Eastern at the 2021 NTRP National Championships

Scott Sode | April 26, 2021

Back in the swing! Twelve players represented USTA Eastern at the 2021 NTRP National Championships, held April 9-11 and April 16-18 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida, the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, California, and the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex in Surprise, Arizona. (The three venues split up the event by age groups and divisions.) The Championships had been cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and many of those competing for the section advanced to the national stage due to their 2019 NTRP tournament results.


Learn more about playing in NTRP tournaments and NTRP Championships.


Jim Avallone, of Smithtown N.Y., placed third in singles in the Men’s 50 & Over 3.5 division. Avallone, who contested his event at the National Campus, won all three of his flight matches, defeating his opponents 4-2, 4-3; 4-3, 4-3; and 4-3, 1-4, 4-2, respectively. Then, in the elimination rounds, he advanced to the semifinals, where he rolled his ankle and was forced to retire after three games.

“My goal was to try and win the competition, although I knew it would be tough to do so,” Avallone said. “I made it to the semifinals so I did feel very proud of myself.”


Avallone credited his success to all of his hard work prior to the start of the tournament. He specifically praised Sportime Kings Park Teaching Pro Chris Tattanelli for helping to further improve Avallone’s game. “He has been a great coach and a big source of inspiration,” Avallone said.


In fact, Avallone noted that—at least prior to the ankle roll—his greatest test during the Championships wasn’t anything physical or mental. Instead, it was geographical.


“Playing outdoors in the Florida sun and wind—as a New Yorker who has been playing indoors for what feels like forever—was the most challenging issue that I faced in the tournament,” he said. “I just did what I could to get re-adjusted to outdoor tennis.”

Despite the conditions and the injury, Avallone was glad he made the trip. He appreciated both the scenery (“The USTA National Campus is beautiful, and really is a must visit for any tennis enthusiast,” he said) and the camaraderie among his fellow players, including Susan Bacey, who represented USTA Eastern in the Women’s 50 & Over 4.5 division, and Matt Bartell, who captured the title in the Men’s 50 & Over 4.0 division.


“Matt is actually from Minnesota and plays for [USTA Northern], but he spends several months out of the year on Long Island,” Avallone said. “We all constantly rooted and cheered for each other.”


Avallone previously advanced to two prior National Championship tournaments, having made both the USTA League National Championships (with his Men’s 18 & Over 3.5 team) and the NTRP National Championships in 2019. Betsy Bickar (pictured, above), of Garden City, N.Y., on the other hand, was competing in just her first-ever event at that level as she represented USTA Eastern in singles in the Women’s 18 & Over 3.0 division.


“I could tell many of these players had a lot of experience and many more hours on the court than I do,” she said. “[But] this event was like a condensed version of all of the challenges I have faced in local tournament play. I had to pull out my best self to get it together, remember what I've faced in the past and what I learned from it, and compete on the same level. I was really proud of myself for pulling out some mental toughness.”

Avallone went 3-0 in the non-elimination round of his event. He eventually placed third overall in his division.

Bickar, who contested her event in Surprise, took a couple hard losses in her flights. She felt like she lost confidence against an “aggressive net player” in her first match and then lost patience against a more consistent opponent in her second.


“In both cases I think I beat myself,” she said. “I was really disappointed afterward, but also viewed it as the moment to overcome my ongoing challenge, which is not to ‘overtry’ and to play the game that I know how to play.”


Bickar was committed to adjusting her mindset in the elimination rounds and reached the semifinals as a result.


“I was really able to pull it together mentally,” she said. “It was a turning point for me. I didn't look back, and the subsequent matches felt more like the way I play in practice. Being able to relax also makes the matches so much more fun!”


Fun is how Bickar would characterize NTRP Nationals overall. She initially debated whether to travel to the event but is more than satisfied she made the choice to attend.


“I am grateful that I was able to compete,” she said. “I learned so much about how to manage my personal challenges as a player. I don't think I would have gained that insight in any other way. I'm already working toward qualifying for next year!”


The full USTA Eastern roster at the NTRP National Championships: 


Jim Avallone (Men’s 50 & Over 3.5 Singles)

Susan Bacey (Women’s 50 & Over 4.5 Singles)

Betsy Bickar (Women’s 18 & Over 3.0 Singles)

Maritoni Carlos (Women’s 50 & Over 4.5 Singles)

Audrey Cohn (Women’s 50 & Over 4.0 Singles)

Claire Gallagher and Lisa Olney (Women’s 18 & Over 3.0 Doubles)

Matias Grandi (Men’s 50 & Over 4.0 Singles)

Jason Hernandez and Udeme Ukutt (Men’s 18 & Over 3.0 Doubles)

Michael Pina (Men’s 18 & Over 3.5 Singles)

Ondrea Schiciano (Women’s 50 & Over 4.0 Singles)


For full 18 & Over singles NTRP National Championship results click here.

For full 18 & Over doubles NTRP National Championship results click here.

For full 50 & Over singles NTRP National Championship results click here.

For full 50 & Over doubles NTRP National Championship results click here.

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