By Doug Drotman, USTA.com
TUCSON , Ariz. – For four teams at the 2009 USTA League 3.5 National Championships this year, getting to Tuscon took more than just strong serves and aggressive net play. It required patience and confidence in the safety of air travel.
On Thursday, the men’s teams from the Southern Section, two members of the women’s teams from the Mid –Atlantic and several of the New England section women, all boarded Delta Flight #2007 from Atlanta to Tucson. Just one hour after takeoff, the plane‘s left engine blew out and they were forced to make an emergency landing in Dallas.
“It was a bumpy flight from the start but about an hour in we heard a loud buzz and vibration from the right side of the plane,” said Brandon Rushin, one of five members of the USTA Southern team from Georgia on the flight. “Then we saw the flight attendant on the phone and running up and down the aisle to the cockpit. We knew something was wrong.”
“The pilot warned us that when we landed we should not be alarmed to see firetrucks, ambulances and lots of sirens on the runway,” explained Rushin. “Despite the warning, we were alarmed.”
Jan Smith and Margie Eberling from the Mid-Atlantic women were also on flight 2007.
“My husband was a pilot so I knew a plane could fly just fine on one engine,” admitted Eberling. “But if that engine goes out there is definitely trouble.”
“The pilot did a great job of keeping everyone calm,” added Smith.
After a few hours in Dallas, the 160 passengers boarded a flight to Tucson and arrived at 4:30 p.m., four hours after they were expected to land.
“It really puts tennis in perspective,” admits Rushin. “For all we went through to get here, we need to remember that tennis is fun and everything can change in a matter of minutes.”
Just tell that to Jon Tretsven of the Northern Section, whose trip from St. Paul, Minnesota to Tucson, was not life-threatening, but tougher than anything he may face on the court.
Due to an early winter weather pattern blanketing the Midwest on Thursday, Tretsven’s 9:20 am flight through Denver was delayed. Once he missed his 11:17 am connection from Denver to Tucson, the fun began. After several hours in snowy Denver, he caught a 3:30 p.m. flight to San Francisco.
At the SF airport he thought he had found some traveling companions when he saw people with tennis racquets walking through the airport. Unfortunately for him, they were right on time for their flights to the USTA League 4.0 Senior National Championships in Indian Wells.
Several hours later, and still all by his lonesome, Tretsven squeezed his way onto a 7:45 pm flight from SF to Tucson. He arrived safely at the Doubletree Hotel in Tucson, 16-hours after departing from his home.
His reward for battling the elements. “Since I was late they replaced me in the 9:00 a.m. double match, can you believe that?” said a joking Tretsven.