A road finally traveled - Mark Warren's long journey to nationals - USTA Southern California
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A road finally traveled – Mark Warren’s long journey to nationals

Success in tennis is relative.

Some might find success in every match they play or every tournament they win. Others may have to wait years to achieve their goals and truly find what they were looking for when playing tennis. Mark Warren had to try for over a decade to finally achieve his dream of playing at nationals. Representing San Diego & North County since 2011, Warren had been close to making it to USTA Nationals numerous times but had never managed to make it. Teetering on elimination once more, he and his team finally climbed the mountaintop, giving Warren a lot to reflect on about his journey in tennis.

Warren was taken with the idea of playing at Nationals upon hearing the stories that his wife had told him about her experiences at the season-ending championships. It was Warren’s wife who had introduced him to playing league tennis and had ignited his goals in the sport. By 2022, he’d lost count of the number of teams that he had captained but estimated that it was around forty. “I’ve taken teams so close, so many times,” said Warren. “We were just never able to get over the hump, so that’s always been the goal, to get to the main event.”

The exciting journey was inevitably tarnished in the end, filled with repeated heartbreak. “My teams have come so close so many times,” Warren lamented, recalling two ten-point tiebreakers that his teams lost, snatching the trip to Nationals away from him at the last hurdle. “It takes so many things to go right for a team to have success. There is always a time when a little luck plays a big part as well. I’ve also learned that a captain can make all the right moves throughout a season, but if a team isn’t loaded with a deep roster, the challenges of playing multiple matches in a day at your highest level can be overwhelming to a team’s chances of making it all the way.”

This year, staring down yet another 10-point tiebreaker, Warren and his team finally came out on top, and the rush of excitement for Warren was almost indescribable. When it finally sunk in that he had made it to the USTA League National Championships, the reactions from those around him was overwhelming. “A lot of people came up and congratulated me, and I was actually overfilled with emotion,” recalled Warren. “I had to put my sunglasses on because I had to hold back the tears. Putting the team together, setting up practices, setting lineups, scouting your opponents and everything involved in being a captain was all worth it. It was a road that was finally traveled and just complete joy for me!”

When he arrived in Arizona for his long-awaited maiden voyage to Nationals, Warren felt vindicated for his relentless efforts. “It was everything I dreamed it would be,” said Warren. “A beautiful center court right as you walked in. The weather happened to be perfect as well. It was nice seeing all of the teams representing their area colors. I enjoyed seeing the camaraderie of team support. You could tell from the start that there was going to be some incredible tennis over the next few days.”

In the end, #TeamSoCal’s Mixed 40 & Over 8.0 team placed third out of over 1300 teams across the country. With his first Nationals experience under his belt, an emotional Warren didn’t want it to end. “We were the very last ones to leave the park,” he said. “Something I learned is that I hope to experience it all again. I know many people play for different reasons, but I hope all those that share this passion get to experience Nationals once, in one way or another.”