Q. "In honor of Tennis Month, USTA.com would like you to share with us what your inspiration was to start playing tennis and what this great sport has meant to you."
From Lisa G., Tarzana, CA:
I started playing tennis consistently two years ago. I play in USTA matches, clinics, club round robins, club leagues, and practice about six to seven days a week. I HATE the gym, and this is my exercise! It works out every muscle in my body, but even more so, I just love the competition. I am now learning a lot of mental strategies that I use on the court, as well, and that helps a lot while I'm still trying to improve some of my strokes. Thank you, Brad Gilbert, for your book, “Winning Ugly!" I have won ugly a few times!!!!!
From Bob C., Valley Stream, NY:
My inspiration to play tennis was one Jane Dausner, a 4.0 player from Atlanta. I started to read everything I could get my hands on. I wanted to know what it was all about before I tried it. That was in 2002.
I always read sports growing up. Tennis back then was more in the news than today, but I never gave a thought of playing the game. She encouraged me to try it because she said I was athletic. Me, athletic at 71? Yeah, right. So I borrowed a racquet from my daughter and went to the park. I took one look across the net and said, “No way can I hit the ball over the net into that box on the other side." Well, with perseverance, more reading and taking lessons from a professional, playing when possible with Jane… notice I said playing, not winning… maybe someday I'll win a set, but I'm continuing to get the hang of it.
Thanks to her encouragement, inspiration, good lessons with a professional, I now play two times a week in a senior league. I'm 75 and the youngster on my team, but no one ever discouraged me from playing, and I'm happy they didn't.
Tennis has meant to me new friends and a renewed passion for something. What else could you want?
From Kenny S., Highland Park, IL:
My dad, Richard Sommer, learned to play from his father, Charlie Sommer, Walt Sommer, Frankie Parker Jr., Bobby Riggs and George Lott in the early tennis days of Chicago. Rick is still in the top-5 Midwest in doubles, 60's, and look out this year in the new 65's, for another national singles and doubles top 15!
I was first taught lessons by Corkey Leighton, a very fine tennis pro, and then I was fortunate enough to work with Randy Digman, then one of the finest pros in the world, Steve Wild. I loved the sport, but at 5-foot, 5-inches, you’re not going to be a touring pro. I am good; I need more fitness, but can play at a 5.0 level. I was all-state and played in the 1993 season of Division I tennis at DePaul. Then I said it’s over for awhile. But the love of the game has come back, to give it to others, all the knowledge I have of the game, but also to play at a very high level. It is the sport of a lifetime, but lifetimes take their twists and turns, and thank the Lord for all it has given to me.
In life you have to fight, like in tennis. It’s a one-on-one battle!! I can't wait to play again! I hope all of you enjoy the sport of a lifetime. We have wonderful USTA courts all over the U.S. We have a whole summer of pro tour tournaments, except Chicago. Then it ends at the US Open in N.Y.
Play because it is a sport. Golf really ain’t got too much game. My birthday is May 9th, part of Tennis Month, and I am going to play with my dad, Rich.
From W. Red W., Jacksonville, AL:
My high school sports program at Munford, Ala., consisted only of football, basketball and baseball. Even though I am only 5-foot, 4 inches, I played and excelled at all three sports.
My first year at college, I tried to "walk on" to play basketball. After a 30-second "tryout," the coach told me, "I can see you are a good athlete. I will talk to the tennis coach about you!" He did, and I became a varsity tennis player. And at age 73, I am still playing this wonderful lifetime sport four or five times each week.
I've passed the sport on to three of my children and now my grandchildren. I proudly display my USTA gold ball, my silver ball and my bronze ball.
From Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, FL:
With the recent declaration by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declaring May 2007 as “Tennis in Florida Schools Month,” I get asked this question a lot.
Within six months after retiring from 18 years of soccer and turning 34, “I” gained more weight than my wife-to-be planned on. The tux and gown were paid for and “I” had three months to get in my tux. At her suggestion, we both signed up for tennis at the park close to our house. Twenty bucks each for eight, one-hour group lessons. Good deal, right.
There were about eight of us at times. I was so ignorant of tennis I thought the tennis store owner was trying to “rip me off” trying to sell me a racquet with no strings. My wife-to-be guided me to this with a quick elbow to the ribs, and I figured it out immediately after he asked 15 or 16 ga the strings come free. Da!
As the business folks say, bottom line is, you’re never too old or out of shape to start playing tennis. October 1983 was the first time I started tennis; 14 months later I graduated from TU I a PTR Instructor and now hold a P-3 rating. Having been a volunteer high school coach for the last five seasons, I get this question a lot.
As for what it meant to me, simple. For many years, it was God, me, my wife, my family, my job. For the 13 years that I could not participate due to an accident that forced me to get a “real job,” I allowed the job to replace tennis. What a mistake.
Now it’s God, me, my wife, my family, a job and Our Tennis. Balance in my life is what it has meant. All work and no play can make Poppie sick. And I am sick again. I’ve caught Net Fever again and hope I never get well.
From Sue S., Los Angeles, CA:
Tennis became a major part of my life when I was 12 years old. Playing various games every day at a recreational park, one day the playground leader said to a bunch of kids, "Who would like to play a game called tennis?" All of us said yes, and so it began. I played my sister in the final of a little tournament; she won a can of balls, and I won a trophy. I was sorry to not get the can of balls.
From that moment on, I was hooked. Because I lived in the Northwest, we only played during the spring/summer. (No indoor courts then.) My major competition came from a girl who lived in Hawaii who would spend her summers in my hometown. I always lost to her; however, I was victorious during my senior year in high school.
We had a girls’ tennis team at my school, and I played on it but was so embarrassed to earn a letter, I did not attend the assembly to receive it. Girls were not as appreciated as athletes in those days. I never gave up and earned a degree in Physical Education, came to sunny California and continued to play competitive tennis, coach at my high school for over 25 years and now play in a ladies’ doubles league.
Competition took me to Israel, Argentina and other parts of the world. I have found that the saying, "Have racquet, will travel,” continues to this day. My trips to Bali, South Africa, Europe and other parts of the world always include taking a racquet and playing with local people. It is the best international sport, and one does not need to know the language to enjoy the sport everywhere. Tennis is definitely the sport of a lifetime.