Eastern Team Places Second at Nationals
We love(s) to see it. On the final weekend of competition at the 2021 USTA League National Championships, Eastern’s 40 & Over Mixed 8.0 team—dubbed the 40 Loves—netted one more big result for the section, finishing runner-up in their division.
“I think the key to our success was that everyone was sensitive and supportive of other teammates, and simultaneously rigorously honest with me about their desire and readiness to play a particular match,” said 40 Loves Captain Arthur Ferrante. “That meant everyone who went out on the court went out with fire in the belly, and a focused mindset.”
Another key: a deep roster. A whopping 18 members of the Bergen County, N.J.-based team flew across the country to show support and partake in the Championships, which were contested November 12-14 in Surprise, Arizona.
“There are so many things that make the 40 Loves special, but maybe the one that stands out the most is that breadth and depth,” Ferrante said. “Every single one of our pairs contributed a win to the season, to our undefeated Sectionals victory, and to our run at Nationals.”
The latter run proved dominant from the start. The team captured three of their first four matches, overcoming squads from USTA Caribbean, USTA Texas and USTA Missouri Valley to attain the fourth-best record (of 16 sections represented in the division) and advance to the semifinals. There, they faced a tough opponent in an undefeated contingent from USTA New England, a team that not only had the overall best record going into the final stages of the tournament, but who had also bested the Eastern group earlier in the weekend to hand the New Jerseyans their only loss. Luckily, going into Round 2, Ferrante made the most of the 40 Loves’ greatest strength: their aforementioned depth.
“We were happy to have a rematch,” Ferrante said. “The pair who won our only court [the first time we played New England] was confident they could do it again, and we swapped a pair who had lost earlier with one who was a touch more confident. Finally, we mixed up partners for one of our strongest men, who was certain he could play better [given another chance]. We might have been slightly surprised at how strong they were the first time around. But we were ready for them the second time!”
The adjustments worked, and the 40 Loves flipped the script in the rematch, capturing two of three courts to advance to the final. Although they’d eventually finish runner-up to USTA Florida in that matchup, Ferrante was proud that all 18 members got the most out of their experience at Nationals—ultimately the cherry on top of an incredibly successful season that included a commanding win (and a delicious team outing) at the USTA Eastern Sectional Championships earlier in the year.
“What we did at Sectionals was extraordinary,” Ferrante said. “We played different lineups in every match. And we won every match. That felt so great, a true team effort. And the ice cream place in Schenectady was awesome!”
Arizona may not have been able to match the caliber of upstate New York’s dessert options, but considering the outcome, the trip proved just as sweet, with camaraderie and team spirit a main feature.
“The most fun part of the weekend was watching each other make great shots, cheering for each other, and doing the ‘Hands in: Eastern on Three!’ chant before each match,” Ferrante said. “For many of us, our result at Nationals was the pinnacle of our experience as competitive tennis players. But it also was the best possible way to extend a delightful season with teammates we really like.”
Check out full USTA League National Championship results here.