Road to Nationals: 55&O 7.0 Team
Our Adult 55 & Over 7.0 team hit the court at the 2021 USTA League National Championships, ultimately taking home second place!
Read on for a first-hand account of the team's day-to-day action on the court in Orlando, Florida over the weekend of October 15, 2021.
Friday, October 15
The team hit the courts for warmups this morning to prepare for an 8 a.m. match. The temperature was comfortable but high humidity had peoples' glasses fogging up quickly. Our coach Prem Gupta was there to support us and plan the lineup.
The temperature was rising already during the first match on clay vs. Missouri Valley. We practiced in a clinic with some of the women and that was an advantage for us. The competition was at a high level on both sides of the net, but unfortunately, we finished 1-2, with D3 losing a close 3rd set tie breaker.
We had downtime to cool off and rehydrate and have a bit to eat, thanks to teammates that did some grocery shopping the day before. Luckily, there were water bottle fillers throughout the grounds.
The second match started at 11 in the morning. Players got a 5-minute warmup; only enough to spot a major weakness and determine if they were right or left-handed. The sun was out and it was getting hot, and the planes were now landing at the nearby Orlando airport. They'd fly right over the courts, almost feeling so low they were close enough to touch. They were a major distraction while hitting an overhead!
The second match was a big 3-0 win putting the team in 7th place. We needed to win out tomorrow and get help from competitors to make it to the top four and advance to Sunday’s finals.
Lunch at the on-site cafe was a welcome treat and gave us a chance to cool off before our team picture.
Dinner was ordered from a local restaurant and the team ate together outside on the patio. This was a great opportunity to get to know teammates and their backgrounds and enjoy a glass of wine.
One more early night and we'd be back on courts for a 9:30 a.m. match tomorrow!
Saturday, October 16
The format was three teams of doubles with a combined USTA rank of up to 7.0. We had some 3.5 pairs and some 3.0+4.0 pairs.
All the teams wearing their Section colors was an amazing sight as they gathered for matches and cheered on their teammates. Midwest was lavender.
Starting at 8 a.m., planes were flying right overhead about every 10 minutes. Players typically let them pass, as it was really hard to keep from looking up each time. Hitting an overhead or serving with one above you was pretty distracting.
The competition was intense, but the women were friendly and supportive of competitors for their next round. I met several women at the Thursday warmup clinic- from Texas, Intermountain and Montana, and we continued to chat throughout the weekend. We played Texas in the semifinals and our clinic experience gave us some insight into their skills.
Prem Gupta, our coach, did some incredible scouting at the event. I think that gave us an edge with our line-ups.
We lost our first match and were in 7th after the first day with a 1-1 record. We played undefeated Hawaii on the second day -- and beat them! If we got down in a match, players did not panic and just kept calm and fought on.
We knew we had to beat the afternoon competition 3-0 and really focused our approach and accomplished that goal. It was almost 90 degrees and sunny/humid on the Florida clay, so a challenging environment. We finished the second day 3-1 and in 4th place, earning a trip to the semi-finals on Sunday.
The USTA har-true courts are impeccable; they have an underground system to keep them moist. Players swept the courts after each match to prepare them for the next group.
Sunday, October 17
Sunday morning the semi-finals were at 8 a.m. and the weather was dramatically different. Cloudy skies, breezy and only 68 degrees, but the humidity was less. It was chilly for spectators but perfect for the players.
Each of our teams lost their first set, but battled back to achieve a 2-1 win over TX and earn a trip to the finals against the undefeated team from the Orlando area in FL. We took one court in the finals and came in second out of more than 500 teams in the country. This was a huge honor, and we are bringing home a beautiful banner to hang at Indianapolis Racquet Club along with some incredible memories.