Youth and Experience Help Bring Southwest Women to 2.5 USTA League Nationals

The Women's Southwest team from Albuquerque, N.M.
Members of the Women's 2.5 Adult Southwest team high-fiving.

By J. Fred Sidhu, USTA.com

Indian Wells, Calif. – When you think of Albuquerque, N.M., you might envision the colorful scenes of its International Balloon Fiesta or its rich Native American and Hispanic heritage, but it is also home of the USTA Southwest section 2.5 women’s team.

The team, which boosts a diverse line-up, is playing this weekend at the Indian

Wells Tennis Garden in the 2009 USTA League National Championships.

While most of the team features women in their 40’s and 50’s, the oldest member is 74-year-old co-captain Carol Richards, who is a great-grandmother. The youngest is 26-year-old Jennifer Segura.

What kind of chemistry would a team have when the oldest player is nearly 50 years older than the youngest player?

“It’s been amazing. We are so supportive of each other,” Richards said. “It’s just a wonderful group. We like each other.”

Richards enjoys having a youngster on the team as she spoke about Segura, who plays doubles on the team with her mother Roxanne, the team’s other co-captain. “She is the one who always keeps us laughing. She just has this refreshing attitude.”

According to Richards, every now and then, the generational gap between her and the younger Segura will innocently pop up. “When we came into the Ontario Airport (on their trip to Indian Wells), I said, ‘the last time I flew into the Ontario Airport, I ran right into Raymond Burr,’ and all of these young people turned and said, Who?”

Richards, who worked as a certified medical assistant for 35 years, began playing tennis in March, 2008 when she picked up the sport through the popular Silver Racquets program in Albuquerque.

The program offers senior citizens 62 and above a free two-phase tennis program for twelve weeks with a certified tennis professional. The Silver Racquets pilot program's prime sponsor is USTA Northern New Mexico Tennis Association (now Northern New Mexico District).

Since learning how to play tennis, Richards has managed to play year-round. “I played all the way through last summer and through the winter...never missed a tennis match because of the cold,” she said. “Albuquerque is a nice town to play tennis in.”

While Richards spoke highly about her teammates, she also gave much of the credit to the team’s success to Joe Felice, a USPTA professional in Albuquerque.

“He has helped us enormously and he is absolutely the reason we are here. He’s really good at what he does,” she said. “He has taught us to play with other players on the team and has taught us to play with other players outside the team.”

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