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From one court to another

March 26, 2009 10:43 AM
A mere ten days ago, Governor Bill Richardson appointed Tim Garcia to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, stating, “This is an awesome responsibility and Judge Garcia will no doubt be an excellent addition to the appellate court.” Garcia was thrilled about the appointment. “Governor Richardson’s such a respected national figure; it’s such an honor to be selected.”

Before he assumes his new duties in January, Garcia’s getting away from one court by playing on another; he’s an key member of the team representing the Southwest section at the 9.0 level at the 2008 USTA League presented by Chrysler National Championship – Western Mixed Doubles, being held November 21-23 in Gold River, California.

“You know, this is fun,” adds the Santa Fe resident. “It’s my first time at a USTA League National Championship. At home, we’re playing at 7,000 feet so it’s a bit of an adjustment playing at such a low altitude.”

The 5.0 player is no stranger to national or even international competition, though. As an unseeded player from the University of New Mexico at the 1976 NCAA Tennis Championship, Garcia surprised the field by making the semifinals. “I played Bill Scanlon in that semi and at that time, we were using no-ad scoring,” explains Garcia. “I ended up blowing nine out of ten of those no-ad gamepoints, and lost a close match in straight sets. It was a heartbreaker because Peter Fleming had won the other semi, but had had a very tough and long match. Scanlon rolled him in that final.”

After graduation, Garica competed at the pro level for three years, playing such tennis greats as Guillermo Vilas, Vitas Gerulaitis, Brian Gottfried, Eddie Dibbs, Raul Ramirez and José Luis Clerc. “I didn’t get a chance to play Borg or Conners, though.”

“I never understood it when guys on the pro tour would complain about this or that,” adds Garica. “It was a dream come true to be out there competing. I got a chance to see what I could do.” Garcia played every Grand Slam except the Australian Open, and competed in the main draw of the US Open five times. He reached a career high of no. 130 in the early 80s.

Eventually, Garcia’s shoulder gave out causing him to quit the pro tour. He returned to graduate school at the University of New Mexico, obtaining a law degree.

Another passion of Garcia’s is the promotion of tennis in Hispanic communities. “I’ve been a member of the National Hispanic Bar Association for many years now, and in 2003, Bill Rivera of the USTA called, asking me to join a special USTA task force on increasing Hispanic participation in tennis. He convinced me to do it when he pointed how few Hispanics were playing at an elite level. When I was on tour, there were always at least five or six Hispanics players in the top rungs, but that hasn’t been the case lately.”

“The USTA has really made some great changes, putting a lot of emphasis on reaching out to diverse groups,” says Garcia. “We’ve got to get the top athletes in schools playing tennis again. For Hispanics, soccer is the sport. I say why not ally ourselves with soccer – there are some many soccer fields that have tennis courts right next to them. Let’s offer team-based and free tennis programs right there next to the soccer fields in our parks. Tell the parents, “When your kids are finished playing soccer, come on over and join us on the courts.” It’s gotta be fun and cool if you want to get the kids to play.”


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