Editor’s Be aware: That is the primary installment of “Comeback From Quarantine”, a weekly collection on Staten Island’s native highschool athletes and the way they’ve dealt with the pandemic. It’ll run each Friday on a weekly foundation.
Fourteen-year-old George Sfouggatakis, a religious tennis participant who fell in love with the game almost 4 years in the past, was eagerly getting ready for his first highschool tennis season as a freshman at Xaverian this previous March.
Whereas training 4 occasions per week and juggling the pains of his first yr of highschool, the Dongan Hills native discovered consolation on the court docket — the place he excelled and hoped to earn a spot as one of many Clippers high varsity gamers final season, although he by no means obtained the prospect.
“When the quarantine hit, we misplaced our season,” mentioned Sfouggatakis, who was scheduled to play matches later that month. “I used to be training to be one of many high varsity gamers, I used to be training on the day I discovered [the season was cancelled].
“It felt like a punch within the intestine,” he added. “I used to be actually trying ahead to it, after which it was simply cancelled.”
The shutdown meant no college, no observe, and no tennis.
For Sfouggatakis, whose uncle performed for the Xaverian tennis group within the Nineties, it was a misplaced alternative.
“I fell in love with [tennis],” he mentioned. “I wasn’t good once I began, however via laborious work and perseverance I’ve grow to be the participant I’m.”
His mindset didn’t change — and whereas no courts had been open, Sfouggatakis discovered artistic methods to work on his response time in his personal yard.
George’s father Andrew would stand behind him within the yard holding a soccer, whereas he awaited the sign — when Andrew yelled “go”, George would shortly spin round and catch the ball earlier than it might hit the bottom.
As well as, George would hop on the train bike and do sit-ups to take care of his cardio.
All of the whereas, he was preserving in contact with pals and coaches to examine in on the tennis season, within the hopes that it’d return.
“I used to be preserving in contact with Coach [Ed] Perpetua and speaking with pals all through the quarantine, hoping to have a season,” mentioned Sfouggatakis. “I used to be making an attempt to determine once I might get again on the court docket.
“I stored pondering possibly another week, another week…and it was [three] months,” he added.
In June, he was lastly capable of return to observe at Perpetua’s tennis academy.
“I used to be ecstatic,” mentioned Sfouggatakis, who remembered the precise date he’d final picked up a racquet.
“March thirteenth,” he mentioned. “I used to be fearful I’d be unhealthy at first, however it’s like driving a motorcycle, all of it clicks.”
BACK AT IT
Although america Tennis Affiliation wasn’t sanctioning matches, Sfouggatakis was capable of practice on the Ed Perpetua Tennis Academy — the place he spent seven hours a day, 5 days per week.
In August, he would compete within the Academy’s annual summer season event.
“I informed all my pals let’s go, that is our time to shine,” mentioned Sfouggatakis. “I knew I needed to show myself, I needed to be the very best in camp.”
In event play, Sfouggatakis put his abilities on full show — rallying after dropping the opening set, 6-3, earlier than incomes 7-5 and 6-3 triumphs within the ultimate two units to upend runner-up Johnathan Belibasakis.
“It reveals laborious work pays off and now I’ve one thing to indicate for it,” mentioned Sfouggatakis. “Tennis took up most of my summer season, I put all of my time into it.”
Lower than two weeks after claiming the event title, catastrophe struck when Sfouggatakis broke two of his toes in a freak accident at residence — placing tennis on the shelf but once more.
“It felt like quarantine 2.0,” he mentioned.
However, he’s again on the court docket after returning to observe on the Perpetua Academy simply final week.
“I’m getting ready for the highschool season, I wish to dominate my division,” mentioned Sfouggatakis. “I sit up for a constructive and profitable highschool season…I’ve large objectives and aspirations.
“Due to Coach Perpetua and my dad for sticking with me via the circumstance,” he concluded.