July 20, 2019 | 85° F

USTA?Invite presents team with historic setting

Photo by Conor Alwell |

Junior Stefania Balasa tied teammate Lindsay Balsamo for the best conference singles record, winning eight of 10 matches.

After two idle weeks, the Rutgers tennis team takes the court again this weekend when it travels to Flushing Meadows, N.Y., to compete in the USTA Invitational.

The Scarlet Knights play for the first time since Sept. 23, when they participated in the Brown Invitational. Much like that tournament, the USTA Invitational is a collection of several teams from around the region competing in a singles tournament.

“There are tons of teams that come,” said assistant coach Hilary Ritchie. “Some of them are regional, and a lot of the Ivy League teams come, too, so it’s really good competition.”

The tournament consists of nine singles flights and five doubles flights, manually assigned by the tournament director.

The USTA Invitational is located in nearby New York City in the same stadium that the U.S. Open took place last month. The opportunity to play close to home and on the same court of tennis icons excites the players, Ritchie said.

“It’s a great atmosphere and a great venue,” she said. “Especially with the tournament being held only a few months after the U.S. Open, I think they all get really excited knowing this huge Grand Slam was held there, and they’re playing on the same court as some of their idols and professional players.”

With two weeks since their last tournament, the Knights have concentrated on consistency and implementing new strategies, Ritchie said.

“We’ve been focused on being a little more consistent in singles play,” she said. “Our general focus has definitely been on our doubles strategy. We’ve been trying to mix it up and just trying to be a more aggressive doubles team.”

Rutgers played well in its first tournament of the season, but Ritchie and head coach Ben Bucca believe there is still room for improvement. Ritchie thinks if the team implements the strategies it worked on in practice, the Knights will have an even more successful tournament this weekend.

“I think we had a good tournament at Brown,” Richie said, “but I think we can have an even better tournament this weekend just because we’ve been training for a few more weeks. This being a young team, it’s always nice to really see how they’re going to compete. I’d like to see a lot of things we implement in doubles, but I’d also like to see them work really hard in singles.”

The Brown Invitational was the team’s first regular season event this year, as well as three freshmen’s first college experiences. Having the tournament behind them made it easier for them to prepare for the USTA.

“I think they will be more relaxed now having played some matches and knowing what the format looks like,” Ritchie said. “Now they know that they have the skillset to be right in there on every match.”

By Mike Morton

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