Love Thy Neighbor, Especially when They're Your Doubles Partner

Neighborhood communities and friendships seem to be a thing of the past. More and more the 21st century way of being a part of the community is to ignore the one right outside of your front door and interact in the virtual community instead. Yet for Eastchester residents, Martina Cribiori (above left) and Stella Burke (above right), it was the 20th century neighborly mentally that helped them connect.

Their friendship would start like many neighborly friendships do, walking down the street with their kids in their respective strollers. “We would pass each other most days walking around our neighborhood,” commented Stella who reflects back on their first few interactions. “My youngest son and her daughter are the same age, so the timing of passing each other on our daily walks seem to work out well.”

After the first few cordial greetings on the street and their conversations would spark over their mutual love of food and restaurants. “We started meeting for lunch and when the kids were little,’ said Martina. "We had a lot of common interests and got along really well," Stella added. One of those common interests of both their pasts was tennis.

Both Martina and Stella had played tennis sparingly while growing up, but as with many, life happens. They both would not have time to pick up a racquet for a long time. “I started playing again a year ago and got hooked,” said Stella. "My sister played a lot growing up and my parents liked to play as well. My son started playing, so I wanted to get better, so that I could play with him,” Stella commented. “I love watching the pros play especially, Roger Federer, and trying to take things that I learn from watching them and apply those skills to my own game as much as possible." Martina started playing with her family when she was growing up, but stopped when she was 16. "I got too busy with other activities and my family stopped playing too, so tennis got put on the shelf for awhile," said Martina.

It was Stella that would introduce Martina to Yonkers Tennis and one of Stella’s favorite pros, Rene Guerrero. “I lived in Yonkers for about 6 years with my husband before we had kids, so I always knew about the club. I didn’t know Rene that well, but I asked if I could refer Martina to him because I thought their personalities would match up well,” commented Stella. “During one of our hangouts, I told Stella I was looking for a fun way to exercise and lose weight, and she mentioned that I should start playing tennis with one of the tennis pro's at YTC, Rene,” Martina commented. “I’m very shy and Rene walked my through what I needed to do to start playing. He had to drop the ball in front of me at first because I couldn’t hit it,” laughed Martina as she recounts her first time on court with Rene. “Starting to play with Rene saved my life,” added Martina. “I have a hard time staying motivated and tennis for me is a fun activity that helps me relieve my stress.”

The two friends recently played in their first USTA doubles tournament together after many months of working on their games. Both were excited to play and nervous to put their skills to the test in their first competitive event, even if they didn’t come out on top that night. “We both got nervous at different times. I was nervous at before the event, but Martina talked me into doing it. Then on the night of the event, Martina got more nervous than I was. We finally got through our jitters and starting playing better,” said Stella. Being friends before stepping on court helped them make the event fun, even if they weren't winning. Stella said after the matches, "we both quickly figured out that we needed to learn how to end the point, instead of hitting it right back to them, but we had fun either way."

Thanks to some old school community bonding, Martina and Stella became friends, and Yonkers Tennis Center's community gained two great people that love to play the game!


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