Doubles netter seeks title

Justin Belnavis of St. Francis Prep High School on the court.
Photo by Clifton Belnavis

It has been a team effort with all five positions coming out victorious and some by big scores at St. Francis Prep High School as its tennis team seeks a title. With two players already committing to college, one member of the tennis team Justin Belnavis still has not made up his mind about whether he stays locally or goes out of town.

Justin, a former volley ball player during his third year of high school, returned to tennis, and is primarily a doubles player at St. Francis Prep, located in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Now he is concentrating mainly on the racquet activity.

During the time that he was competing in volleyball, he really liked this sport. He said that volley ball was kind of similar to tennis, and that’s why he switched back to tennis.

Justin’s father Clifton is a native of Jamaica, West Indies who resides in Elmont, Long Island. Before taking up residence here Belnavis lived in England.

It was Clifton who first introduced his son into tennis at a young age. When Justin was about five years old, the two went to a nearby park to get him into the sport. The youngster joined a program conducted by Bill Biggs and along with his staff introduced him into into the sport. Justin enjoyed tennis and played often at Roy Wilkins Park and in the Youth and Tennis program.

Justin took advantage of the lessons, kept on improving under the direction of Briggs and he continued the sport when he entered high school.

In a dual match against Archbishop Molloy High School, held at the latter’s home site, Alley Pond Park, he teamed with Matt Curceo to defeat Molloy’s Brendan Silva and Christian Cirillo, 6-0, 6-1, in second doubles to help his team win, 5-0. St. Francis after the match remained undefeated in dual competition by the same 5-0 score.

Justin said that he speaks with his father 24-7.

“He sees potential in me,” Justin went on. “He (along with head coach at St. Francis Prep John Brennan) help me out. He tells me not to be nervous (on the court). Just go out and play your (match).”

During his time at St. Francis Prep, he stopped playing tennis for a while because he was getting better in volley ball. He ’s back again at tennis concentrating on one sport.

“In tennis, I still have to work on my net game and back hand, (to be a complete player),” he went on. “Now I love tennis!”

Coach Brennan feels optimistic about the team winning the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association city-wide tennis championship come later on in the month. Fordham Prep is the defending title holder, and in a dual match already earlier in the season, the Terriers won the match.

The championship match is set for the USTA National Tennis Center in Queens, on the same grounds that the professionals battle it out at the U.S. Open is starting in the middle of August. The main draw lasts about two weeks.

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