In the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s the sport of tennis was big! There were many tennis clubs around the U.S. and abroad with lots of members. Sports fans were glued to their TVs and filled the stadiums during the big tournaments: The U.S. Open, The French Open & Wimbledon. Those were the days of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Chrissy Evert, Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase, Evonne Goolagong, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl, Butch Waltz, Arthur Ashe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and more! Those were the days of wooden racquets, graphite racquets, socks with pom poms, short shorts, ruffled tennis bloomers, Tretorn sneakers, white tennis balls, tennis sweaters and some not so great sportsmanship on the court by the “bad boys” of tennis.
My parents introduced me to tennis at a very young age, as they were fans and good players of this fun and challenging sport. Always hanging out on the court when they played, I was able to observe how it was done. I began playing at the competitive level by the age of 8. I used to play matches against experienced grown-ups because it helped me become a better and stronger player. Weekdays included lots of practice…weekends were spent at tournaments and often times included out of town travel. It was definitely a commitment with lots of discipline required, but I gladly accepted and enjoyed the challenge. Somehow, I managed to find the time to fit in just being a kid!
There are so many fond memories of those days and lots of “butterfly in the stomach“ memories too. This particular memory was a, pinch me I must be dreaming moment. It was around 1975 ….Chrissy Evert saw me working on my serve one day at the Camelback Racquet Club (the indoor-outdoor club where the Phoenix Racquets of World Team Tennis would often practice). She walked down to the court where I was practicing, watched a few of my serves and then told me I had “the most beautiful service motion she had ever seen”! You can imagine how that made this then, 10 year old little girl feel! She was and will always be my tennis idol … her grace, steadiness, and sportsmanship on the court I so much admired and will forever admire!
I went on to have a fun and successful tennis career as a junior player with some great rankings in the southwest & nationally along with high school state championships. My doubles partner and I were ranked #1 in the Southwest for many years in a row and were high school doubles partners as well. We made such a great team, always encouraging each other on and off the court. We had great flow and timing, a big part in a successful game of doubles. When I was around 15 years old, my dad and I had the incredible experience of playing in the National Father/Daughter tournament in Flushing Meadows, NY, site of the US Open! What a thrill and honor it was! We were moved indoors on clay due to rain… not a favorite court surface for this fast paced, hard hitting girl, but we had great fun … a treasured memory!
By the time I was college bound, I was burned-out and wanted to enjoy simply being a student. Passing on a scholarship wasn’t easy but I knew it was the right decision. I am often asked if I regret that decision… I don’t regret it, I knew my mind and body were tired. I knew I was probably disappointing others but I also knew I did not have that competitive edge nor the build to take tennis to the big time level. I had my day in the sun and I loved it but was ready for a new chapter! I played intramurals in college and had a blast! I will always have the sport to play & the life lessons learned along the way… those tennis days taught me discipline, hard work, dedication, sportsmanship, how to lose and win graciously, the importance of exercise to maintain good health and the true meaning of respectful competition. I will be forever thankful to my parents for introducing me to the great sport of tennis….I will always remember fondly, those tennis days!
John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch on Camelback, 1967