By Danielle Elliot
Traveling across the country for a national championship is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for most of the nearly 400 players competing this weekend at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. Nevada. But for one member of the 10.0 Florida team, it is nothing new.
The only thing is, most of Joey Gratton's national tournaments are not played out on the tennis court. In fact, they are not played on any court. His success has come in the water, as a world-champion offshore powerboat racer.
The Florida native balances powerboat racing and eight USTA League teams, all while running his own business. He credits tennis with giving him the edge he needs on race-day.
"This is a lot of cardio. It builds my endurance. And racing during the summer, were in a full canopy enclosed boat - its about 140-degrees, with two people in the boat," Gratton explains.
He is the throttle-man, working in tight quarters with the driver. The boats reach speeds of up to 145mph on straight-aways. The adrenaline rush, he says, is addicting.
Gratton, 57, is a three-time world champion, five-time national champion in offshore racing. He has won more than 50 national events, competing for teams based around the country over the past 14 years, most notably the Hooters Hotel and Casino team out of Las Vegas. He competes in 10 to 12 races a year.
With the seasons overlapping powerboat racing season runs from April to October he often misses weekend tennis tournaments. Alas, the racing season ended just in time to clear the way for his second trip to the USTA Nationals. Gratton won the 2007 USTA League 9.0 Mixed Nationals with current Tina von Kessel.
"I love to compete. Im super competitive, thats probably my biggest problem!" he jokes.
The competitive nature is nothing new. Right out of high school, Gratton entered motocross racing. He competed on the professional circuit for years before injuries forced him to retire, That was when he started playing tennis, a sport he has now enjoyed for more than 30 years.
He shows no signs of slowing down. In April, just before he returns to racing, Gratton will once again play for a national championship, this time with a Florida Seniors team.