Early in 2014 a group of tennis enthusiasts decided they would dip their toes into the US tennis scene by entering a team in the Over 40 USTA 9.0 mixed doubles league playing out of the Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, NY. The league matches were played on weekends which meant that the extended travelling was not so much of an issue for the players, most of whom work full time. League play may have interfered with their chance to enter tournaments here in Ontario, but for the doubles tennis fanatic, the opportunity to play and fraternize with new opposition is important, and most sanctioned tournaments give priority to singles play, even if they do include doubles.
“We would get up at 8 a.m. and be there by 11 a.m., play two matches and then go for drinks and a bite to eat,” explained the team captain, Sandra Barrett. “It was just fun. That is what brought us into it. The USTA is a world-class organization as far as how they approach the tournaments and how well-organized they are. From the [local] leagues all the way to Nationals, our opponents have been so welcoming and they’re so friendly.”
Co-captain, Kelly Stobbe, concurred, ““It is different competition. It has been very encouraging. [Opponents] are happy to have new blood and someone else to play against. More teams helping to build more tennis and keep it going.”
More than 250 players on more than 30 teams qualified for the Nationals played at the Surprise Arizona Racquet Centre over 3 days. The Surprise Racquet Centre is run by the City of Surprise, near Phoenix, AZ and boasts 25 courts, 17 of which have lights and so is large enough to accommodate all kinds of tournaments and a range of activities at one site.
The Canadian team stood out at the event. They sported red uniforms, Canadian flags and logos and even had a small cadre of supporters waving towels and flags in support and immersed themselves in the competitive atmosphere. Tennis Canada helped them out with towels and T-shirts. Although the team missed out on playing in the event semi-finals, they in no way felt outclassed and the challenge of the competition and the efficient organization made the experience extremely worthwhile and memorable for the first all Canadian team ever to reach a USTA league final.
The experience was so positive that in 2015, there will be 8 Canadian teams entered in the USTA Over 18 and Over 40 Mixed Doubles Leagues. Teams will be from the 6.0 to 10.0 level. “It is very exciting to see the growing interest and to form teams with players from all over the province!” said Sandra Barrett. For more information on participating in USTA leagues you may contact her at Sandra@tennisaccess.com.
Pictured here from left to right are Rob Husain, Donna Wittmann, Scott Barrett, Joanne Dyment, Ray Thompson, Sandra Barrett (Captain), Kelly Stobbe (Co-Captain), Adam Salahudeen. Photo by Shabana Husain.