NTRP NATIONALS SPOTLIGHT:
BRANDON & ANDREW CUSICK
Ashley Marshall | December 7, 2018
This year, the USTA launched the NTRP National Championships, a new national adult tournament that leverages the NTRP rating system as a way to create level-based competition. The event enjoyed an overwhelmingly successful inaugural year, and USTA.com is highlighting the players who made it special. Learn how to qualify for the NTRP National Championships in your section here.
This week, we caught up with USTA members Brandon and Andrew Cusick, who teamed up to reach the 18 & Over 4.5 doubles final at the NTRP Championships in Surprise, Ariz. The brothers played competitively as juniors, but they took time away from the game to focus on their studies in college.
Brandon and Andrew Cusick grew up playing tennis from a young age on the public courts near their Kansas City home. Their mother Barbara had played collegiately, and the brothers quickly fell in love with the sport.ADVERTISEMENT
They played competitively throughout high school but eventually took a break from the game in college to focus on their studies. While the brothers each went their own way after high school, they were reunited in Kansas City in 2015 and quickly rekindled their passion for tennis.
On the court together again just like when they were kids, the Cusicks played on several teams and in multiple USTA Leagues. And earlier this year, they reached the final of the inaugural NTRP National Championships, a new national adult tournament that utilizes NTRP ratings to create level-based competition.
The brothers qualified for NTRP Nationals by virtue of collecting enough ranking points from different events throughout the year. As the top eligible 4.5-ranked team from the USTA Missouri Valley section, Brandon and Andrew joined around 400 other players at the first-ever NTRP National Championships, held at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, Ariz.
“It was such a cool moment,” 30-year-old Brandon said of learning they had qualified. “It was so neat, getting that golden ticket in the mail. It was very cool.”
The brothers won their round-robin pool and progressed into the knockout stages of the competition. They extended their run in Surprise with a semifinal win before falling to champions Michael Clayborne and Raymond Martinez in the deciding set of the abridged Fast4 tournament.
The tournament gave the Cusicks a chance to test their skills against the best similarly ranked NTRP teams in the country, and it reaffirmed their love for a sport that helped define their childhood.
“We played some extraordinary teams and had some great conversations with people from everywhere,” said 28-year-old Andrew, who also plays on a 9.0 mixed doubles team, is the co-captain of a 4.5 men’s team and is a member of a tri-level team that went to sectionals in Iowa. “It was great to see the level of play in different districts. The Midwest and Missouri Valley 4.5 talent doesn’t compare with Texas and California. We really had to step up our game; it was a lot of fun. It was really meaningful to have the opportunity to play at that level.
“As well as the social aspect and the chance to remain competitive throughout my older age, tennis is a great way to exercise and work out and stay healthy.”
The brothers were introduced to the sport in elementary school and continued playing throughout their years at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kan., where Andrew captained a team that included four-time Grand Slam doubles champion and 2016 Olympic gold-medal winner Jack Sock.
“We picked up racquets pretty young, maybe 5 or 6 years old, and we played recreationally until we were juniors, when we started competing,” Brandon said.
“For me, the love of tennis blossomed in high school. I fell in love with the team aspect. It was a small high school in the middle of Kansas, and it didn’t draw huge attention, but it had a good sports program.”
After high school, Brandon headed to the West Coast to earn a double major in health and business law from Loyola Marymount University in California before completing his MBA at the University of Iowa and pre-med studies at Harvard University. Andrew also followed his brother west, earning a degree in architecture from the University of Arizona before accepting a position with a design company back in Kansas City in 2015.
Loyola Marymount had a D-I tennis program and a good club tennis team, but Brandon followed his father Doug’s advice and spent more time on his academics than organized sport.
“I put the racquet down and picked up a surf board and never looked back,” said Brandon, who hopes to introduce his 16-month-old son Jett to tennis in the coming year. “I focused on my studies. After high school, I didn’t really play tennis.”
Brandon worked during the summers and said it wasn’t really until he came back from studying in Italy as part of a CIMBA program and attended graduate school at Harvard that he started playing again. It was there that he met a freshman from Kansas City who asked him to hit. “I dusted off my racquet and got my shoes shipped out from home. It was a beautiful New England day in the fall, and it just felt great. I got that high-school feeling coming back.”
Brandon married his fiancé Megan in 2014 and returned to Kansas City the following year, living just 20 minutes from his childhood home. Reunited, Brandon and Andrew started hitting together, eventually partnering on the doubles court after Brandon moved up from a 4.0 level to a 4.5.
“I was always waiting for the day [Brandon] wanted to come back to tennis,” Andrew said. “Now I want to play as much doubles as I can with him.”
After playing for fun as children, competitively as tournament-level juniors and now both recreationally and competitively as adults, the brothers have a deep appreciation for the life-long benefits of tennis.
“As long as we’re in the same city, I‘d play every day of the week with my brother,” said Brandon, who plays regularly at the Genesis Health Club in Overland Park and the Plaza Tennis Club in Kansas City. “I love it so much. I believe in the life-long value of tennis. Look at baseball or softball or football – they’re harder to continue later in life. But tennis is the only one to break that mold where anybody can step on the court and play.”
But as much as the brothers enjoy playing in USTA League events, the NTRP National Championships offered something new. It gave them a year-long goal to work toward, and it inspired them and other like-minded players to register for tournaments that offer points that can be used towards entry into the NTRP Nationals.
“Tournaments are not as popular in the USTA Missouri Valley section, especially in [the] Heart of America [district],” Brandon said. “With leagues, you can finish in first place, and it doesn’t amount to anything. So once they announced the NTRP National tournament, where your points can get you into a championship in the spring, we started paying attention.”
Added Andrew, a member at Holbrook Country Club: “NTRP Nationals was an awesome opportunity. It was very much needed for getting people to play tournaments and gain points. Tournament play had died down a bit, so this was good motivation to play, not just in the area, but district-wide.
“Tennis pushes you to stay fit and healthy, but it also has a community aspect to it. You play in a softball league or a kickball league, it doesn’t have that community that tennis has. The addictiveness comes from joining new teams and meeting new people. You don’t have to have 11 or 12 players like you do in soccer. You just need one other person to have a great time.”
Learn how to qualify for the NTRP National Championships in your section here.