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For Meritz, trip to Nationals a bright spot in a difficult year

October 29, 2016 10:02 PM

By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. – It was a memorable weekend for the Texas Section women’s team from San Antonio. The women not only arrived at the USTA League Adult 18 & Over 4.5 National Championships ready to compete for the title; they came to support a special teammate who accompanied them but was unable to play due to a serious illness.

Team member Martina Meritz, a 39-year-old attorney from San Antonio, was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in January. Since her diagnosis, she has had a double mastectomy, which required several surgeries, and underwent six weeks of radiation treatments and several months of chemotherapy. Next month she is scheduled to have a hysterectomy.

All through the USTA League season, Meritz, a former standout junior player who played collegiate tennis at Trinity University, has received overwhelming support from her friends and teammates.

“It hasn’t been a pleasant year to say the least. I never thought I was going to end my 30s facing death, cancer and therapy. It was a little gut-wrenching, but you have to wake up and keep going,” said Meritz, who has two children, Mila, 3, and Isaac, 7. “I have wonderful friends and family. They have supported me through all of this.”

Even though she has not been able to play this season, the support Meritz has received from her USTA team, which happens to be captained by her mother, 74-year-old Pat Meritz, has provided Martina with inspiration in her battle against breast cancer.

“It’s nice to have my mom as my captain and everybody being such good friends,” she said. “I love them all. They are my family before tennis.”

With her doctors’ permission, Martina traveled to Dallas in August and watched her team, which represents the Jewish Community Center, win the Texas Sectional tournament to earn a spot in the USTA Nationals.

“It was so much fun. We had been to Sectionals several times and the year before we had lost in the finals,” Meritz said. “It was a good time for us. It all fell into place. For such a bad year, it was nice to have something really positive and really happy. It was a treat to have this moment. It was amazing.”   

The team’s support has been a big key for Meritz and her state of mind, according to her mom. The team even had teal-colored shirts made with the phrase, “Your Battle is Our Battle,” printed on each shirt.  

“This team has been so supportive. It’s good to know that there are such friends to support you at times like this,” Pat Meritz said. “I thank tennis for this opportunity to make such good friends. They are more like a family now. When she gets out with this tennis team, it makes her spirits soar. I’m so proud of her for her strength and wonderful attitude. She never let it get her down.”

As Martina continues her fight against cancer, she is already looking forward to her return to the tennis courts.

“I’m hoping by next year to be back on the court,” she said.