Atlanta Women Take 40 & Over Open
Based on a string of victories by narrow margins, Lee King wondered if her team could compete at the national level. Not to worry as she along with six other Atlanta-based women just won a national invitational championship.
The team prevailed at the American Cancer Society Open Women National Championships, an event that invites teams that win a USTA League sectional title. The tournament was played the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas on Sept. 23-26.
The Atlanta team won the USTA Southern 40 & Over Women’s Open crown by defeating the Hoover, AL, team 2-1 in the final played at Auburn, AL, in August on clay courts.
King’s team captain is Ashley Massengale, a USTA Southern Board of Directors member and former president of USTA Georgia and USTA Atlanta.
“We went to Auburn with only six players. We lost one line out of three each match (2-1),” King recounted. “In the final, we won a tiebreak in third set in the third match. How close is that?”
Her assessment: “We showed a lot of grit. It’s not like we were clearly better than the other girls, even in sectionals. Even in Atlanta, there are plenty of better players who decided not to get on a team and spend the time and money to travel.”
While most players they faced in sectionals and the national event had loads of college varsity experience, the Atlantans had only three who played in college: Massengale at Yale, King at College of Charleston and Courtney Allen at Principia.
After taking that sectional final, USTA Southern Adult League Committee Chair and USTA North Carolina President Cookie Guarini informed the team they were receiving a bid to the nationals in Las Vegas.
Because the tournament allowed players to be added by Sept. 22, King encouraged her teammates to find someone else to play because she found playing on hard courts was tasking. “I’m 61, which means I’m about 20 years older than most of the players.” But, because Daryl Kimche had to have surgery, she said, “I figured I just had to tough it out.”
In the nationals, the team had three round robin matches and continued to eke out victories with every match going 2-1.
On the day before the final the USTA Eastern team had a chance to scout Southern. King believes the Eastern team changed their lineup before taking on Southern in the final.
“It looks like they dropped their No. 1 team down to line 2. That was a big mistake. Because of that decision on their part, our line No. 1 (King/Allen) were able to win easily, 6-2, 6-2."
In the final, the teams split the lines 1 and 2. Oddly enough, the line 3 was a relatively easy victory for this “tooth & nail” squad. Kim Raley/Natalie Torres won in straight sets 6-0, 7-5.
Massengale summed her team’s emotions. “We fought so hard just to win sectionals and everyone is really excited and proud when we won nationals!”
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