Local college coach helps STA move forward

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

There are so many keys to becoming a good tennis player. Practice, practice, practice. Hard work, dedication and devotion.

And, perhaps most importantly, Old Dominion University tennis director Daryl Cummings told the Suffolk Tennis Association (STA) on Saturday night at the Nansemond River Golf Club, always playing the lesser-skilled.

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&uot;Always play people worse than you!&uot; Cummings said to the crowd. &uot;It makes you feel better about yourself.&uot;

A member of the Virginia, Mid-Atlantic and United States tennis associations, the STA has been helping locals learn the game for nearly half a century, said Howard Mast.

&uot;For nine months a year,&uot; said Mast, whose tennis complex off Main Street hosts several tournaments a year, we hold training camps and other programs. We try to tell players to keep up with tennis because team sports are a dead end. A person might be an all-pro field hockey player, but it might end after high school. Tennis you can play forever.&uot;

Cumming hasn’t been doing it for that long, but he’s not slowing down anytime soon. A three-time CAA Coach of the Year and four-time USPTA Coach of the Year, he’s led several players to All-CAA and MVP honors and national rankings, and the Monarch men were ranked 55th in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association – their highest ranking ever – at the end of the 2004 fall season. The ITA ranked Monarch Izak Van Der Merwe ninth in America in singles competition, and he and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy graduate Nate Grover are 26th in doubles.

&uot;The past year has been a fabulous experience,&uot; said Cummings, &uot;and once that happens, its easier for the next generation to come up. It’s easier to follow tradition than to make it.&uot; In August and September, Cummings coached ODU graduate Tzipi Obziler at the U.S. Open, where she made it to the main draw before falling to top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardienne.

&uot;What’s really great to see is organizations like (the STA),&uot; Cummings said. &uot;It shows that people take pride in the community. Over the past 10 or 15 years, tennis has started to go private, like at country clubs. We’ve got to develop better and more players. Suffolk is far ahead of Norfolk, where I live. I see the STA taking ownership of its community and running its own tournaments, and I hope it continues to do that.&uot;

The following players were named tops among their age groups in Suffolk competition for the past season: Girls – Lauren Gersbach (12), Leigh Anne Sexton (14), Whitney Holland (16), Heather Walton (16), Sexton and Maryann Carr (16 doubles). Boys – Askash Shah (10), Kunal Kapoor (14), Bobby Pablo (16), Bart Grover (18).