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Fathers, Sons Unite with Tennis Goals

October 5, 2012 09:33 PM
Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. Chilton play tennis to spend time together.
Davis and Keith Clark at the 2012 USTA League 3.5 Adult National Championships.
By: Melissa Krueger, special to USTA.com


TUCSON, Ariz. — Whether they play doubles or singles, father and son came together to play at the 3.5 Adult National Championships this weekend.

At least two teams highlight a father-son duo. Keith Clark and his son Davis hail from Dallas, while Dale Chilton, Sr. came from Minnesota with his son, Dale Jr.

Tennis, from one generation to the next

The Chiltons' father-son relationship has revolved around tennis for the past three years now. 

Dale Sr.’s journey with tennis, though, began in high school but stopped in the '80s because of a back injury. He instead spent time becoming a billiards champion. His billiards career continued until his son, Dale Jr., became interested in playing tennis.

Dale Jr., being a baseball player for most of his youth, began to get frustrated with the game due to lack of play time. He asked his dad if he would teach him the game of tennis. After nine months of tutelage, Dale Jr. was playing singles on his high school team during his senior year in South St. Paul, Minn.

"Coach was like, 'Oh, you might be able to play on the JV,'" Dale Jr. said. "It was cool to go out there and show them how good I was. They were kind of sad, like, 'Where were you the whole couple years?'"

Dale Jr. graduated from high school in 2010 and has been working and playing tennis with his dad ever since then. This is the first time at the USTA Nationals for both of them.

Dale Sr. hung up his pool cue and only plays tennis now. In his mind, tennis gave him a second chance at life, as well as a relationship with his son. He made the decision to start playing again shortly after the death of his father when, he said, "I was just realizing that life was short, and I wanted to spend more time with [Dale Jr.]."

After watching his father's regeneration, Dale Jr. has set his goals high. Since he's left-handed, he wants to play like Rafael Nadal.

Dale Jr. has not only learned the game of tennis from his father, but also how to overcome adversity.

"I've learned how to be mentally strong 'cause he's really mentally strong," he said.


Father, son share tennis, philosophy

Davis Clark, 18, is a freshmen at the University of Texas and has played tennis with his dad, Keith, off and on for the past 4 years.

Keith got the idea to put a men's team together in the Texas region about the time his son was deciding on colleges.

"After a few years, I started thinking he's going to be going off to college somewhere," Keith said, "so we decided that putting a team together to try and get to nationals, so that we could do the father-son-go-to-nationals kind of project before he went off to college."

Keith has played in the USTA for four years, while Davis is in his first year of eligibility. Davis does not play for his college team, but he still enjoys playing the game he found when he was younger. He said he tried out the "gamut" of sports available in Texas and felt akin to tennis, since his father had played it before.

The two compete in doubles together and won in their first doubles match on Friday against Missouri Valley, 6-3, 6-2.

The Clarks are not necessarily a tennis family, but they are definitely an active family. While the boys play tennis, mom runs marathons, and sister plays soccer.

One could say that these two do not have a "typical" father, teenage-son relationship. They often discuss literature — Davis is studying English at UT — and philosophy. They're always willing to learn from each other.

How much has son learned from father? "I'd say 75 percent of what I know," Davis said. "If not directly, then indirectly."

As for dad, Keith learns about new music and new books from his son.

"I'd say he keeps me thinking," Keith said. "You get to a point where you sort of stop doing or thinking new things." He elaborated by saying that his son gives him a different perspective than that of his peers.



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