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Florence boy, area enjoying JTT State Championships

July 18, 2015 04:48 PM

By Jonathon Braden
USTA South Carolina

FLORENCE, S.C. – Ayan Guha has never experienced anything quite like what he and his Florence teammates are enjoying this weekend. Ayan, 10, is playing in his first team tennis state championship.

Ayan Guha

He has played at tennis tournaments by himself before, but never at a team tennis championship with his friends.

“I like it better because there’s more to rely on,” Ayan said in between matches Saturday. “If you lose, you still have your other teammates to back you up.”

Ayan’s 10 and under team “Ebenezer Might” is representing the host city at this weekend’s USTA South Carolina Junior Team Tennis State Championships, being held at the Dr. Eddie Floyd Florence Tennis Center and continuing through Sunday.

His team is the only squad from Florence at the championships, but Florence tennis organizers plan on growing their local JTT program to get more kids enjoying tennis and playing at the JTT State Championships.

Organizers want to work with youth tennis programs throughout the area to form more teams of younger kids ages 6 to 14. Organizers also want to grow the local JTT program with the area's older kids, the boys and girls who have enjoyed the sport for years.

“I’m excited for the future of team tennis,” said Gary Elms, Florence’s JTT coordinator. “I see a lot of growth coming.”

Ayan and his teammates, along with the other 240 players from across the state at the championships, advanced this far by playing well and having fun in their local JTT leagues. The teams are co-ed and play three types of matches – singles, doubles and mixed doubles – during their team contests.

This is the first year since 2013 that Florence has had a team at the state championships, which have been held in Florence since 2012. Bringing Florence teams to state is always fun, said Ed Sprenger of the Florence Tennis Association. But more importantly, Sprenger said, the tennis nonprofit wants to get more kids playing overall.

“Let’s just get them playing and having fun,” said Sprenger, the association’s vice president and tournament chairman.

Having fun was easy for Ayan and his teammates. They played their first match on Friday evening and were playing again Saturday morning against a team from Pawleys Island. A crowd of family members and friends had gathered around their match at the tennis center.

Ayan is usually nervous at the beginning of his matches, said his mother, Simi Sachdev, who was among the parents watching and cheering. And he was nervous again Saturday, falling behind in the first set.

“You can do it, Ayan,” one parent shouted.


Ayan Guha playing on Saturday morning during the USTA South Carolina Junior Team Tennis State Championships. (USTA SC photo)

In the second set, Ayan eventually calmed down and won a couple games.

He lost the match, 0-4 and 2-4, but he wasn’t too perturbed. The players shook hands, and Ayan made sure to change the on-court scoreboard back to 0-0 for the players who would next take the court.

Besides the exercise Ayan gets from tennis, his mother appreciates the life skills that her he has learned from the sport. “It gives them discipline, a sense of belonging,” Sachdev said.

Tennis also has taught Ayan impulse control. instead of acting out his frustration on court when something goes wrong, Sachdev said. Ayan has to think about what’s working and what’s not working, and adjust according.

Elms, the Florence JTT coordinator, wants more kids to learn life skills through JTT. This fall, Elms will coordinate another JTT season. He hopes to quadruple the spring season’s count of 25 players by partnering with the many strong kids’ tennis programs in the area.

Sprenger also would like to recruit some older kids to play JTT. “I’d really like to see our high school (players) come together and make high school teams,” Sprenger said.

He will have an easy time recruiting Ayan when he’s of high school age.

Ayan likes JTT so much he’s already looking forward to the next eight years of team tennis.

“I really want to play on tennis teams when I move on to middle school and high school,” Ayan said. “It’s been really fun.”

USTA South Carolina JTT State Championships schedule


9 a.m. – 6 p.m.: Championships conclude.