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The medal Nogales teenager Juan Pablo Lopez was able to capture

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 03, 2024

TUCSON, Arizona — Tennis players often don't have teammates, a coach during competition, or the ability to call a time out, making it even more challenging for a player with a special need.

Eighteen year-old Nogales native Juan Pablo Lopez was born with a rare genetic disorder known as mosaic trisomy 9 that affects his speech.

"I never think about it," said Lopez.

At the age of five, Lopez took up tennis as a way to exercise his mind and body.

"He's got this joy, this spark," said John Perry, Lopez's coach. "His passion for tennis and life is just incredible to be around. He's a really great guy."

Lopez's condition doesn't affect his hand-eye coordination, or the power he demonstrates from his groundstrokes.

"I'm an aggressive player from the baseline," said Lopez, who takes digital classes at ASU Prep Academy.

"Doing digital school in the morning and doing all the training and all the tournaments, that's perseverance," said Shasta Schrempp," Lopez's digital learning success coach at ASU Prep.

One such tournament was last year's Special Olympics Xpereince tournament in Virginia where Lopez captured the gold medal. Tennis may be a challenging sport, but it's been a rewarding one for him.

"I couldn't be prouder of him of what he's accomplished as a tennis player," said Perry. I'm more proud of him on daily basis. He's a great kid."