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Claire Handa’s win sparks Friends Academy to tennis title

Friends' Claire Handa on her way to a

Friends' Claire Handa on her way to a win over Commack's Kimberly Liao during their first singles match at John J. Burns Park in Massapequa on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

For Claire Handa, team tennis was such an enjoyable concept she is sorry she waited until her senior year to try it.

“This was my first year playing in high school. I had played individual tennis and was already committed to college, so I thought this was a way to show some school spirit and ease my way into team tennis for college,” said Handa, a senior at Friends Academy who will play next fall at the University of Chicago. “I had so much fun. I loved it. If I could go back, I would’ve done it for four years.”

Handa rallied from a set down to defeat Kimberly Liao, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday in the featured first singles match that provided Friends with the decisive fourth match in a 5-2 girls tennis victory over Commack in the one-time only Long Island USTA Executive Cup played at Burns Park in Massapequa.

The event, sponsored by the USTA and hosted by Massapequa High School, was conceived to match the 2016 Nassau (Friends) and Suffolk (Commack) champions and fill a void since there has not been a Long Island championship in boys or girls tennis since 2013.

Yesterday’s match also was a case of back to the future for the sport. Beginning in the fall of 2017, a Long Island team championship will be held for girls and boys tennis, alternating county sites each year and using the host county’s rules — a point of contention that contributed to the demise of the title contest.

“It dissolved because the two counties did things differently and couldn’t agree on a formula,” Suffolk County executive director Don Webster said. “But we all got together and came up with a compromise. We couldn’t get the agreement done in time for this season and we didn’t want to do it just for the boys next spring, so we’re starting fresh with the 2017-18 school year.”

Nassau County executive director Nina Van Erk, who attended Wednesday’s event, said that the method for determining lineups has yet to be finalized, but the other major difference between the counties was resolved. Beginning next year, Van Erk said, the host county’s formats will be used for the LICs — three singles and four doubles for Nassau; four singles and three doubles for Suffolk.

Since Nassau hosted Wednesday’s Executive Cup, four doubles matches and three singles matches were played. “We’re grateful to the USTA for sponsoring this event and giving the students the opportunity to compete in the interim,” Van Erk said.

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