Jeanette Martin-Kern and Connie Seay
© Andrew Ong
By Blair Thompson, USTA.com
Tucson, Ariz. - Playing at the USTA League 4.5 Senior National Championships feels like old times for Missouri Valley teammates Connie Seay, Jeanette Martin-Kern, Becky Gilbert and Gail Maercklein. Having played tennis together since they were teenagers, the four players have been reunited on one team for the first time since 1993.
It all started in Oklahoma when Martin-Kern and Gilbert played junior tennis together. The two were good enough to play in the USTA National Clay Courts as juniors and then went on to play college tennis for the University of Oklahoma where they helped the Sooners win a Big 8 title.
“She beat me in the 14s and I didn’t want to talk to her again,” jokes Martin-Kern about Gilbert. “But seriously, we had a lot of fun together.”
The two continued their winning ways as they moved into USTA League tennis and were joined by teammates Connie Seay and Gail Maercklein. Playing in the Adult 5.0 division, the four helped their squad win a national championship in 1991 led by Martin-Kern and Seay who were undefeated as a doubles team at the section and national championships. With one more third place finish at 5.0 nationals in 1993, the teammates went their separate ways until this year.
Like to raise families, and in Martin-Kern’s case, three children who went on to play Division I college tennis, win two NCAA team championships, and one who plays on the ATP Tour, son David Martin.
But now that the four women are reunited as teammates, what’s it like to play senior tennis after competing in the juniors and the adults?
“You don’t put as much pressure on yourself in seniors. It’s not the end of the world if you lose a match like it is in juniors. In seniors, you’re just happy to walk off the court in one piece,” says Gilbert.
And while their team won’t bring home a senior national championship in 2009, you can tell from the smiles and laughter as they talked about their tennis memories that it’s still been a great weekend for these great friends.