The CNMI National Tennis Team is finally complete and ready to defend home soil in the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 after the arrival of several highly touted netters.
Last Monday national tennis coach and NMSA Sports of Famer Jeff Race finally saw his players up close and personal as the team held its first practice four days before the opening of the quadrennial event.
“We had a good practice today. It feels great to have the team all together,” he said.
Arriving these past few days to complete the team are defending men’s singles and mixed doubles champion Colin Sinclair, who plays in the ITF men’s tour; Pacific William Woods University varsity player and Samoa Pacific Games veteran Robbie Schorr, Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Isabel Herras, and Albany State University’s Asia Raulerson.
The four join Colin Ramsey, Bobby Cruz, Hye Jin Elliot, and Serin Chung in the national tennis team.
Sinclair, who grew up in the CNMI and is the son of Pacific Games veterans Peter and Kathryn, said returning to the CNMI after 12 years is surreal.
“It’s crazy how much I remember. I’ve been thinking about this place my whole life and it’s been in the back of my mind. I saw Managaha again and I came from the airport this morning and saw our old house. It feels like home.”
In the Mini Games competition, the 27-year-old said the field seems to be as strong as it was in Samoa.
“I know it’s the Mini Games but the level will be just as good as the Pacific Games. I know some of these guys by playing Davis Cup with them—Brett Baudinet of Cook Island, Clemont Mainguy of Vanuatu, and Matthew Stubbing over here from PNG. I really think it’s going to be a good level and the CNMI has a really good chance at doing well.”
As the expected top seed, Sinclair said he will just take it one game at a time.
“Looking at Robbie right now in the team event, we have a very good chance. Robbie is a really strong No. 2. I think we’ll do really well. I will play mixed doubles with Isabel who I haven’t played with before. So, that’s going to be fun and I think she’s a really strong player. Will do OK and we’ll see.”
Sinclair also said the $6,000 incentive for a gold medal being dangled in the Mini Games is “amazing.”
“I’m pretty excited to be honest with the $6,000 incentive for the gold medal. Traveling around playing tennis in the circuit that I’m in I don’t see that kind of money too often.”
Schorr, meanwhile, said he’s been practicing at the newly resurfaced American Memorial Park tennis courts since arriving last Thursday.
“I think we will try to win as many events as we can. We have a good team. We have Colin Sinclair on the men’s team,” he said.
Like his men’s doubles partner, Schorr said it’s a nice touch that the government has incentivized podium finishes in this year’s Mini Games.
“A lot of pressure to win the gold medal with the $6,000 incentive, but we’re here to have fun, compete, and play tennis.”
For Herras, getting the opportunity to play with Sinclair and competing for a gold medal is a thrill of a lifetime.
“I am definitely looking forward to partnering with Colin Sinclair. He is an amazing pro player. We hope to bring the CNMI a gold medal.”
Other than that Herras is just happy to be at home playing and representing the CNMI.
“I started playing tennis at the AMP courts and it’s crazy to think that 13 years later, I’m playing at the same courts representing the CNMI in the Mini Games. These AMP courts have been through a lot throughout the years and the new surface has made these courts incredible. I look forward to competing on these courts,” she said.
Raulerson echoed Herras when she said that it’s great to be back home.
“I feel a lot of nostalgia because I just remember a lot of stuff just driving around everywhere. The last time I was on Saipan was in 2016,” she said.
Raulerson said playing in the Mini Games will allow her to showcase how much she improved since leaving the islands.
“It’s a great opportunity to just show myself out there and see how I can do against these great players and see where I’m at. I did pretty well last season and our conference record was 12-2 and I got All-American honors for both singles and doubles for NCAA II.”
Sinclair also encouraged everyone in the CNMI to support the home team.
“I love to see as much support from the home crowd as possible. It’s gonna be a really good high level of tennis we’ll be playing here. Anytime you have a chance to come down please do so as we’ll be playing the whole 10 or so days.