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Long-Distance Rivalry Spurs Friendly Competition at 2011 Mixed Nationals

By Matt Birch, special to USTA.com
TUCSON, Ariz. 
2011 Mixed 6.0Ariff Sumar from the USTA 6.0 Middle States team and Allan Neri from the USTA 6.0 Hawaii team first met a few weeks ago in California where they competed against each other in a World TeamTennis tournament. The two were reunited this weekend in Tucson at the USTA League Mixed Doubles National Championships and have brought their teams together in a unique display of sportsmanship, competition and having fun.
Sumar explained that he "saw Neri walking around the Jim Reffkin Tennis Center early in the weekend and recognized him from their match in Palm Springs." Sumar, who captains the 6.0 group from Pennsylvania, "was hoping that he would get another chance to compete against Neri this weekend."
2011 6.0 Mixed Middle StatesThe Hawaii and Middle States teams were contending in separate flights of the 6.0 tournament, which meant that they would only face each other if both teams reached the championship round. Unfortunately, after round-robin play wrapped up on Saturday afternoon, the teams did not qualify for the semifinals round.
Later on Saturday, when the 6.0 semifinals were set to begin, Sumar and Neri organized a friendly match between their two teams. Although the hometowns of these two groups are over 5,600 miles apart, they bonded on the back courts of the tennis complex, getting to know each other and sharing a lot of laughs.
At a tournament where competition is at its highest for League Tennis, these two teams demonstrated some of the most important qualities of the league program. They have shown an amazing sense of sportsmanship, got a chance to meet and compete with players from across the country, and have made new friendships, all while having fun in the process.
Photos by Juan Ocampo: Rubber Duckies (top); Middle States (bottom)