By Sarah Gulbrandsen, special to USTA.com
The USTA Pacific Northwest 18 & Over 3.0 men’s team from Olympia, Wash., made it out of the woods to compete at the 2013 USTA National Championships in Tucson, Ariz., and for team member and heart attack survivor Brett Hardcastle, it’s a fresh chance to appreciate the game he learned to love later in life.
The 55-year-old began playing tennis with his wife, Denise, as a way to occupy their time after their five children moved out of the house. Denise fell in love with the game first, quickly immersing herself in all of its aspects. Brett quickly realized the way to spend more time with his occupied wife was to pick up a racquet and join her. Doing just that, he signed up with USTA League and aligned himself with the group that would become his championship teammates, practicing extensively to keep up with both Denise and the team.
Hardcastle’s game developed, and he quickly became the squad’s No. 1 doubles player. All was well until a league match in 2012 at the team’s home base, the Valley Athletic Club. In the middle of a point, Hardcastle collapsed on the court.
“The heart attack was hereditary, I found out,” said Hardcastle, who was forced to the sidelines for six months at the request of his doctor. “It was a total surprise. My diet was good, and I always exercised several times a week. I take cholesterol medication and an adrenaline stabilizer to make sure that I’m not receiving too much adrenaline into my heart.”
After his recovery, Hardcastle got right back on making it to first doubles again – within a year of his near-death experience, he had earned the spot once more.
“Now, I feel like I am in the best shape I have been in 20 years,” he said.
As Hardcastle took the court at Nationals, Denise watched from the bleachers, a huge smile on her face. She said she's “thankful to be here” considering all that’s happened and the stress put on the family since that fateful day. Credit also goes to the team’s captain, Jim Phillips, and Hardcastle's 10 teammates, who were always a source of encouragement during his convalescence.
“I like the competition and camaraderie,” said Hardcastle of being part of the Pacific Northwest team. “I have always played baseball and basketball, but it’s nothing like tennis. It’s an athletic game, it’s a sociable game, and it has been a blast to meet new people and make great friends.”