NorCal Mixed 18 & Over Adult League Team Crowned National Champions
The 2022 USTA League National Championships are well underway and continue to be a great showing of NorCal's Adult Leagues teams. We are proud to share another one of our teams has claimed the title of champions! Congratulations to the Mixed 18 and Over 7.0 team from AAA Tennis out of Rinconada Park for winning the National Championship of their division in Surprise, Ariz. on November 4-6, 2022.
We caught up with captain Andy Cheng to hear about his team’s journey to and at Nationals and how they earned the national title.
We're excited to share that we had over 40 teams represent NorCal at the National Championships. Check out photos of the many teams who competed at Nationals and represented our NorCal section proudly!
Mixed 18 & Over 7.0 Team Captain Andy Cheng:
In November 2021, AAA’s Mixed 18+ 7.0 team played at USTA Nationals, losing to SoCal in the first pool play match. SoCal emerged as the winner and took home the USTA National Championship that year, while AAA went 2-2, placed 8th overall, and took away some hard-earned lessons from the losses.
The Growth Mindset
With the mentality of always learning and improving not only in each individual's tennis game but also in how the team is managed and supported across seasons and years, AAA spent the last two months of 2021 forming a new team for the start of the 2022 18+ Mixed season. Finding new team members extended beyond existing friendships and tennis skills. We searched for future superstars based on:
- A passion for playing tennis.
- The desire to learn/improve one's own tennis game.
- To be open-minded to try new strategies that might go against conventional tennis wisdom.
- Kind and genuinely nice people to share this journey with, join a broader tennis enthusiast community, and form lifelong friendships even outside of tennis.
A Different Training Approach
With that mindset in place, both on and off the court, we emphasized core strategies that we believed were crucial to succeed in doubles play with disparate skill levels on the court. Beyond playing league matches, practices focused on drills and simulations rather than set play. Taking lessons with pros, recording and reviewing practice and match footage to reinforce specific strategies, conducting quantitative video analytics, creating individual development chats for each player, and other “secret sauce” elements were all part of the preparation and team support. We watched our players improve their skills, mindsets, and strengthen friendships over the course of the 10-week season.
Making it to Sectionals
At Sectionals in April 2022, we felt prepared to take on the other NorCal teams. The team cruised through pool play and swept 3-0 in both the semi-finals and finals. The team was ecstatic just to make it to Nationals. For most members, it was going to be their first time. In the seven months leading up to Nationals, the team desired continued training, so we opened up our training sessions to the broader tennis community.
The Journey at Nationals
At USTA League Nationals was a great experience for the team, and we ensured that every team member who attended played at least one match. The team finished the first two days of pool play 12-0. In the semi-finals, the team had a very tough start against the Florida team. Both D1 and D2 dropped the first sets, while D3 took the first set. D3 finished their match first, winning in straight sets. Both D1 and D2 started the second set in the lead, with D1 eventually taking the second set. D2 had a 3-0 lead, but the opponents adjusted well, clawing back to 4-4. D1 started the super tiebreak strong, leading 9-4, and eventually closed out the match at 10-6.
Claiming the Championship Title
After making it out of the semi-finals, the team played against SoCal, the section that beat us in the very first round of Nationals in 2021 and the eventual winners that year, in the finals. SoCal comfortably swept Hawaii in the semi-finals with two one-sided matches. All of our lines started strong, leading with a break in all three lines. Our smallest but toughest 3.0 lady, Amy, partnered with the veteran Don in D1, and played SoCal’s strongest pair on the stadium court. The opponent 4.0 repeatedly crushed forehands, but Amy stood 10 feet behind the baseline and comfortably lobbed the balls back. Don was able to place the ball anywhere he wanted to and moved the opponents all over the court. The goal was to tire the opponents out, and it worked well, allowing our D1 to lead 5-3 and serve for the set. D2 consisted of Paolo, our team jokester, and Monisha, our fearless athlete. Paolo unleashed his beautiful baseline game combined with ridiculous dropshots, frustrating the opponents. Monisha was able to trade at the baseline and could run down any ball. D2 stayed in the lead the entire match and closed it out in straight sets 6-3 6-3. In D3, we had Andy with his aggressive net game partnered with Nicole, whose unorthodox shots made it very difficult for opponents to adapt. Although taking the first set, this pair was down a break in the second, with the opponent’s serving at 4-3. Fortunately, we were able to break, hold Nicole’s serve, and break again, locking in the championship 2-0.
