Cierra Gaytan-Leach is at a happy place in her life right now.
The former Corona del Mar High standout is playing pro tournaments and training at Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine before she leaves for the University of Texas in August.
Since she was a sophomore at CdM it had been her dream to play for the Longhorns. Now as the months approach to summer, the 18-year-old is gaining more excitement.
It’s been a little more than three years since a controversial article was published about her in the Daily Pilot. As a sophomore at CdM, Gaytan-Leach said she had been motivated because her biological father and former pro Rick Leach did not want anything to do with her.
The story set off negative and positive feedback. Gaytan-Leach did her best to stay away from the negative. But she’s not one to shy away from anything. She lives in Newport Beach, as does Leach, who works at Newport Beach Tennis Center. In June of 2007, Gaytan-Leach, who is not a member of NBTC, was asked to leave when she had been practicing there.
Gaytan-Leach has moved on from incidents such as those. She’s getting ready to move on to Texas. Recently, she earned a No. 802 world ranking in doubles. She still smiles at that fact.
Soon Newport Beach will be behind her, the past too.
“I have a lot of people that love and support me,” Gaytan-Leach says. “I’m just really happy with that. It’s a bummer he’s not in my life, but I’m doing just fine the way it is.”
Just as he did in 2006, Leach would not comment for this story. He was reached by telephone last week at NBTC.
“There’s no purpose to try to talk to you,” he said. “The last time you guys wrote anything about me it was like it was fresh out of the National Enquirer.”
Gaytan-Leach says she’s open about it because she realizes most people who know them in Newport Beach talk about it anyway. She remains in her happy place.
“It’s his choice if he doesn’t want to talk about it,” she said. “I understand. But it doesn’t make him look like the greatest.
“He’s not a part of my life.”
Gaytan-Leach had used that as motivation. Yet, now when she gets on the court, she becomes more in tune with the game. All that’s being said about her, she leaves that alone, she said.
The pro game has been challenging enough. There’s no time to think about something other than tennis. She says every point counts, so she does her best to step up her game.
Later this month, she’ll play in a pro tournament before then competing in the Ojai tournament next month.
“She just keeps plugging away,” says her coach, Mitch Bridge, who also directs Advantage Tennis Academy. “She never really steps off. She’s always trying to get better. She’s only going to get better. She has a ton of potential.”
Gaytan-Leach has tried to reach that potential during the past year. After graduating last year, with credits earned at ATA, she took the year off to compete in pro tournaments. She didn’t walk during a ceremony with her friends. She looked at that as another sacrifice to reach her dream of playing for Texas.
“I’m happy with my choice,” she said. “I’m excited to get out of California to see what’s out there.”