By Carolyn Nichols, special to USTA.com
US senior players had a fabulous year in 2006. They won nine of 19 team competitions in age divisions ranging from the 35s through the 80s. They won on all surfaces, even the red clay of Turkey (four of the nine team competitions were won on the slow red surface).
In addition, several US seniors won world individual titles. Quite a few players remarkably won the Gold Slam in ’06, as they captured titles in a single age division on clay, hard and indoor courts.
Val Wilder Wins Three World Titles and a Doubles Slam
Val Wilder, Fort Worth, TX not only won the deciding doubles match (with American Mike Fedderly, Palm Desert, CA) in the final of the Dubler Cup in South Africa, he went on to win the men’s 45 singles and doubles world titles the following week in Durban, S.A.
If that wasn’t enough, he won a Gold Slam in doubles, with Fedderly and came tantalizingly close to winning a singles slam as well, having won the 45 hard, indoor and grass titles before falling short at the clay courts. (Egan Adams, Palmetto, FL, his Dubler Cup teammate, won that event.)
Wilder finished 2006 ranked #1 in the USA and in the world.Dorothy Matthiessen Double Slams…Again
Dorothy Matthiessen, Pasadena, CA monopolized the 70 women’s division for the second straight year. She not only repeated in each of the USTA Category I Nationals as champion in that division in singles, but also in doubles (with three different partners, Dori deVries, Reno, NV, on hard and indoors; Burnett Herrick, Tarboro, NC, on clay and Belmar Gunderson, Geneva, FL, grass). The interior decorator keeps fit jumping rope and playing tennis. Matthiessen finished 2006 ranked #1 in the world.
Jim Nelson and Bob Duesler: A Formidable Duo Rejoin Forces
Jim Nelson, Palm Desert, CA, won the 70s doubles slam in 2005 with Lenny Lindborg, Laguna Beach, CA and repeated the feat with longtime doubles partner, Bob Duesler, Newport Beach, CA in 2006.
The duo was then named to the Crawford Cup team and combined to win the deciding match against Australia to clinch the win for the Americans. The following week the two survived huge storms in Turkey to win the world championships in men’s 70 doubles.
Charleen Hillebrand Wins Three World Titles and a Gold Slam
Charleen Hillebrand, a grandmother from San Pedro, CA, entered the 65s in 2006 and was a force from day one. Charleen’s only losses all year came at the hands of her doubles partner, Suella Steel, La Jolla, CA, who stopped her in the final of the 65 clay courts. Charleen captained the Kitty Godfree Cup team in Turkey on the slow red clay, to a win. The following week Charleen added the world 65 singles and doubles (with Steel) titles to her resume, edging Steel in the singles final in three sets. She also won the hard, indoor and grass titles over Steel and combined with Steel to win the women’s 65 doubles Gold Slam. Hillebrand finished 2006 ranked #1 in the USA and in the world.
Julie Cass and Michelle King Bring Gold to Austin
Julie Cass and Michelle King, Austin, Texas traveled to Houston (clay), Chicago (indoor), Philadelphia (grass) and Sacramento (hard) to play the four USTA Category I national championships. They brought back gold balls in doubles from all of them, a remarkable feat in such a young age division.
Julie also won the clay, grass and indoor singles titles, but fell just short of winning the hard courts, falling to Jennifer Dawson, Carlsbad, CA 76 in the third in the semifinals there. Manola Coulter of Albuquerque, NM repeated as the 35 hard court singles champion in 2006. Cass finished 2006 ranked #1 in the USA and in the world.Kathy Bennett Doss Follows Husband’s 2005 Example, and Slams in 2006
Richard Doss, Rancho Mirage, CA won a men’s 70 “golden” slam in 2005. His wife Kathy Bennett Doss, though ranked #1 in women’s 55 doubles in 2005, won only one gold ball that year, but 2006 was Kathy’s year to shine. She won a women’s 55 “golden” slam with four different partners (Heide Orth, Germany, clay; Molly Hahn, Belmont, MA, grass; Marilyn McCombs, Delta, CO, indoors and Kathy Barnes, San Jose, CA, hard). Many of the matches were close, but in the end Bennett Doss attained her goal. Interestingly, McCombs won her first gold ball ever playing with Bennett Doss and Barnes won her first doubles gold ball at the hard courts.
Dodo: The Legend Continues
Dodo Cheney, La Jolla, CA turned 90! in 2006. That didn’t stop her from playing down with the “kids” in the 85s and winning all four doubles titles in the 85s. She also won the 85 grass and clay courts, the latter only weeks after having and incident with a power tool that resulted in a visit to the emergency room and multitude of stitches in her leg.
There were only two 90 events held in 2006 and Dodo won both, the indoors and the hard courts at her home club, the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. To assure herself an opponent for the hard courts she called up Billie Burr in Florida and invited her to come out and play the tournament.
The former dancer complied and though she didn’t win, the crowd enjoyed the match and the players enjoyed the cards afterwards. US Teams Again Dominate at World Team Championships
In April ten Senior (age 35-55) US teams traveled to South Africa to compete against dozens of other countries for the Senior World Team Championships. Remarkably, eight of our ten teams made it to the final round on the hard courts.