Our team members rushed onto the courts, roaring, and embracing one another. We quickly went to let our D1 know that we had won. Surprisingly, they were still in the first set tiebreak! Although 7.0 had finally come to an end, it was not over for NorCal. Our 9.0 mixed teammates were also battling in the final. We all transitioned over to their courts to cheer for the 9.0 team, most of whom were close friends and part of AAA. The 9.0 NorCal team was also able to secure a 2-1 win, and the two teams were able to celebrate together. We think it might be the first time a section won both 7.0 and 9.0 mixed together at the same site and on the same weekend. Quite possibly, history had just been made!
Reflecting back on the year, AAA is certainly very proud of the National titles and the epic journey of this team in particular. However, more importantly, AAA is proud of the fortitude displayed in the face of adversity and discrimination, the strengthening of this community, and the enduring relationships that were built during the process, win or lose. We invite all potentially like-minded individuals to join us for drills and practice anytime. We look forward to meeting you on the court in 2023.
Lastly, this epic journey would not be possible firstly without the structure and support of both USTA staff and volunteers including USTA NorCal section (Mike), USTA National (Liz, Guillermo), and the Nationals officials (May, Ray, and Chris). Of course, we must mention all the players that fought for every point at Nationals pulling off some amazing wins during pool play (Christy, Oxana, Justin, Taryn, Alex), as well as other teammates that carried the team during Sectionals, playoffs, and local league play (Jimmy, Danny, Qingqing, Hurjane, Cheryl, Nikhil, Jay). Special shout out to Hurjane for coming to Nationals with the team as transportation, lodging, restaurant, meals, and boba coordinator. Thank you to SALA, our AAA team sponsor, for their unwavering support. Thank you to the Xelay Foundation for the awesome 2022 Nationals North Face jackets. Thank you to all the coaches including John (Bay Club), Aaron (SV), Brandon (Stanford), Francis (Berkeley), Dane and Max (Scottsdale Ranch), Christi and Sumant (AAA). Last, but not least, thank you captains Andy and Allen (who didn’t play a single match) for strategizing, researching, doing lineups, and all the thankless things captains do.
AAA Tennis was founded in 2021 as part of a non-profit organization (Xelay Foundation) to support and empower the tennis community of the local Bay Area. The mission of AAA Tennis is to connect and develop the San Francisco Bay Area tennis community through recreational competition, player development and support, and community engagement. The mission of AAA within the SF Bay Area tennis community is closely aligned with the Xelay Foundation mission, as both organizations aim to support and develop our local communities.
Today, the AAA family has grown to 250+ and continues to grow, fielding numerous tennis league teams including 14 USTA league teams (2021 Men’s 4.0, 2021 Mixed 7.0 x2, 2021 Men’s 7.5 Combo, 2021 Men's Tri-Level, 2022 Mixed 6.0, 2022 Mixed 7.0, 2022 Mixed 8.0, 2022 Women’s 3.0, 2022 Men’s 4.5, 2022 Men’s 7.5 Combo, 2022 Men’s 8.5 Combo, 2022 Women’s 6.5 Combo, 2022 Men's Tri-Level), 6 of which are USTA Nationals teams. AAA team members have participated in over 60 USTA league teams, 20+ tournaments, and 14 USTA National championships with 4 USTA National Championship titles to date.