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NorCal Seniors Serve Up Gold at 39th ITF Seniors World Championships

Taking place in Estoril/Lisbon, Portugal from August 4-10, 2019, the ITF Seniors Team World Championships once again didn’t disappoint. Two NorCal players were selected to represent Team USA. A veteran at the World Championships, Dana Gill of San Jose, CA, helped his team get out of its group in the Fred Perry Cup (M50). The four-man team composed of Dana, Eoin Collins, Willie Alumbaugh and Greg Paukstis beat Argentina and Bolivia 3-0 to make their way into the 1st-8th Playoff draw. There, the U.S. Team couldn’t hold the Italians, who earned their semifinal spot 2-1. In the 5th-6th playoff match, Dana and his teammates came across a very strong Belgium team that won 3-0. However, in their last match, Team U.S.A. finished on a high note, overcoming Germany 2-1 to take 7th place.

Team USA and Team Netherlands smile before the match.

Another regular on U.S.A. teams, Tracy Houk, a Montara resident, competed in the Maureen Connolly Cup (W55) with teammates Mary Dailey, Vicki Vasicek-Buholz and Shelly Works. Team U.S.A. beat Sweden 2-1 and Brazil 3-0 to earn a spot in the top six nations in the world. “We could have been out in the first round,” Houk said on the phone. “We had two three-set matches that could have gone either way.” In their next match, Tracy and her team could not stop Netherland, falling 3-0. “That one was a heartbreaker for Vicki. She was up 5-1 in the third set and lost 7-6.” Next, they played clay experts France on their favorite surface, and the U.S. Team couldn’t hold them off. “That was a long day!” Tracy laughed. “After a two-hour rain delay, Shelly played almost four hours, winning 7-6 in the third. The doubles was a heartbreaker as Vicki and Mary were up 5-1 in the third but lost 7-5.” Still, the NorCal player left Portugal with an amazing fourth place and a continued appreciation for wearing the stars and stripes. “All we could say was that we played our heart out but it didn’t go our way. We still come back fourth with a medal,” Houk said joyful. “It’s always a blast to represent your country, and a privilege.”

 

 

The following week, the 39th ITF Seniors World Individual Championships took place, also in Portugal. Dana Gill won two matches in singles before falling to the No. 7 seed from Spain, Fernando Jesus Granero 6-2, 7-6(1). The San Jose resident also competed in the mixed doubles event, teaming up with Greek player Satu Pirila. The duo passed the first test against two compatriots of Satu, 6-0, 6-4. But Irish player Lesley O’halloran and Dutch player Bart Theelen got the best of them 6-4, 6-3 in the next round.

 

The Marin County duo of Polo Cowan of Mill Valley and Daniel Grossman of Tiburon joined the party in the Men’s Doubles 55 draw. Seeded No. 7, Polo and Daniel overcame No. 4 seeds from Australia Peter Bilton and Greg Westwood 6-4, 1-6, 10-4 in the quarterfinals. Playing for six years together, they won a tough three-set match to qualify for the finals. First playing USTA Leagues, then national tournaments, “we decided to conquer the world and played ITF,” Cowan said amused. Both reaching the No. 1 ranking in their respective ages, they defeated home favorites, Portuguese pair Joao Freitas and Paulo Travassos 7-6(5), 7-5 to come home WORLD CHAMPIONS. See their match point HERE. “This is my first World Championship,” Cowan said happy, “but Dan is the only person to ever win two World titles in a calendar year. He won 65s Worlds last September.” BIG CONGRATS TO THEM!

 

Congratulations to all the players on representing the NorCal section at the highest level, and proving once again that tennis is the sport of a lifetime! Check out Team USA’s opening ceremony entrance HERE!

Tracy Houk showcasing her backhead during Team USA match.
Polo Cowan and Daniel Grossman playing in the finals of the ITF World Individual Championships.
Team USA: Shelly Works, Tracy Houk, Mary Dailey, Vicki Vasicek-buholz
Team USA: Eoin Collins, Willie Alumbaugh, Dana Gill, Greg Paukstis