BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- In the 47-year history of the Bloomfield High girls' tennis program, Aira Abalos has established herself as one of its best players, and very possibly, the best ever, at BHS.
Now a senior, Abalos is off to a tremendous start this season, playing at the most competitive position in high school tennis, first singles. The affable Abalos, a team captain this fall, recently took some time to talk about her goals and ambitions.
She is highly praised by her coach, Ron Masson, who realizes the 2020 season is going by way too quickly.
"Aira is a wonderful young lady," said Masson, who is in his 34th season as Bloomfield's head coach. "I'm really happy that the kids have the opportunity to play this fall. And to see Aira playing so well is very special for our entire team. She's a tremendous player."
Abalos, the daughter of Rey and Aimee Abalos, is the first player in school history to qualify for the state tournament in her first three years of high school. In 2019, she advanced to the third round of the ultra competitive tourney. While the 2020 season may not include a state tournament, Abalos is far from frustrated. And playing tennis is something she truly enjoys.
"I've been playing tennis since I was 6 years old," said Aira. "My dad was the one who introduced it to me. When I got to (age) 11, I started playing tournaments around the state."
Her favorite professional tennis player is Victoria Azarenka, a former No. 1 player who won back-to-back Australian Open championships, in 2012 and 2013.
"She is still my favorite player," said Aira of Azarenka. "I really like how she plays. She's aggressive and goes for all her shots. I like to think I am the same way, sometimes."
Abalos enjoys all facets of the game.
"I like playing both singles and doubles," she said. "But I play singles a lot more. Doubles is a lot of fun, since you have a partner, and if you have a good partnership, you can do really well. In singles, you have no one but yourself, and you're in control, which teaches you a lot."
The 2020 Bengals are indeed a close-knit group, something Coach Masson also emphasized.
"This year's team is great," she said. "I'm so happy to be part of something like this. It's really taught me a lot about being a team and supporting each other. I've made great friendships since I was a freshman, and am very thankful.
"Being on a team is what I looked forward to most, when I decided to play for the high school. It's a different atmosphere because your teammates are supporting you, and you are there for them too. And even when the season is over, you can still count on each other, because we will always be a team."
Abalos, who plays the game nearly year-round, is happy with her performance so far this season, but like a true competitor, is always looking to improve.
"I am happy with the way I'm playing, but there is always room for improvement," she said. "I can only get better as long as I keep working hard and giving my 100% percent, whenever I play."