© Jen Pottheiser
By J. Fred Sidhu
Surprise, Ariz. – During a USTA League National Championship, the USTA will occasionally award a wild card to a Sectional runner-up team to fill in a draw when a section is unable to send a Sectional champion.
Such was the case at the 2008 USTA League 6.0 & 8.0 Super Senior National Championships at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex when the USTA Southern Section super senior 6.0 women’s team from Baton Rouge, La. was awarded an wild card into the event.
For Southern team member Clynda Cowart, the trip from Louisiana to Arizona proved to be a true adventure.
Cowart was playing for her USTA 6.0 Senior League in a Sectional qualifying match this last Sunday, the same day she was supposed to fly Arizona.
“I was playing a (doubles) match on Sunday morning at 8 o’clock and at 10 o’clock in the second set, I realized I needed to catch a plane at 12 o’clock to get to Phoenix to play Nationals at 7:30 Monday morning,” Cowart said.
“I decided I’m either going to have to end in here or I may lose it,” she added. “My partner and I stepped it up and won it (to qualify for Sectionals) and I got to the plane.”
During the flight from Louisiana to Arizona, Cowart celebrated with two of her teammates as they drank a Bloody Mary, but when the plane took a dip due to turbulence, the drinks flew everywhere and made a big mess according to Cowart.
To add to the Southern women’s tennis adventure, when Cowart’s flight finally landed in Phoenix, she learned that team captain Arlene Brignac was ill would not be attending the Nationals.
“Our poor captain has worked hard to get to this point,” Cowart said. “We’re just saddened that she is not here.”
The adventure didn’t end there as a group of Cowart’s teammates, who flew into Phoenix before she did, had a malfunctioning GPS and got lost for two hours driving from the Phoenix airport to the tennis club in Surprise.
“We all laughed about it,” said Cowart. “We all had fun with it. It took us 25 minutes and it to them two hours to get to the club.”
Eventually the seven-member team got together and was ready to play in the Nationals, but playing without their captain has been a challenge according to Cowart. All of the team’s wavier forms had to be redone and they had to get copies of their pictures.
“It’s been tough. We’ve done the line-up by committee,” she said. “Everybody has taken a turn in turning in the scores. Because we have seven players, one player sits out and is responsible for getting everybody organized because she doesn’t have to worry about getting on the court and being hydrated. It’s worked out well.”
The experience of playing in the USTA Nationals has been a rewarding one for Cowart and her teammates. “It is awesome. It’s my second time and it gets better every time,” she said. “You meet so many nice people. Even people you don’t play, you meet and socialize with.”
She added, “I want to thank the USTA. They make all of the tournaments, the state tournament, the Sectionals and Nationals a very, very exciting experience for everyone. All of their staff puts so much effort in making everyone feel comfortable.”
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