This article is by guest writer Ryan Dokson.
Ever since she was five years old, Patriot sophomore Natalie Block has been playing tennis. Over the past 11 years, she has become an exceptional tennis player, with two state championships under her belt. She also has family members who used to play amateur sports at a similarly high level. Her mother was a tennis player at Columbia and her father was a college basketball player. To have Natalie follow her mom’s footsteps, her parents enrolled their daughter in tennis lessons. Her mom’s college success inspired Natalie to become an incredible young player.
“My mom played in college. She played for Columbia,” said Natalie, talking about her mother’s sports background. She was also inspired by something else. “There were tennis courts in our community and there was a [well-known] pro there.” So with tennis in her blood, and tennis courts so close with a ready-made teacher Natalie started her journey into the tennis world.
With two state championships already, her first one in 2018, Natalie could be a star in the coming years. Her personal coach, Nick Salviano, believes she can go the distance. Salviano, who was a professional tennis player in the 1970s and 80s, and a top 50 contender, now coaches young tennis players. He has been training Natalie for a few years and thinks she has the potential to thrive professionally.
“She has outstanding potential,” he said of Natalie. “She is a wonderful player, but it’s an ongoing process and she is progressing very nicely.” Coach Salviano believes she will continue to mature into a stronger and more formidable tennis player.
While most athletes haven’t had the opportunity to consistently practice during the pandemic, Natalie has been lucky; she was able to practice during the late spring because her courts were open. According to Coach Salviano, Natalie’s practice wasn’t impacted as much as other sports during the early months of the pandemic. He said, Natalie mostly “has had ups,” meaning she really hasn’t gone through any times where she considered quitting, not even during quarantine. Maybe that’s the type of mojo needed during these difficult times.
Interestingly, Natalie isn’t really sure if she wants to be involved in tennis professionally. When it comes to the future, she said she would like to go to a “well rounded” college and attempt to take part in minor competitions to “test it out.” If sports aren’t for her, then she “still has her college.”
From her family’s inspiring sports background to her current coach’s wisdom, Natalie has taken her raw talent and converted it into skills that have made her a phenomenal athlete that will hopefully capture her third state title. Maybe one day, she may even give Serena Williams or Naomi Osaka a run for their money. Regardless, she is a promising young athlete that’ll likely be talked about for years to come.