© Juan Campo/USTA
By Doug Drotman
Every team competing in the USTA League Presented by Chrysler National Championships has a special story about how their team met. Very often they are a bunch of friends; some contain a group of co-workers; others include family members. But one thing every team usually has in common is where they come from.
Well, that’s not exactly true for the men representing the Pacific Northwest at the USTA League Presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult Men National Championships from Oct. 3-5 in Las Vegas. Although all of the men now live in the Seattle area, they all traveled unique roads to get there.
Here’s a look at the PNW men, aka. the United Nations of Tennis – Badri Vengalathur – from India; David Kong – from China; captain Chris Smith – born and raised in Brussels, Belgium; Clinton Donough – a native of Ohio; Kerry Burk – from Indiana and Troy Williams – the only Seattle native on the team.
“When Steve Bergquist of the Aces Tennis Shop in Renton, Wash. put us together only Badri and I knew each other,” explained Smith. “I really think our diversity helped us as a team. We all have very different perspectives and represent a wide range of ages, from 21-50 . Since we were all new to the game and team tennis concept, everyone’s input was valuable in helping us improve as a team.”
Since most of the team members were new to the sport, they had very minimal expectations. But as they experienced success, their competitive nature took over.
“We all joined just to feel the thrill of competition,’ admits Smith. “But as the stakes were raised, we worked hard to improve.”
In addition to a weekly match, the team added a weekly practice. As they kept winning, they even hired an instructor, Russ Childers from the University of Washington, to help them reach the next level. All of the hard work and practice paid off as they went undefeated against four local teams during the regular season, and then swept their three matches at the Sectional Championships.
Their success ensures this will be their only trip to the 2.5 National Championships.
“We improved so much that we have been moved up to the 3.0 level for next year. We know that will be tough, so we have real expectations this weekend. This is our chance for a championship,” said Smith. “Although we are new, we are tournament tested.”
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