By J. Fred Sidhu
INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.
Carmen Agosto hits a forehand during her match.
© Jeff Bottari/USTA
Carmen Agosto in action.
© Jeff Bottari/USTA
– The tennis streak is at nine and counting.
The USTA Caribbean section women’s team is competing in their ninth consecutive USTA League presented by Chrysler 3.5 Senior National Championships this weekend at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The team, which was formed in 2000, is led by Captain Carmen Agosto of San Juan, Puerto Rico. They have won nine straight sectional titles, but are still looking for their first USTA National title. Their best finish was in 2006 when they finished in fourth place in Indian Wells.
Agosto, who began organizing adult tennis teams for 25 years at Arraq Muñe, her tennis club in Puerto Rico, has played in many Section and National championships at different levels, including several with her two daughters.
Ten years ago when she turned 50, she turned over the reins of her USTA Adult league team to one of her daughters and formed her own USTA 3.5 senior team.
Since then, players have come and gone but the one consistent element for the team year after year has been the captain. “I am very proud of representing Puerto Rico (at the Nationals),” said Agosto, who lost a doubles match, 7-6, 6-4, on Friday which took an exhausting two-hours and 45-minutes.
She added, “In Puerto Rico, all of the players call me (to play) when they turn 50.” Even though many of her players get moved up to a higher level after a season, they keep in touch with her. “It’s like a family and there are good friendships. We get together, we go out. It’s very friendly. We enjoy it.”
When asked what it would mean to her to win a USTA National Championship, Agosto responded, “Oh my God, I would like that very, very much. Every year I say the same thing. ‘This year I’m going to win.’ ”
Even if her team doesn’t win a championship, Agosto says the experience of playing in the Nationals is fun and gives her the opportunity to travel. When she comes to the United States to play, she plans side trips and has visited, places such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, San Antonio and Seattle.
It has been a challenge sometimes for the Caribbean team to travel to play in the USTA Nationals. In 2001, the team only had five players at the Nationals in Palm Springs due to 9/11. “It was very difficult, because nobody wanted to fly.” Agosto said. “Some of the players said, ‘We’re not going; we’re afraid of flying.’ ”
This year, three players on the Caribbean team had knee operations and two of them -- Maria Moran and Ary Sanchez -- could not play and did not make the trip to Indian Wells.
The third player, Betsy Serrano, had not played tennis since April and underwent surgery for a torn meniscus on her left knee on August 20. Serrano began playing tennis again last week and finished her therapy earlier this week.
She made the trip to Indian Wells but did not plan to play until Agosto, who thought she was playing well enough to play, inserted her into the lineup on Friday.
For Agosto, this will be her last 3.5 Senior National as she celebrated her 60th birthday on Thursday and plans to play in the Super Seniors next year.
The Caribbean women’s run to a possible title here got off to a rough start on Friday morning as they lost to a powerful Hawaii team 3-0. However, they kept their title hopes alive as they defeated the Pacific Northwest women’s team, 2-1, in an afternoon match.