Club tennis faces tough competition at USTA National Invitational tournament in Orlando

The URI Club Tennis team at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida. PHOTO CREDIT: Lily Frappier, Club Tennis President

The University of Rhode Island Club Tennis team traveled to the United States Tennis Association’s national campus in Orlando, Florida from February 24-26 to compete in the USTA Spring Invitational tournament.

Lily Frappier, a fourth-year at URI and the president of the club tennis team, said that a national competition like this has not happened since before the COVID-19 pandemic, so this was the first time that anyone on the team was able to go and compete.

“It was all very exciting,” Frappier said. “It was the first time for everything, like getting the hotels, the rental cars, the airplane tickets, and then competing at the national campus, which has, like, 50 courts.”

For second-year student and team treasurer Neil Ellis, his favorite part was being able to travel as a team and represent URI at a national level, something that not many club teams get to do. 

“By the time we were going on the trip, we had formed some friendships within the group that went, so it helped to solidify new friendships for some of us who had been friends for a while,” Ellis said. 

Another new experience that many members on the team had was the experience in playing on clay courts as opposed to hard courts, Frappier said. According to her, clay courts can be easier to play on because it’s easier to slide, however it can be more difficult to play on because the ball bounces differently than it does on cement.

The tournament was three days long and the team played a total of seven matches, which is a lot more than they’re used to, Frappier said. The team would leave the hotel around 7:30 am and would not get back until around 3 pm each afternoon, playing in “beautiful weather,” but intense Floridian heat, she said. 

The matches consisted of a total of two singles, women’s and men’s double matches and a mixed match, which is when a woman and a man from each team compete against two from another team in a doubles format, Frappier said.

Ellis said that competing at the national level meant that the team got to play other “high level” teams that they would not usually get to play within a regular season. Frappier said that during the regular tennis season, the team competes in matches almost every weekend against local universities like Bryant University and the University of Connecticut.

“The competition was difficult,” Ellis said. “Most of the teams we played went on to be in the championship match for their respective brackets, but the higher level of tennis we played was helpful in giving us all valuable experience and opportunities to see what we need to improve on.”

The season starts for the club tennis team with tryouts in the beginning of the fall semester and outdoor practice going until late November, Frappier said. The team then moves onto practicing on indoor courts from December through to spring break, when they move outside again and start competing.

A setback for the team has been due to the ongoing construction of their tennis courts, which are located at the bottom of campus near Boss Ice Arena and Independence Square, Frappier mentioned. The courts have been under construction since June of 2020, and construction has been put to a halt for the better part of eight months. 

With no home court to practice on, the team has been renting out tennis courts at local middle schools and other recreational courts in the area, which has been more difficult to set practice times each week, Frappier said. Besides this setback, she said that she is looking forward to the rest of the season with the team.

Ellis said that the season has been “good” so far for the club tennis team, with a lot of new players on the roster allowing them to experiment with different lineups and pairings. He said that they have been seeing a lot of talent and good chemistry between players during matches and tournaments.

Something that both Ellis and Frappier are looking forward to is the alumni tournament, which happens at the end of April, where former URI club tennis team players come back and play against each other and against the current students on the team. The match is scheduled to take place on April 29th at Broad Rock Middle School.