By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. – The United States Dubler Cup (Men’s 45s) team overcame the loss of the first match of the day and rebounded to defeat Spain 2-1 at Morgan Club & Resort and advance to the semifinals of the International Tennis Federation World Seniors Team Championships.
The second-seeded U.S. Dubler Cup team will face third-seeded Italy, a 2-1 quarterfinal winner over the Netherlands, on Friday in the semifinals.
The U.S. men were tested in their quarterfinal match against the seventh-seeded Spaniards, who had defeated Argentina and Belgium in group play earlier in the week.
In the opening singles match, Curtis Dunn of San Francisco fell to Spain’s Pablo Semprun, 6-3, 6-4, which gave Spain an early 1-0 lead. In the second singles match, the U.S. sent seniors circuit veteran Mario Tabares against Carlos Costa of Spain.
Last year, Tabares, a former touring tennis professional, won an Adult/Seniors circuit "Golden Slam" as he captured the men’s 45s singles titles at the United States Tennis Association National Grass, Hard, Clay and Indoor Championships.
Against Costa, Tabares used his steady baseline game to move the Spaniard around the court and went on to capture the first set, 6-2. However, the second set proved to be much tighter as Costa raised the level of his game. With the score tied at 5-5 in the second set, Tabares held serve to take a 6-5 lead. Costa served to stay in the set but was unable to hold serve as Tabares closed out the second set 7-5 to win the match.
After splitting the first two singles matches, the doubles match featuring Rick Leach, the former number-one doubles player in the world, and Tabares against Spain’s Semprun and Santiago Tintore would determine which team would advance.
The U.S. fell behind 2-0 in the first set as Leach and Tabares suffered an early service break, but with solid play at the net, they recovered and went on to post an impressive 6-4, 6-2 victory.
While this is the first time the ITF Seniors World Championships are being played in the San Diego area, it is not the first time Rick Leach has played an international team event in San Diego County. In 1990, he made his Davis Cup debut at the nearby La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad as the U.S. hosted Mexico in a first-round World Group match.
Leach and his doubles partner Jim Pugh were victorious that weekend as they defeated Mexico’s Jorge Lozano and Leonardo Lavalle, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-1. "There was a lot of pressure and I remember being relieved when it was done," Leach said.
That same day before the match, Leach chatted with two young twin brothers sitting at courtside who were family friends. He said to them, "You know what guys? You’re going to be playing Davis Cup someday."
As it turned out, the two young twin brothers Leach had spoken to were Bob and Mike Bryan.
The 32nd annual international team event, which is the senior equivalent of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions, features 10 age divisions. The age divisions and the trophies they are playing for are as
Men’s 35 – Italia Cup Women’s 35 – Suzanne Lenglen Cup
Men’s 40 – Tony Trabert Cup Women’s 40 – Young Cup
Men’s 45 – Dubler Cup Women’s 45 – Margaret Court Cup
Men’s 50 – Fred Perry Cup Women’s 50 – Maria Esther Bueno Cup
Men’s 55 – Austria Cup Women’s 55 – Maureen Connolly Cup
The cup competitions are being played at the following locations:
Austria Cup and Maureen Connolly Cup – Balboa Tennis Club, San Diego, Calif.
Tony Trabert Cup and Young Cup – Barnes Tennis Center, San Diego, Calif.
Italia Cup and Suzanne Lenglen Cup – La Costa Resort and Spa, Carlsbad, Calif.
Dubler Cup – Morgan Run Club & Resort, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Maria Esther Bueno Cup – San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club, San Diego, Calif.
Margaret Court Cup and Fred Perry Cup – La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, La Jolla, Calif.
The United States team is the defending champion in the Young Cup, Margaret Court Cup, Maria Esther Bueno Cup, Maureen Connolly Cup and Fred Perry Cup.