Doubles partners Shokhrukh Muradov, left, and Nick Marringa talk strategy and tactics during a match (Courtesy Alin Pop)

It’s not uncommon for professional tennis stars like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena and Venus Williams to proudly display their Grand Slam championships or other notable awards in some kind of trophy room at their home.

Lorenza Foster-Simbulan, 9, has chosen a similar interior decorating plan for her Glen Ellyn bedroom regarding a team photo of the Oak Brook Tennis Center 10 & Under Junior Team.

The team photo was presented to Foster-Simbulan and her teammates at an Oak Brook Tennis Center-hosted party in August honoring the players’ noteworthy accomplishment of winning the USTA Midwest 10 & Under Junior National Team Tennis Sectional Championship on July 31 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“I know exactly where to put (the team photo),” Foster-Simbulan said. “I have a blank wall in my room and that’s where the picture will fit perfectly.

“The tournament was really fun. We played really well as a team in both singles and doubles. Playing kids from other states was a little different but cool.”

The OBTC 10 & Under Junior Team swept four dual matches against teams from Illinois, Michigan and Ohio en route to the coveted title. For the second time in three years, an OBTC squad secured the championship in this division.

“Everyone on our team was confident that we were going to win,” said Shokhrukh Muradov, a 10-year-old team member from Westmont. “We had great teamwork with everybody cheering for each other. Even if one of us was losing or in a close match, the rest of us would yell, ‘c’mon, you can do this’ and we won most of our matches.

“We also practiced a lot with our coaches to get our serves and ground strokes ready for the tournament.”

In addition to Foster-Simbulan and Muradov, the remaining members of the OBTC 10 & Under Junior Team includes Clare Lopatka (Oak Brook), Rachelle Qin (Oak Brook), Renee Qin (Oak Brook), Nick Marringa (Hinsdale), Alexander Pop (Morton Grove), Richard Chen (Clarendon Hills) and Alex Buttin (Western Springs).

Dorin Iacob and Alin Pop coached the team. Alin Pop is also the Oak Brook Tennis Center manager.

In 2014, Iacob selected players from the OBTC’s Junior Development Program to train in the 10 & Under Academy Program.

“Dorin did an excellent job,” Alin Pop said. “To develop kids from the development program in an academy setting in such a short time is impressive.”

10 & U team has won multiple titles; future appears bright

In the short span of a year and a half, the tight-knit team has won a Chicago District title to complement its Midwest Sectional championship under Iacob’s direction. Iacob, from Romania, has been a tennis coach the past 16 years (including a coaching stint in Japan).

“We have a very strong team, especially with the older kids who have been with us for a year or more,” Iacob said about the current OBTC 10 & Under group. “This year, the players typically train together once a month and play another team once a month as well.

“At the Oak Brook Tennis Center, we foster player development from the beginning with foam balls and smaller courts. Once the kids can rally a bit, we move them to red balls and a bigger net. It’s a developmental process with age appropriate equipment.

“Our 10 & Under team has been fun to watch because we have made them into serious players with a lot of remaining potential.”

Buttin has certainly seen his game improve in a short period.

“I love tennis because it helps with my movement,” said Buttin, from Western Springs. “Tennis gives little time to react so I’ve improved my reflexes, strength and speed.”

For Alin Pop, whose son Alexander plays on the team, the 10 & Under team’s Midwest Sectional title reinforces the teaching philosophy he brought to the OBTC in 2010.

“To see players that have trained with us from the beginning achieve so much in such a short time speaks to the excellence of our 10 & Under progressive training program.

“Winning the Midwest Sectional title is very rewarding for the players and our tennis club. It was nice seeing the kids get emotional because I felt emotions during the tournament. When they are older, these kids will remember this accomplishment and the experience of the tournament overall.”

While the OBTC players competed hard between the lines, they also had fun off the courts.

“At the hotel, we all went to the pool together and had a lot of fun,” Alexander Pop said. “This is my first year at the Oak Brook Tennis Center and it has been fun, especially with my dad working there.”

At the aforementioned August party, the OBTC hosted not only the 10 & Under team but all the youth players who participated in tennis camps at the club during the summer.

Drinks, hamburgers, hot dogs and snacks were served to all the campers who attended the party. One lucky camper, Lily Lopatka, won a bike during a raffle.

“We had a great summer at the Oak Brook Tennis Center,” Alin Pop said. “We had our highest turnout of kids for the tennis summer camps. The kids came to the center and met new friends, while having fun and improving as tennis players.”

The Oak Brook Park District Tennis Center is a nationally recognized facility. Tennis Magazine selected our Tennis Center as one of the “Top 25 Municipal Tennis Facilities.” The USTA recognized the Tennis Center as “Outstanding Public Tennis Facility” and “2013 USTA Chicago Facility of the Year.”

For more information, visit or call (630) 990-4660

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...