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Southern Squad Led By Seasoned Coach

October 28, 2011 01:47 PM
Tony Mule's USTA Southern Advanced team is considered an early favorite to take it all at the 2011 18U Jr. Team Tennis Nationals.
Coach Tony Mule (right) is high on his 2011 team, who has fought through illness and fatigue to make it to Surprise.
By Kyle Kuhnel, special to USTA.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -
As the 32 teams arrive in Surprise they all covet the same title: 2011 Junior Team Tennis National Champion.  All of these kids have pushed themselves both physically and mentally, gearing-up for a chance to compete among the best junior players in the country.

For some, this is a return trip to the National Championships and experience can play a large role in their team’s success.  Understanding what it takes to succeed in the team tennis concept can help a player grind through a tough match, or help them prepare mentally for rigors of the three-day tournament.

The 18 & Under Advanced team from USTA Southern Section have the unique ability to draw on the experiences from somebody who understands what it takes to succeed at this level: Their coach, Tony Mule, competed in - and won - the 2009 5.0 Adult USTA League National League Championship with USTA Southern.

"The whole team aspect is something that is a little unique for some of these kids," said Mule. "I’ve been around some teams that don’t embrace the concept because they all want to be the best player, but not this group. They are great bunch of kids who understand that it’s not just about them and more importantly, they have a lot of fun."

Despite Tony’s encouragement and guidance both on and off the court, there is one factor that he won’t be able to help his team through this week – fatigue.  The team only has six players in Surprise, which means that everyone will be involved in every match. 

It’s an obstacle that Tony’s team has battled through as they fought their way to the National Championship, and Tony couldn’t be more proud of his team’s resiliency and fight.

"Every one of our kids has stepped-up their game and fought through some tough matches," said Mule. "We’ve had players cramping, getting sick, but still finding the resolve to win. It’s been a great journey, but there is more work to be done."

Under the tutelage of a National Champion, the Tony Mule GVP team will not be afraid of the big moment, nor the expectations – last week, both 14 & Under Southern teams took home national titles at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex.

"I think we have a great chance and I think we are a strong contender for the championship."

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