© Garrett Ellwood
By J. Fred Sidhu, Special to USTA.com
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The last time Bill Kopp of Brooklyn Park, Minn. played in a USTA League National, Ronald Reagan was elected as the 40th U.S. President, Mount St. Helens erupted, the Pac-Man video game was released and television network CNN was established. The year was 1980.
Thirty-one years later, Kopp, a 71-year-old retired high school teacher, made his first return trip to a USTA League National. He is playing in this weekend’s 3.5 Senior League Nationals at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden as a member of the USTA Northern Section team.
Back in 1980, Kopp played singles in the very first USTA League National Championship as his 4.5 adult team finished second in Chicago where the finals were held on indoor hard courts.
Kopp’s team was eventually moved up to the 5.0 level in 1983 and Kopp, mainly a singles player, began to focus on playing age-division tournaments. "I really wasn’t interested in playing doubles," Kopp said. "I liked singles a lot." It would be 15 years before Kopp would play USTA League tennis again.
In 1998, following his retirement after 32 years as a teacher, Kopp returned to play USTA League Tennis, this time at the Senior level.
"As the years went along, I couldn’t run so great, so I then switched over to doubles when I retired from teaching," Kopp said. "I’ve played USTA (League) all of the time since ’98 and this is the first time our (Senior) team qualified for Nationals."
Kopp’s team, which is captained by Jim Uhrich, finished second in their league this year, but advanced to the Northern Sectionals as a wild card entry.
"This year we had really five equal teams in our league during the summer and all of the matches are close," Kopp said. "We got into the Sectionals and we played really well. Since all of the other matches were real close during the league, anyone of us could have won the Sectionals. We were all really equal teams."
Despite seeing his team fall short of reaching Sunday’s semifinals at the League Nationals this weekend, Kopp had a good time.
"This is great just to be here, just to see the facility and to see this area, which I would never see," Kopp said. "The night we came in, we had a party at the hotel and that was fun and the food was great."