Albert Carrington Balink Award Recipient: Sophia Fornaris

January 28, 2021

2019 Junior Competitive Player of the Year Awarded to Sophia Fornaris and Logan Zapp.


This award is presented to a USTA Florida ranked junior player considered to have had the most outstanding full season performance in local, state, and national events and who most nearly approaches ideal sportsmanship, conduct and character.


History: In 1976, then FTA President Tom Garlough suggested creating an award in memory of Albert Carrington Balink due to his devotion in promoting junior tennis. Mr. Balink emigrated from the Netherlands and settled in Pensacola via Pound Ridge, NY and Ft. Lauderdale. He and his family were the founders of the Pensacola Racquet Club creating a “tennis boom” in the Florida Panhandle. By sponsoring international junior player participation, he enhanced the quality of tennis events throughout Florida and the US.


Taking a deeper look into Sophia Fornaris’ accomplishments, a junior career filled with volunteer work, state championships, and carefully balancing her education and competitive schedule, it’s clear that behind the phenomenal player is a great support system.


Fornaris says, “My mom is one of my biggest supporters. She’s been there with me every step of the way. I’ve had a lot of sacrifices of the years and she’s just always been there for me.”

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Fornaris’ accolades include winning the 2019 Bobby Curtis Junior State Championships at just 16 years of age, and a good handful of national tournaments ending with a verbal commitment to play D1 tennis at the University of Michigan. Playing the No. 1 position of her high school team from 2017-2019 led to winning the 2019 Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) State Tennis Championships in the 2A division.


All the while, maintaining a weighted 4.27 GPA at Gulliver High School was no easy feat but for Fornaris, setting goals is a must. “I have always been a full time student in school [and] my teachers [have been] very supportive. I think I’m very well organized both on the court and in the classroom which helps me have a good balance. Big goal or little goal- always having a goal in mind helps you to train with a purpose.”

State your service, accomplishments, achievements and/or contributions:
My Junior tennis career has tremendously impacted my life. USTA tennis and my coaching team have taught me that tennis is truly about “giving something back” to my community.  I have grown up on public tennis Courts in Miami at Tamiami tennis center working with young players (both in clinics and as a tournament volunteer from 2014-2018) & at my current neighborhood club Coral Oaks (2019-2020) wanting to inspire young players to see the beauty & fun of tennis and life lessons learned through competition.  Having reflected over my Junior career & my commitment to Michigan (whose program focuses on Service) – I have realized that my true accomplishments in tennis are not the sparkly trophies in my bedroom but the young players who I have hopefully inspired (while talking over a popsicle or tears over a lost match) or the beautiful friendships I have formed along the way. Thank you USTA for giving me an amazing experience as a young girl and for inspiring me to always stay involved in a sport that will always be a part of me.


How has participation in USTA Florida enriched your life?
My family has always said that “USTA Florida tennis” is part of our “village” that helped raise me. I have learned how to succeed and how to lose. I have learned how to work hard tirelessly & to push my body and mind beyond my perceived limits. I have learned through years of tough matches and blessed friendships that “winning isn’t everything” but that my character and high moral standard must always remain solid. I can’t remember my life without the thrill of tennis nor can I envision my life without always playing or volunteering at some level. I truly believe that through all the ups & downs, smiles & tears & memories with my friends – that I have been so incredibly fortunate to have experienced this unique & crazy journey. I could never imagine my childhood without a racquet in my hand.


List the tennis awards you have received:
Bobby Curtis Florida State Sectional G18s Champion (2019)
Gulliver Preparatory High School 2A Position 1 (2018-2019) Individual District & Regional Team Champion
FHSAA 2019 Class 2A Florida State Team Champion (Position 1)
2018,2019 Miami Herald All County First Team Award

2019 G18s Orange Bowl (WC) R32 Main Draw
2019 G18s Oct. L2 Doubles Champion
2019 G18s Nov. L3 Finalist
2019 G18s May L3 G18s Champion
2019 Easter Bowl QF
2019 National Spring Team
2019 Zimmerman National Tournament
2018 USTA FL Sportsmanship Award Pin – Bobby Curtis Doubles
2018 Bobby Curtis Doubles Finalist
2018 National L1 Doubles Finalist Silver Ball
2018 G16s May L3 Champion
2017 G16s Bobby Curtis Doubles Champion
2017 National Spring Team Sportsmanship Award
2016 G14s Bobby Curtis Doubles Champion
2016 Florida Intersectional Team (Coach Scott Williams)
2014 G12s USTA Florida Bobby Curtis Junior Sectional Sportsmanship Award


Thank you so much for inviting me to participate. As proud as I am of my tennis journey, I am also very proud of my academic accomplishments as a full time student Honors student at Gulliver Preparatory High School in Miami Florida. I am a member of the Science, History, Math & English National Honor Societies. I have played in the No. 1 position on the Gulliver tennis team leading our team to district & regional championships (both individually & as a Team) – as well as the FHSAA 2019 Class 2A Florida State Team Champion. I have maintained over a 4.0 GPA as an Honors student proudly committing to play D1 tennis at the University of Michigan Fall 2021. Go Blue!!!

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