Traveling to tournaments on weekends and training five hours a day on weekdays, freshman Natalie Block dedicates much of her life to tennis. Block has been playing tennis for eight years, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) ranked her as number one in Florida and six in the nation. Block has won several tournaments, including last year’s Easter Bowl’s National Championship, but her most recent victory stands out. Block played up in age with a sixteen-year-old partner and won the 2019 USTA National Doubles Championship August 25 right outside Lake Nona in Orlando.
“We really really wanted to win this tournament. We were awarded a golden ball which is a really prestigious award,” said Block. The golden ball can only be won at four tournaments, so to Block, earning this was a great accomplishment. Block stated, “This award means a lot to me, and I feel very proud that I was able to achieve this as a freshman.” Block explained that not just anybody could come to this tournament; competitors had to qualify. Once there, the top 64 nationally-ranked girls are paired up and entered into a 32-team pool. Over the course of three days, Block’s road to the finals consisted of five games against some of the top tennis players in the country.
Block’s partner in the tournament was sixteen-year-old girl named Amber McGinnis from Sunrise, Florida. She was not such good friends with her until recently, and the pair only started practicing together a few months back. “It takes a little getting used to when playing with a new partner — getting used to the decision making, the shots they hit, [and] who is gonna hit shots down the middle,” Block said. “If you have the right partner, things will be pretty easy, and it will click.”
During the week, Block’s training consists of three different parts. Every day she leaves school at lunch, and begins training at 2:00 p.m.. From 2-4 she practices with other players doing drills and scrimmages. Immediately after, she works for another hour and a half with her private coach on individual techniques to improve her game. She then has fitness from 6-7 and works to strengthen her muscles as well as build an endurance.
Looking into the future, Block hopes all of the hours she put into tennis will pay off. “I definitely want to play for a top division one college, but I don’t know about professionally because of other opportunities and injuries,” Block said. At the moment, her top college choices are UCLA, Stanford and Columbia. She feels confident that if she continues to work hard, she can play for any of those teams and follow her dreams.