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Florida 3.5 team fights through Hurricane Matthew to make Nationals

October 8, 2016 09:51 PM

By Arthur L. Mack, special to USTA.com

MOBILE, Ala.  It’s safe to say the Florida Section team endured the most arduous trip of any team competing in the USTA League Adult 18 & Over 3.5 National Championships at the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center.

The team, based out of the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston, Fla., had its playing schedule turned upside down with Hurricane Matthew threatening the Atlantic Coast. Because of the problems getting the whole team to Mobile, they had to make arrangements to change its scheduled matches. As a result, the team wound up playing all three of its matches on Saturday.

“Two of the matches were originally scheduled for Friday,” said team captain Fernando Moreno. “We were wondering about our chances to come because the hurricane was a Category 4, and it was going to be brutal.”

For obvious reasons, arriving in Mobile by Friday was going to be difficult because of problems getting to the tournament site. That resulted in several phone calls and the kindness of tournament directors to accommodate the team.

“We called around to the tournament directors, and they were kind enough to hear our request and change the schedule. They even changed it twice,” said Moreno. “They changed one match from Friday to Saturday, and we realized that the whole team was not going to be able to make it. For this kind of tournament, you need at least 12 players, so we called again, and they changed all the matches to Saturday. At that point, the whole team was able to reconvene and get here.”

With the problems of rescheduling the matches solved, there was another problem—being able to get to Mobile. Although the airlines had canceled the flights, three team members drove, and others came from Pensacola, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., to get to Mobile.

Meanwhile, Moreno had different problems of his own. In the process of putting up storm shutters for the hurricane, one of them fell on him and caused injuries that left him unable to play this weekend. That injury, along with two other players who were hurt and couldn’t play, made things even tougher.

But despite the obstacles, the team won its first two matches.

“Even though I was not playing, I decided to come,” said Moreno. "This team has been working together for four years, and we made the state tournament with this team three or four times. This is the first time (for us) here at Nationals, and I couldn’t miss it.”

Prior to the tribulations they faced in making it to Mobile, the team had already developed a strong bond through the process of making it to Nationals this year.

“The team has created a chemistry around tennis,” said Moreno. “Some of the players are new, and some of us play for more than one team. We see each other two or three times a week around the courts, and now our wives are playing, as well.”