Just enjoying competing and we want to carry that over into the spring, which is important because in the spring we have the final four and the NCAA. If we continue on what we are doing then I think we will be back in the nationals.”

The women’s tennis team won the fall WIAC Championship back in October. This spring season will include a week long trip to South Carolina before later hosting the WIAC Team Tournament in late April. Barretto and the Warhawks have high hopes of returning to the NCAA Championships in Florida.