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Nothing But A Number

March 26, 2009 10:43 AM
Hawaii Pacific Team
Bruce Nagel
By Jeff Sikes, USTA.com

TUCSON, Ariz. - The key to longevity in tennis may lie more in the heart and mind than in the body, and the Hawaiian ‘Tennis Hut’ team here in Tucson this weekend for the USTA League presented by Chrysler 4.5 Adult National Championships is living proof of that.

Age may be nothing but a number in tennis, but when you’re routinely playing opponents a couple decades (or more) younger, faster and stronger, it takes as much guile as it does stamina to come out a winner. Luckily for the Hawaiian team – a team with four starters over the age of 50 years old – they’ve got plenty of both guile and stamina, as well as a lifetime’s worth of matches to fall back onto when things get tight.

One of those starters is Bruce Nagel (56), the second oldest of the ‘Hut’ bunch to fellow team member R.K. Beers, who’s 57. Nagel is a story all to himself, having played former American greats like Jimmy Connors, Harold Solomon and Brian Gottfried back in the junior ranks in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. A former All-Conference player at the University of Iowa with wins over Gene Mayer and former Wimbledon finalist Roscoe Tanner, Nagel has got as impressive a playing resume as anyone here this weekend.

”That was a long time ago,” said Nagel, now the Director of Tennis at Kailua Racquet Club, where the ‘Hut’ team is based out of “My tennis heyday was a few years back. Now, I am just out there for fun. I think that’s been the key to aging gracefully and still enjoying my tennis, never taking it too seriously.”

Other 50-somethings from the Kailua crew include Ben Borth (55), and Marty Black (51), who along with Nagel and Beers and their “almost 50-something” Bob Cummings (49).

”I shaved my beard this morning to hide the gray hairs,” said Beers, laughingly.
“That was my big strategic move for the weekend. Seriously, we’re all pretty good doubles players. We know we can’t get out on the courts in singles with the young guys, but we’ve all got good hands and good reactions still in doubles, and that’s key.”

The ‘Hut’ also recruited younger guys like 24-year old Jared Carstenn and 33-year old Corey Kincaid to do the heavy lifting of playing singles or pairing with an older partner to run down those troublesome lobs. That and “we put in the guys who hurt the least” said Beers.

”These guys are so much fun to be around,” said Kincaid. “They’re great teammates, too. These guys aren’t ultra-competitive anymore like a bunch of young guys would be, so there are no egos involved, but also no headaches. It’s just a good time all the time.”

”Spirit is what carries us through,” said Borth, who has had nine surgeries on various body parts including wrists, knees and elbows. “That and a lot of Tylenol.”

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