Five of our ten teams won their divisions: Dubler Cup (men 45s), Fred Perry Cup (men 50s), Young Cup (women 40s), Margaret Court Cup (women 45s), and Maria Esther Bueno Cup (women 50s). The next best performance was by the French who won two cups.
In October nine US super-senior (men’s 60-80 and women’s 60-75) teams traveled to Turkey, which hosted the World Super-Senior Team Championships. Two dozen countries competed on the slow red clay. The Americans reached the finals in six of the nine cups, and won four of them. The women won both the Kitty Godfree Cup (65s) and the Althea Gibson Cup (70s). The men’s Von Cramm Cup (60s) won its third consecutive championship and the Jack Crawford Cup (70s) took the gold for the fourth time in as many years. No other nation won more than one cup.Other Senior Highlights:
- Gretchen Magers, San Diego, CA, dominated the women’s 40s each time she played in that division. She won the hard courts and the Fiesta Bowl (a Cat II) and captained the Young Cup to a second straight win, this year in South Africa. She was undefeated and won pivotal singles and doubles matches in the final against France. She did not drop a set all year in singles or doubles.
- Susan Wright, Grand Junction, CO had her best senior year ever. The former junior star (nee Mehmedbasich) returned to tournament play a mere five years ago and this year came only two matches short of winning a 45s doubles slam, winning the clay, grass and hard court titles. She also won the indoor and hard court singles titles. She was the #1 player on the Margaret Court Cup team which was an upset winner in South Africa, winning the deciding doubles match two days in a row before combining with France’s Catherine Suire to win her first world doubles title.
- Elaine Mason, Fresno, CA and June Dickey, Texas, came a set from winning a doubles slam in the 80s. Having won the hard, indoor and grass titles, they won the first set of the final of the clay courts 6-0 over Rita Price, Aurora, CO and Marion Tyrell, Temple City, CA before Price/Tyrell won the final sets 64 64. Mason finished 2006 ranked #1 in the world.
Tina Karwasky, Glendale, CA, won the 50 indoors and grass singles and doubles titles. She lost her first singles match in five years in the 50s, to former US top 10 player, Kathy May, Rancho Santa Fe, CA who was playing her first national singles championship in about 15 years. The final between the two players was superb and went three sets. Karwasky finished 2006 ranked #1 in the USA and in the world.
- Graydon Nichols, Hanford, CA had his best ever year. He repeated as the 80 hard (with Jim MacLey, St. Petersbug, FL) grass and clay court doubles champion and as the world doubles champion and won the 80 hard and grass singles titles. He won the latter three titles with Tony Franco. He also won the super senior father/daughter hard court title with Carolyn Nichols, Lodi, CA.
- Tony Franco, Briarcliff Manor, NY won his first world singles in 2006 and repeated as doubles champion (with Nichols). He also won the 80 clay singles title over Nichols and ended the year ranked #1 in the world.
- Hugh Thompson, Atlanta, GA won the world singles title in the 60s over Mike Beautyman, Flourtown, PA. That win vaulted Thompson to a year end #1 world ranking.
- Oren Motevassel, Alpharetta, GA won the 35 men’s clay and hard singles and clay doubles titles.
- Fred Robinson, Charlotte, NC, reached the final of all four men’s 50 singles national championships, winning the grass. Sal Castillo won the indoor and clay courts. Robinson also reached the 50 doubles final at three nationals, winning the indoors.
- Neal Newman, Columbus, OH, won three of the four 55 doubles championships, the clay, hard and indoors, only falling in the final of the grass, to Bob Litwin, Glen Cove, NY and Brian Cheney, Chandler, AZ.
- Gordon Davis, Encino, CA and Herman Ahlers, Las Vegas, NV. The gold in the men’s 70 singles was split between last year’s “golden” slam winner, Davis, and newcomer (to the 70s), Ahlers. Ahlers won the indoors and grass while Davis took the clay and hard court titles. They later combined to reach the final of the world championships in doubles contributed singles wins to the USA’s win in the Crawford Cup.
- Bob Sherman, Santa Barbara, CA, lost the final of the indoors to Marvin Henderson, Georgetown, TX, which was the first 85 national held in 2006. He didn’t lose another match, dispatching all comers at the hard, grass and clay courts. He also finished the year ranked #1 in the world for the 10th time in the past 12 years.
First Gold Balls:
- Kathy Barnes won her first gold ball at the 55 indoors, in singles.
- Marilyn McCombs won her first gold ball at the same event, with Kathy Bennett Doss.
- Ching Ling Chang won her first gold ball at the 55 hard courts, in singles.
- Burnett Herrick won her first gold ball, in doubles, with Dorothy Matthiessen.
- Rita Price won her first singles gold ball at the 80 hard courts.
- Del Campbell, Dripping Springs, TX, won his first gold ball in San Francisco, where he took the men’s 65 indoor title. (He also reached the final of the 65 grass and hard courts.)