Each year, the USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Championships features many of the brightest and enthusiastic junior players in the nation. From all 17 USTA sections, the players, their coaches and their parents travel thousands of miles to converge upon Surprise, Arizona - the travel, along with the tennis action, unites the teams and creates lasting memories.
Courtesy of USTA.com, we highlight the championship experiences of the members of "Topspin," the USTA Florida 14U Advanced representatives. The Daytona Beach-based Topspin team has volunteered to share their thoughts about the journey to Surprise as teammates and what lies ahead as they try to win a national championship:
Oct. 21 - Arrival:
Our day started at 4:00 in the morning and by 6:00 a.m., we were checking in at the Daytona Beach airport.
Two of our team members, Henry and Meghan, were allowed to carry their bags on, but two other teammates - Abby and Christina - were required to check theirs. We transferred Abby and Christina’s rackets, practice outfits and court shoes to Meghan’s tennis bag. The floor of the airport was cluttered with random shirt and shorts, and undergarments were scattered everywhere. Parents were sitting on bags, and prying the zippers open and closed as everything was rearranged.
On our first flight to Atlanta, we were accompanied by one of our friends from school that were going to visit her brother in St. Louis. We were sad that she couldn't come to Arizona, but she gave us her lucky penny for good luck. The flight to Atlanta went by quickly, but after the layover, our flight out to Phoenix didn’t go as smoothly. We were sitting on the runway, ready to take off, and we sat there for 10 minutes before turning around and going back to our gate. After sitting there for another 25 minutes, we were informed that the air conditioning wasn’t working and we were going to have to switch planes because that one wasn’t safe to ride! After some uneasiness, we ended up boarding the next plane to arrive to the airport and began our four hour flight to Phoenix.
We arrived in Arizona where two more members of our team, Seth and Noah, had already arrived and rented a van for all of us to share this weekend. We went straight to the Surprise Tennis & Recreation complex for a team practice. Well, not exactly straight there…we entered the wrong address into the GPS and ended up in a retiring community! Yet, after another interesting travel delay, we found our way there.
After practice there was the Player Party, which was filled with friends, food and fun! To end the night, we had a lot of fun watching the exhibition match between Jimmy Arias and Michael Chang, but maybe not as much as our parents did... they got to meet John McEnroe and Jim Courier!
Oct. 22 - Play Begins
Elizabeth Harrison, a young girl from Idaho Falls and USTA Intermountain, started our day off singing the national anthem. She did a wonderful job! After she sang, our own Meghan Zimmer got a chance to play her in both singles and mixed doubles.
Before actually taking the courts though, we exchanged gift bags with the Idaho Falls team, which was a new experience for our team.
During our afternoon match there were two nail biting tiebreakers. The team spirit was great, and the cheering from the sidelines by own players supporting one another pushed us to a victory in both. The camaraderie was even greater when we went to Olive Garden after all of our matches.
The meal was a good change - to hang out with everyone and not be in a tennis environment. Of course, with our team, nothing can be uneventful. Own own Coach Bacha got the pleasure of having salad dumped all over him because the waiter dropped the plate he was holding, on top of him! We all had a good laugh at that one. As we were leaving the restaurant, we met and talked with the Southern California 14U Intermediate team.
We'll be playing the Southern California 14U Advanced team first thing tomorrow morning! Stay tuned to see how we do against SoCal tomorrow and see who advances to the championship flight.
Oct. 23 - Tiebreakers, Superstitions & Hot Tubs
What a day! Our parents got their money's worth on Saturday, as our matches went to multiple third set tiebreakers!
We are happy to report our Topspin crew went 2-1 in our flight with 12 individual wins, but a bit bummed in the same breath that we finished second to USTA Southwest. As we head into the final day, we'll be fighting for 7th place out of 16 in the nation. Considering the tough competition we faced yesterday and today though... not too shabby.
Our very own Meghan and Abby pulled out their old lucky dresses and metallic ball shorts and dominated in doubles, and Seth and Henry dominated did the same. Christina and Noah fought hard in singles, and we are all very supportive and proud of our teammates, win or lose. It truly was a great day of tennis - we're finding that going head-to-head with this level of competition is too much fun. Its a blast being in Surprise.
After a rewarding day of tennis, it was off to the hotel for some pool and hot tub time! We're sorry to say tomorrow is our last day - it went by way too fast.
Oct. 24 - Departure
We're now on our way home after an exciting weekend, which led us to finish in eighth place. For a scrappy team from Volusia/Flagler County in Florida, we're very proud of how we placed and are so glad we came.
Our very own Coach Bacha missed his first day of teaching in over 20 years for this event - that's how important being here was to him, and how much these kids in particular mean to him. He is a P.E. teacher at Spruce Creek Elementary School in Port Orange, Fla. We loved having Coach Bacha with us, and our experience would not have been the same with out him and his wisdom.
This whole adventure made our team closer as a whole, and we have made so many memories and so many stories to tell for years to come. We met a lot of people from all around the country and made many new friends along the way.
Team Topspin wants to thank our parents, coaches, and our small town support for all of the help and dedication they gave us. We have learned how generous people can be, and we are very appreciative of it. We would also like to thank the Junior Team Tennis Coordinator, and everyone else who made this trip possible and so memorable for us.