By J. Fred Sidhu
INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.
Dick Eslick, captain of the Southwest men's team.
© Jeff Bottari/USTA
– The Southwest section men’s team has given a new meaning to the term, versatile veteran player.
The eight-player team, which is competing this weekend at the 2008 USTA League presented by Chrysler 3.5 Senior National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, features players ranging in ages from 53 to 68 years old. Seven of the players are over 60.
But this team, which is based in the retirement community of Sun Lakes, Ariz., doesn’t limit itself to the Senior 3.5 level. These same players fielded a 3.5 Adult team and reached their sectional final this year before finishing second.
To top that, the team also competed at the 3.5 Super Senior level and will play in the USTA Nationals next year.
According to team captain Dick Eslick, one of the keys to his team’s success has been an incredible record in tiebreaks.
“We’re a little more tenacious in the way we’ve been in some of these playoffs and sectionals,” Eslick said. “We’ve gone to something like 17 tiebreakers and we’ve won 15 of the 17. So in tiebreakers, we get it done.”
Eslick noted his team’s playing style relies more on finesse and touch rather than power.
“We do try to place the ball a little more than just hitting away,” he said. “We notice out here that a lot of people hit hard. It’s more or less placement than power.”
As far as playing ability, Eslick says there is no player on the team that stands above the others.
“We’re all at about the same level. We don’t have a couple (of players) that are quite good and the rest of us are tagging along,” he said. “It doesn’t make much difference who is out there (on court),” he said.
Another element that factors into the team’s success is camaraderie. “We’ve known each other a long time. We all get along very well. We play together and our wives play together,” said Eslick. “We help each other out.”
Eslick says the experience of playing USTA League Tennis has been a lot of fun. “We’re having fun as a group and it’s good to be here and see people from all over the country. It’s a good sign of the melting pot that we’re supposed to be in the United States,” he said.