The consequences of the war in Ukraine extend into every corner of the world, including the world of tennis players here in Southern California. Players from Ukraine that might otherwise have journeyed back home this spring find themselves stranded in the United States, with their careers and livelihoods in tennis hanging in the balance. As the tennis community rallies in support of all players, Elson Cantuaria and his Match Point Tennis Academy hope to provide a solution for some players who find themselves in this situation.
Cantuaria came to the United States from Brazil in 1991, and after a collegiate and professional career, started up Match Point Academy in Santa Ana to provide tennis coaching for over two decades. Over the years, Cantuaria and Match Point Academy have provided scholarships to a plethora of players, many of whom go on to play in college and at the professional level. Now, Cantuaria has turned his attention to the crisis in Ukraine and is starting a program to help players manage the situation.
Starting August 1, Match Point started the Ukrainian nationals scholarship program. Match Point Academy hopes to identify Ukrainian nationals who are high performance tennis players between the ages of 14-20, and who can benefit from housing, food and tennis training for 3-6 months. Cantuaria hopes to start with a program for two players before upping the number to four or six by Fall. The scholarship would be renewable based on need and applicants are able to reapply as they need.
Aside from his own experience and struggle in moving to another country, Cantuaria’s motivation comes from his friendship with Ukrainian nationals, as well as with a longstanding desire to create a non-profit wing to Match Point Academy. “This whole situation in Ukraine and me having this friendship with a Ukrainian person” said Cantuaria, “The fact that I always wanted to create a more specific nonprofit area for the Academy to be able to maybe assist the community at large a little bit more.”
Cantuaria is not at the finish line yet. To build a sustainable assistance program for Ukrainian tennis players, Cantuaria is looking for people who can help with housing in the Orange County area. He hopes to find housing within 50 miles of the Match Point Academy in Santa Ana so that the recipients of the scholarship have easy access to the academy.
“Our mission is to expose kids to different fields, and cultures. That’s something they will have that at the academy,” said Cantuaria, adding that the Academy stresses the importance of academic success hand in hand with a solid tennis foundation. The results speak for themselves, with numerous players earning scholarships to Ivy League and Division 1 universities across the country.
Having created a longstanding sustainable and successful tennis program for children in Santa Ana, Match Point Academy is in prime position to make an impact on the lives of athletes affected by the war in Ukraine. Cantuaria is looking for as much support as he and Match Point Academy can get in order to translate their work in Santa Ana to Ukrainian athletes in SoCal.
Currently, Match Point Tennis Academy’s scholarship program has helped one female Ukrainian collegiate tennis player who will be playing at Cal State Fullerton. Elson De Cantuaria and Anastasiia Gevel hope to reach more players who have been impacted by the war in Ukraine and give them a place to stay and train as well.
For information Contact Elson de Cantuaria by email email@example.com or Anastasiia Gevel at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow Match Point Academy on Instagram @matchpointennisacademy.