By Matt Taylor, Contributing Writer
Region – The U.S. Open may be a long shot for most tennis players, but United States Tennis Association (USTA) New England in Westborough provides a great place to start for players of all skill levels and ages. USTA New England organizes and runs tournaments and leagues for players ages 8 and older, and pairs players with similar skill levels based on the NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program). Through facilities such as the Wayside Racquet and Swim Club in Marlborough, and the Westborough Tennis and Swim club, players can learn, practice and compete on the highest level in USTA tournaments.
“Serious recreational players have the opportunity to enter national tournaments, and we have a number of strong players at all age levels right here in New England,” Tournament and Ranking Manager Jim Purington said.
Although tennis is a game that can be played at any age, USTA New England has helped develop successful young players in the Metrowest area who have gone on to play at top Division 1, 2, and 3 college programs. Marko Gojanovic, of Westborough, went on to play for Clemson University in the late 1990's, and Surya Krishnan, of Shrewsbury, became a nationally ranked Junior Player after winning the Massachusetts state title in singles in 1999; he went on to play at Cornell University.
Currently Westborough High School junior Brianna Greene is ranked 18th in the Girls 18-and-under USTA New England NTRP rankings. Shrewsbury's Jessica Perkins is the reigning Central Mass High School Singles Champion, and is ranked 28th in the Girls 16-and-under division. Alexis Almy, of Southborough, is ranked 13th in New England for the Girls 14-and-under division, and sister Olivia is ranked 24th in the 12-and-under division. The Freeman siblings, of Ashland, who practice at the Westborough Tennis and Swim Club, also serve as a formidable New England tandem: ?Page is ranked second in New England in the Girls 12-and-under division, while her brother Maxwell is ranked fourth in the Boys 14-and-under division. Other locals include New England Girls” top-ranked 12-and-under player Victoria Hu, of Northborough, and Kim Darby (11th), of Southborough, in addition to Boys 14-and-under players Alan Dubrovsky, of Westborough (10th), and Sumukh Pathi (18th), of Shrewsbury.
Players learn to develop powerful serves, precision groundstrokes, and pinpoint drop shots, but that is not the primary lesson taught to young players, according to USTA Player Development Manager David Zeutas-Broer.
“Sportsmanship is one of the most important skills taught in Junior competition,” Broer said. “Most matches in tournament play are not officiated, and the kids must learn to make the correct calls themselves. They must learn to deal with adverse conditions, fair or unfair.”
College education is also an important focus for young players competing in the USTA New England.
“Kids will decide where they want to go school, and the USTA will look for ways to help them get there,” Broer said.
The USTA's mission stretches further into the community as well, by providing grants to schools teaching tennis, Community Tennis Associations, and organizations offering wheelchair tennis, to name a few.
“In addition to funding, we also offer training to physical education teachers, used racquets and equipment at reasonable cost, and balls from our tournaments go directly into the community for use,” Purington said. “We also look to build and expand public tennis courts.”
Since tennis is a game that can be enjoyed at any age, those who look to fuel their competitive fire can join a team, learn how to play, and compete in tournaments through USTA New England regardless of skill, age and income level. ?Annual memberships are less than $50.
For more information visit http://www.newengland.usta.com/.