NTRP Nationals Spotlight: Kent Talcott
In 2018, the USTA launched the NTRP National Championships, a national adult tournament that leverages the NTRP rating system as a way to create level-based competition. The event enjoyed an overwhelmingly successful inaugural year, and USTA.com is highlighting the players who made it special.
This week, we caught up with USTA member Kent Talcott, who overcame a serious heart issue to win the 50 & Over Men's 3.5 division at the 2018 NTRP Nationals. Learn how to qualify for the NTRP National Championships in your section here.
"My tennis story starts like a lot of people," admitted Sebastopol, Calif., resident Kent Talcott.
Talcott, a board certified veterinary surgeon, grew up in Manteca, Calif., playing recreational tennis in his youth and on his varsity high school team. However, after his high school tenure, tennis fell to the wayside.
In 2011, 26 years after playing on his high school tennis team, Talcott dusted off the racquet and readied himself to get back into competitive play. His first year back on the courts proved tough. Since his high school days, Talcott had gained 75 pounds, had bad knees and two herniated discs in his back. He started in the 4.0 division and lost every match his first year.
Despite the rough return, Talcott was determined to get back into the swing of things. After his NTRP rating was adjusted to 3.5, he dedicated himself to becoming a better competitor. By the end of his second year, he qualified for a tournament final.
Talcott continued to play, improve his game and enjoy tennis. In 2014, the Northern California resident heard about the USTA Adult Grand Prix Tournament, a USTA NorCal-sanctioned event, and committed himself to qualifying. The tournament takes the section's top eight players who accumulated the most points during the season, and they play in a final competition.
To qualify for the Grand Prix, Talcott began competing in additional tournaments to gain more points. While playing in extreme heat at one event, Talcott's mother, who was in attendance, noticed how physically spent her son's opponent was on the court and, during his match, jokingly mentioned to another spectator that he looked like he might have a heart attack.
A week later, it was actually Talcott who experienced severe chest pains. After a medical exam, he learned he was suffering from aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the heart's aortic valve. This condition prevents the valve from opening fully, which reduces or blocks blood flow from the heart to the body. The condition would need life-saving surgery, an aortic valve replacement, to get him back to health. Talcott faced the health scare with incredible positivity.
"This surgery will be great," Talcott remembers thinking at the time. "I'll be in better shape than I was before."
But the road to recovery was long. As a veterinary surgeon, Talcott had performed similar operations on his animal patients and saw them recuperate in six weeks. However, six weeks out from his surgery, he could barely walk without getting winded. It wasn't until six months after the procedure that Talcott was able to start hitting balls again.
Post-surgery, Talcott was back to basics, working on his strokes and endurance. In 2016, he paired his on-court time and fitness training with a healthy diet, eventually losing the 75 pounds he had gained since high school.
With his good health and fitness in check, Talcott entered the 2017 season ready to win. He competed on both 3.5 and 4.0 division teams and played in a dozen tournaments. By the end of the season, he had qualified for the Grand Prix Tournament and placed third.
Just when he thought his season was done, a USTA NorCal section administrator contacted Talcott about competing in the NTRP National Championships, which Talcott happily agreed to play in the tournament’s inaugural year. In April 2018, Talcott made his way to Naples, Fla., to participate in the 50 & Over Men's 3.5 NTRP National Championships, held at Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy.
Talcott won the round-robin portion of the tournament, only dropping two games en route to the final. He kept the momentum going through the final, dropping just one set in the semifinals before taking home the title.
"I had no expectations that I would do well," said Talcott. "I found the tournament just to be a ton of fun and enjoyed meeting everyone there."
With a national title in tow and his health and wellness in check, there's no stopping Talcott.
"It's my goal now to play at the next level," said Talcott. "My goal is to raise the level of my game and get better."
Learn how to qualify for the NTRP National Championships in your section here.