The Smith Barney Strikers have already proven their skills on the courts this season en route to the 18U Junior Team Tennis National Championships. However, something that is not as noticeable is how successful they are in the classroom. It is not a requirement that teams have a Rhodes Scholar in order to compete in Surprise, but this team may have a few in the future.
Winners of the 18U Florida Advanced section, the Smith Barney Strikers come into this weekend’s competition boasting a 3.9 overall team GPA. Miles Saffran, a freshman at Trinity Preparatory High School in Winter Park, has the highest GPA of any boy’s tennis player throughout Florida. Rocco English, a sophomore at Winter Park High School, is a straight-A student and is part of the International Baccalaureate Program.
"While it’s not a requirement for our team, high academic achievement is very important to us," said team Co-Captain Pam Saffran, and mother of Miles. "We want our players to have a good balance between school and tennis."
While the academic achievements of this team are nothing short of outstanding, their accolades on the tennis court are equally as impressive. Stephen Watson has been ranked as the top boy’s player in Florida for the 10, 12 and 14 and under age groups, and also represented Florida this year during Intersectionals. His stellar play has not gone unnoticed as he was also featured on the Tennis Channel in September as an "Up and Coming Star" in the sport. Logan Walker won Zonals this year as a player on the Florida team, in addition to being a member of the Smith Barney Strikers. A ninth grade home schooled student, Logan competes for Jensen High School as one of the team’s top singles players.
On the girl’s side, Alexa Ricci, a sophomore from Longwood, is one of the top 20 girl’s 14U players in the state of Florida. Coco Xu, one of the youngest players competing this weekend at only 12 years old, is currently ranked #4 in Florida in the 14U age group.
Additionally, Coco Xu and Stephen Watson are both enrolled in two of the top tennis academies. Coco attends the International Tennis Academy in Delray Beach and Stephen is enrolled at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch & Academy in New Braunfels, Texas.
While the Smith Barney Strikers may be one of the youngest teams competing at this year’s 18U Junior Team Tennis National Championships, their achievements both on and off the court are impressive.