For Joliet Catholic High School sophomore Nina Bertino, court is almost always in session.
The Bertino family has a tennis court in its back yard and it has been used a lot over the years.
Parents Paul and Jennifer Bertino had the court built around 10 years ago. The court has been used morning, noon and night by older sister Jessica, who played two years at Bradley University, Nina and Dominic, who are standouts at JCA and younger sister Mia, who is in sixth grade and is an up-and-comer.
Some neighbors come over to play, too. Chad and Lucas Randall were top players for Lockport High School who are playing for the University of St. Francis and who hone their skills on the Bertino court.
Nina is a part of Joliet Catholic’s youth movement as she racked up a 10-5 record in her first 15 matches of the season as the team’s No. 1 singles player. The freshman doubles team of McCoy Hutchison-Maddie Bauer has burst onto the scene in a big way, including splitting a pair of matches with the Providence powerhouse duo of Maggie and Kelly Ruane.
“The sectional seeding has not been done yet, but the way things are going, I would be extremely surprised if Nia is not the No. 2 seed and the doubles team is not seeded first or second,” JCA coach Mart Streitz. “They all have a great chance of going to the state tournament.”
Last year Bertino teamed with Alexis Bauer and made it to state and won their first match 6-0, 6-3 over Peoria Richwoods’ Lily Doung-Claire Goldhammer before dropping their next two matches.
Now she moved up to singles and is getting used to it as the days go by.
“I was very nervous gong from doubles to singles,” Bertino said. “I do play singles in USTA tournaments but I always have nerves. I always start off a little nervous but I’m getting more comfortable playing.’’
She’s been thrown into the fire early.
“She is playing some of the top players in the state,” Streitz said. “She lost to (Providence’s Hannah Davis) twice and top players from Benet and Marian Catholic. She has won against everyone else. She’s just a sophomore and a very good player.
“She’s very steady,” he added. “She has good ground strokes. She has a lot of shots – some drop shots and some short game. She has a nice serve. She is a typical back court singles player for the most part but she will come up to the net and volley, too.’’
Bertino can’t contain her enthusiasm for the sport.
“I love the competition and I’m a fierce competitor,” she said. “I love being independent playing singles. I like team sports but I really enjoy the independence of tennis. I think it has made me a better person.’’