The top doc: Illinois’ director of public health features for USTA League national champs

“It was a dream of mine—ask my husband, everybody knows—just to get to sectionals. I just wanted to get to Indy [Indianapolis, where USTA Midwest holds its sectional qualifier for nationals], and I’d never gotten the chance. There were so many teams competing in 18-and-over, and then I turned 40 and moved into the 40-and-over but never got that far,” she said. “Last year, everything was canceled and there was no Indy. This year, we barely eked it out to get our first berth, and I was so excited. I was like, ‘This is the pinnacle. This is what we’ve been talking about!’ And then we won. We beat out [teams from] Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan, and, unbelievably, we were going to nationals.


“There were no expectations. I didn’t even know how you win it,” she added. “I knew there were 17 sections, and I was thinking that the teams who play outdoors would have an advantage over us. We play all of our tennis indoors, and I thought that we’re going to have such a disadvantage because we’re not used to the wind and the sunlight. There are no conditions to battle in the indoor tennis club, where we’re just like, ‘Is the air conditioning up high or not?’ We won the first matches on day one and we were actually at the top of the pack, but we lost miserably in our first match of day two. I just thought, ‘Oh, well, at least we got here.’ We snuck into fourth-place position at the end of day two to reach the semifinals… and to achieve an upset like that, to win, it was just unbelievable.”


Outside of USTA League competition, Ezike says she’s grateful that her professional and personal paths have converged through tennis: some of her earliest USTA League teammates were colleagues from her then-hospital, and her husband and children have all played the game at various levels. She says that those who’ve picked up tennis in the last year should stick with it, and that it can and should have a place in American society long after the pandemic’s effects subside.


“I think sports are just like this big metaphor for life. It’s funny that there are just so many parallels between what you have to endure in your tennis matches versus whatever it is that you’re doing in your work life. The exact same lessons completely apply,” she said.


“Tennis allows us to do so many things. If you just want exercise, you can just play. If you want to do the competition that’s available, there are so many options for you… it absolutely is for everyone of any ability. You don’t have to have grown up with the tennis racquet. All of my kids have taken tennis lessons. Some of them have competed, but it’s something that we’re going to be doing into our late senior years for fun or for competition. It’s available for everyone at every level, differently-abled, whatever it is, at every stage of life. I’m just excited that I have become acquainted with the sport and it’s going to be a lifelong relationship. I recommend it for everyone. I have not had anyone that I have recruited to the sport who hasn’t who hasn’t fallen in love with it.


“I think people who play tennis learn the important lesson that it’s not over until it’s over. I have definitely had those matches. I definitely remember a match where I was up 9-2 in the third-set match tiebreak, and we lost that match. I’ve also been spanked 6-0 in the first set and gone on to win the match. Just remembering that you have to go all the way, you have to fight all the way to that last point, that it’s never over and that you can always come back, it’s just such a great lesson for life.”

via USTA: Find a Tennis Tournament & Play Tennis Near You

October 23, 2021 at 12:16PM

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