Turning Love into Aces

The love for tennis knows no bounds. However, for some families, the cost of tennis can include more than just playing the game. For highly competitive junior players, the cost of tennis includes traveling to local and regional tournaments, extra hours on the court training and frequent purchases of new equipment. Every year, USTA Mid-Atlantic helps support these juniors and their families by providing scholarships that help ease the  financial impact associated with high levels of junior competition. Because of the support we receive from our members, players and donors, we are able to help junior players continue on his or her journey through tennis and becoming an ace both on and off the court. Read about why your support matters and what one scholarship recipient has to say about the impact our scholarships make.


Dear USTA Mid-Atlantic:

My name is Jelani Sarr, and I am 13 years old. All my life I’ve been playing the game I love – tennis. Since no one in my family has ever played tennis, how I started playing tennis is kind of an unusual story.

My story starts with me, my cousin, and my stepdad, waiting for my mom outside of the local library. While she was inside getting books, my stepdad, who I call my Uncle Coach, was trying to keep me and my cousin busy by having us hit some tennis balls against the wall with some old wooden racquets he had in his trunk. I was only three years old. Since that day, I’ve played other sports, like football and wrestling, but I kept coming back to tennis. It just stuck. I’ve been playing competitive tennis ever since.

Tennis has made multiple impacts on my life. For one, I travel to places in the United States that are beautiful! I also meet new friends among my fellow players. When we are not on the tennis court, we don’t see each other as competitors but as friends. My parents’ lives have also been affected because they get to travel with me. They have supported me all my life and have never given up on me; we have grown so much together.

A proud moment for me, where I felt like I have given back to my parents, was when I received a Sportsmanship award after winning my first National tournament. To cap it all off, the tournament sponsor let me wear his Golden State Warriors championship ring. I felt like a real warrior that day!

I would like to say thank you to the USTA Mid-Atlantic scholarship program and to everyone who supports it. This scholarship has been so important to me and my family because it makes me feel good to see my parents receiving something for a change. My parents have worked really hard to provide me with opportunities in the sport of tennis and given me tools to go as far as I can. This scholarship is recognition for all tennis parents and their hard work for turning all their love into our aces.


Jelani Sarr


Jelani is an avid competitor in tennis tournaments across the nation and one of thousands in the Section that compete year-round with a dream of going pro. Support stories like Jelani’s by making a tax-deductible contribution to USTA Mid-Atlantic today! For more information about our fundraising initiatives, reach out to Helen Li at li@mas.usta.com.


This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Matt Modderno’s Story

This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section. Meet Matt Modderno from Gaithersburg, Md. Over the past two years, Matt has played on over 20 League teams across Maryland, DC and Virginia! To share your story or send to someone you know, click here.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I work full-time for the FAA while attending grad school. And that’s in addition to my other full-time job, captaining USTA teams!

How has tennis impacted your life?

Tennis is my outlet. It’s helped me meet some of my best friends in life, blow off steam after a stressful work day, and its the only thing keeping me from being 300lbs.

When and how did you first become involved with the USTA?

I played my first league in 2010 during my senior year of college. I played pick-up tennis next to a guy who was very active in leagues so he got me on his teams and we are still good friends and teammates to this day.

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Matt (far right) and his teammates took home a 4th place finish at USTA National Championships in 2016

When thinking about tennis’ role in your life, how do you feel?

I mostly feel satisfied, with some happiness and pride mixed in. I’ve met good people, gotten better at the sport, and been reasonably successful in league play.

What do you like most about tennis? What keeps you coming back to the sport?

Being able to compete. There aren’t many options for adults to compete in recreational sports where the people actually take it seriously. The grateful teammates who reach out and tell you that they had a good experience being on your team/teammates with you keeps me coming back.

Top Finishers at League Nationals: A Summary Presented by Courtyard by Marriott Newport News/Yorktown

The 2017 USTA League National Championships are underway and Mid-Atlantic teams are racking up the trophies! Check out these top 4 finishing teams from the first month of Championships, and congratulations to all the teams representing Mid-Atlantic who have played at Nationals this year.

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The 5.0 Women from Richmond took home 4th place at the Adult 18 & Over Championship in Orlando on 10/8. The team was captained by Maria Sorkin.

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Fredrik Skoglund’s 5.0+ team from Montgomery County finished in 3rd place at the Adult 18 & Over Championship on 10/8.

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Kevin Ro’s 3.0 Men’s team from Columbia came in 3rd place at the Adult 40 & Over Championships on 10/15 in Ft. Lauderdale.

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Representing Washington, DC, the 4.0 team captained by Elliot Rogers won 3rd place in Orlando on 10/22 at the Adult 40 & Over Championship.

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Virginia Beach’s 8.0 Men’s team earned the first National Championship for the Mid-Atlantic in 2017 at the Adult 55 & Over tournament. Richard Stevens’ team took home the title in Orlando on 10/29.

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The 3.5 Men’s team from Washington, DC were Finalists at the Adult 40 & Over Championship in Ft. Lauderdale on 10/29. This team was captained by Chris Lee.

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Diane Yates’  8.0 team from Norfolk won 3rd place at the Adult 55 & Over Championship in Orlando on 10/29.

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The High Rollers captained by Vinnie Khera were Champions of the 10.0 division at the Mixed 18 & Over Championship in Mobile on 11/5.

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The 6.0 team from Highland, Md. were semifinalists at the Mixed 18 & Over Championship in Mobile on 11/5. Won Lee was captain.

