The grandson/grandfather duo of Austin Stone (left) and Les Baker share a familial bond through tennis.
© J. Fred Sidhu
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- It was a moment that neither of them will probably ever forget at the recent Grandfather and Grandson National Hard Court Championships at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.
Les Baker, an 81-year-old resident of Tucson, Ariz., stepped on the court for a first round match with Austin Stone, his nine-year-old grandson from Carpinteria, Calif.
"When my daughter called a couple of weeks ago and said, ‘How would you like to play with Austin in a National Grandfather and Grandson tournament,’ I said, ‘Oh yeah,’ and it’s been on my mind ever since."
For Baker, who worked as a Safety Engineer in the state of Virginia before retiring, the opportunity to play the National tournament with his grandson was the thrill of a lifetime. "It was absolutely fantastic. It was a joy playing with him. He’s very good. I really love him and I can’t wait to watch him in the future."
Prior to the tournament, Baker had a talk with his grandson. "I told him, win or lose, let’s just have the best time," he said. "Let’s have fun and support each other."
Once their match began, Stone bounced all over the court with his abundance of youthful energy, covering as many shots as he could. After hitting winners on several occasions, he enthusiastically ran up to his grandfather to exchange high-fives.
Despite their first-round loss, Stone had a bright, captivating smile from start to finish. "It felt great. I felt pumped up. It was amazing. I couldn’t have a better partner," he said. "Since it’s my first time playing in a tournament with him and my first national, that’s got to be something you can remember."
Baker says everyone in his family plays tennis and about three years ago during family visits, he began playing tennis with his grandson.
"My whole family plays. We’re a tennis family. It’s wonderful at my age to still be able to get out there and run after balls," Baker said. "It’s just been wonderful. I couldn’t be happier. It’s great watching him coming along."
Stone enjoys playing tennis so much, he said, "I want to be a professional tennis player when I grow up." After hearing that, his proud grandfather said, "And I’m hoping to see him accomplish that."