Written by Vinny Messana Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:00
Oyster Bay resident Neel Raj was recently recognized by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) at the site of this year’s US Open for excellence on the court this season. Raj finished second in the Boys 12 bracket of Eastern Award winners. The awards were based on the 2013 performances of the participants during a series of tournaments.
“I fell in love with the sport very early and was never afraid to compete,” the 12-year-old athlete said. He had a terrific year, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the national tournament in Nebraska. He has qualified for the Super Nationals in Tucson this winter.
Despite his young age, Raj has a tremendous work ethic which has enabled him to successfully compete against players two years older than he. At the age of 8, he competed in a 10U tournament in which he finished third in the Eastern region. By the age of 10, he was competing in national tournaments.
“I practice three hours per day and do an hour of conditioning at least four times per week,” he said. That is quite the workload for a young boy. Raj, however, is not complaining: “I cannot think of doing anything but playing tennis and I am passionate about the sport.”
Raj is ranked in the top 30 nationally and number four in the Eastern region. He plans on pursuing tennis in college and ultimately at the professional level. Based on his results thus far, US Open seeding may well be in his future.