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Montgomery County’s 6.0 team advanced from the round robin stage and earned a third place finish at the Mixed 40 & Over Championship on 11/12. The team was captained by Won Lee.

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The 8.0 team representing Montgomery County and captained by Marketa Chromkova won a National Championship in the Mixed 40 & Over category on 11/12.

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Chris Cosca’s 4.5 team out of DC took home a 2nd place finish at the Adult 18 & Over Championship in Orlando on 11/12.

This post is presented by Courtyard by Marriott Newport News/Yorktown. Located near a number of attractions in Newport News, Courtyard by Marriott has hosted many Mid-Atlantic League teams playing at Regionals and Sectionals throughout 2017. 

This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Kirk Comer’s Story

This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section. Meet Kirk Comer from Shenandoah, Va. Kirk was named the 2014 USTA Mid-Atlantic High School Coach of the Year and was one of ten coaches across the country named to the 2016 USTA No-Cut Coach All-Star Team. To share your story or send to someone you know, click here.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am 47 years old, married with three daughters and have lived my entire life on the same road in Page County, Virginia. I enjoy many different types of recreation. I always enjoy anything outdoors and have played and coached many different sports over the years.

How did tennis first become part of your life?

My high school – Page County High School – did not have tennis when I attended. The only tennis instruction we had was watching great players over the static-filled TV screens with McEnroe, Connors, Lendl, Becker and Chang coming first to mind during my high school years. We would rather poorly attempt to copy their movements on the courts, but my friends and I would put our game faces on and had many exciting matches on the only two tennis courts located in our county.

Fast forward many years and I took my daughters to a tennis camp in Harrisonburg where they learned the basics of tennis from some instructors that really made the camp fun for them. My daughters wanted a tennis team at our high school and – to make a long story short – we finally were able to do it and have not looked back. I was lucky enough to coach the team and saw our no-cut team grow from eight players the first season to the mid-twenties for the last three seasons! Tennis has introduced me to a interesting, diverse group of people that are always super supportive of each other.

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The “Original 8” at Page County High School

When did you get involved with USTA Mid-Atlantic?

When our family started the high school team I asked the USTA for help. The next thing I knew we had formed a 501(c)(3) Community Tennis Association, and I was attending USTA workshops to learn more about tennis. As a coach I was able to use a version of Junior Team Tennis to give lower ladder players a way to compete in a fun atmosphere, and I’ve found NJTL clinics very beneficial to introducing new players to the sport of tennis.

When thinking back on your tennis journey, how do you feel?

Accomplishment and enjoyment because we have been able to grow tennis in a small area where tennis used to be nonexistent. I’ve also enjoyed seeing our no-cut team that only has two courts to practice on not only give all high school students a chance to be part of a team team but also compete and often times win against our opponents. Last season only two teams were able to earns wins over us. Looking back from my daughters grabbing their friends to meet in a classroom to form a eight player no-cut team to last year’s 27-player roster, which saw our top ladder players competing at high school matches with trips to the ice cream stand afterwards while our lower ladder players stayed behind and competed for prizes in our teams version of Junior Team Tennis was an incredible thing to be a part of! And for rainy days we made our own tennis courts inside of local gymnasiums!

What do you like most about tennis? What keeps you coming back?

I actually enjoy playing even more than coaching and at 47 years old tennis provides me a opportunity to compete. I’ll keep playing and coaching for as long as I can but hands down the best part of tennis is all the great people I get to meet. Tennis has been a blessing to me for sure!

This is MAS Tennis: Abigail Plylar’s Story

This post is part of a series that tells the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section. Meet junior player Abigail Plylar from Salisbury, Md. To share your story or send to someone you know, click here.

Tell us about yourself

I am a 10th grade student at Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin, Md.  I have played tennis since I was about 8.  I love the sport and traveling around to visit tennis venues – my favorite was a behind the scenes tour at Wimbledon. Both my parents play, so we are able to play as a family when we travel.  I’ve also met some great players and coaches during our travels. Tennis is a lifelong sport that I hope to continue playing competitively and for fun for many, many years to come.

How has tennis impacted your life?

Tennis has impacted my life in so many positive ways, and it has also allowed me to hopefully impact many, many other lives through a tournament I began hosting in 2016 called Love for Lungs.  In two years, I have raised almost $60,000 for lung research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in honor of my grandfather who passed away from Pulmonary Fibrosis.  My hope is that this tournament not only raises important research funds, but raises awareness of this disease to our community and beyond.  I’m thankful that I can share my love of tennis with so many people and for a great cause.

Abigail Plylar

How do you feel when you think about the Love for Lungs tournament?

Blessed, enthusiastic, hopeful, excited – to share my love of the sport and create awareness for a deadly disease and hopefully impact groundbreaking research through money I am raising.

How long have you been playing USTA events?

I first started playing in USTA tournaments when I was 10.  Between these tournaments, the college combine at the USTA campus and various tennis camps around the US, I have met great friends from so many places.  It’s fun to compete and keep in touch with these people.

What keeps you coming back tennis?

Tennis is a lifelong sport and a fun activity for me and my family.  We play together and have so much fun on the court with each other.  It’s my release when I am stressed about school, and it teaches me to be competitive and supportive of my team members. I have been able to travel to play atcompetitions, but also just for fun with my family.  It’s great exercise and I also love how my coach ties playing tennis to math and science.