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Slap shot on a hardcourt

March 26, 2009 10:43 AM
Kresac about to crush a return.
Kresac about to crush a return.
Poised like a hockey goaltender, Kresac waits to return serve.

by Thomas Flanagan, usta.com

You may say tennis isn’t exactly a sport for tough guys.

You may also espouse the same theory in front of Marty Kresac and he just may pull your shirt over your head and show how tough a tennis player he can be.

Actually, Kresac happens to be one of the most affable and outgoing 4.0 players in Tucson at the 2008 USTA League presented by Chrysler National Championships. Kresac, who is here representing New England with his team from the Portland, Maine area, is also a former professional hockey goaltender.

Even the untrained eye watching Kresac and his partner dispatch of their opponents from the Southern section could tell that his goaltending skills translated well on the steamy courts of the Randolph Tennis Center.

“There’s actually a lot of similarities in the sports,” said Kresac, who last played professionally for the Greensboro Generals of the East Coast Hockey League in 2004. “The agility that’s required in each sport is similar and so is the hand-eye coordination.”

While the thought of a former pro hockey player in a tennis tournament may seem odd, Kresac, a native of the Czech Republic, doesn’t think so at all.

“I’ve been playing both sports since I was 4 years old,” he said. “Growing up it was tennis in the spring and hockey in the winter.”

Apparently, tennis and hockey are essentially neck and neck when it comes to the favorite pastime in Kresac’s homeland.

The Czech Republic has produced dozens of star hockey players, most of whom also grew up around tennis and still play.

“Every year in Prague, when the NHL guys get home for the season, there’s a huge tennis tournament that they all play in,” Kresac said. “It’s held in the same stadium as the Davis Cup and probably draws more people. It’s unbelievable. These guys are very good. A lot of the guys in the NHL even play a little tennis during the season.”

It didn’t take Kresac long to name the NHL star who is the best with a racquet in his hands.

“Jaromir Jagr,” he said, quicker than a wrist shot of a the sure-fire future NHL Hall of Famer who currently plays for a team in Russia after spending last year with the New York Rangers. “He’s excellent.”

Kresac, who lives on the Massachusetts coast, just a short drive from the Portland area, joined the team at the urging of a couple friends who were already members.

In an ironic twist, the team that Kresac faced in his first match was from Greensboro, the city in which he lived and worked as a professional netminder for a year and a half.

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