April 18th, 2014
Getting Ready for the ITF Seniors World Tennis Championships in Palm Beach
The ITF Seniors World Team Championships begin on Monday the 21 of April. There will be 10 Cups contested: Men’s and Women’s 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 and over. I am playing on the Maureen Connolly Cup team at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens. The men’s 40, Tony Trabert Cup will also be played at that venue. There are six venues altogether, two in Palm Beach Gardens and four in Boca Raton.
The opening ceremonies are Sunday after the captains’ meetings. I’m the captain of the Connolly Cup team. At the captains’ meeting the ITF representative and the referee will present the rules for the event and the seedings and make the draw. The USA is ranked #1 in the women’s 55 and has won the event seven years in a row so I am pretty confident we will be the top seeds. The other seeds should be Great Britain, Australia and France.
There are 13 teams (nations) in our Cup. They are listed here. A list of all players nominated by their National Governing Board (for the USA it’s the USTA) are listed here.
The countries participating in the Connolly Cup are Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Gr. Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, So Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and USA. They are all pretty good teams, other than perhaps Turkey. Turkey is new to senior tennis, but since it hosts the world championship often the Turkish Tennis Association is very supportive of seniors tennis and sends a full complement of players to this event every year.
I played the national clay courts about two weeks ago, as did my teammates Diane Barker and Susan Wright. Susan won the singles over Diane, and Susan and I won the doubles, and I was third in singles. So that was great preparation for this event. The fourth member of our team, Tina Karwasky, will be playing the final of the 60 Clay singles and doubles tomorrow in Huntsville and then is flying down to Miami and driving up to Palm Beach Gardens. She requested a 5pm practice court…that’s the kind of dedication it takes to play on the Connolly Cup team!
So how does one get selected to a Cup team? Here’s a link to some frequently asked questions, and here’s a link to guidelines for team selection (these are for 2015, but the basic premise is the same, other than for 2014 there was only one year of results used). Basically the head to head play in USTA and ITF tournaments is used to select teams, not ranking. Players are picked off their results primarily in national tournaments, with particular emphasis given to the surface and the most recent results.
Meet the team:
Diane Barker, Daniel Island, SC. Diane is a veteran of I believe sixteen Cup teams (this being the 16th). She has won six ITF individual singles world championships and several doubles world titles. She is the defending world champion in 55 singles and has lost only one match in the past 2 1/2 years of play in the 55s division. She’s married to Jack, has three sons. She and her son Matthew Barker have won numerous national mother/son titles. She and Jack are heavily involved in Special Olympics. She’s a member of the Southern and South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fames.
Susan Wright, Grand Junction, Colorado. Susan, as Susan Mehmedbasich, was a junior tennis star. She won gold balls as a junior (national championships) and was always one of the top juniors in the USA. After a brief stint on the pro tour, she hung up her racquets for about 25 years, had two children and became very active in selling Mary Kay cosmetics (which she continues to this day). After moving to Colorado over a decade ago, she met her current husband, Tim, and got back into tennis. She has won three world doubles titles and several “gold slams” in doubles (winning the clay, grass, indoors and hard national championships in a single calendar year). She and her father Enver Mehmedbasich have won several gold balls, especially since moving into the “ultra senior” division where the father has to be 80. She just won the 55 Clay singles and doubles titles.
Tina Karwasky, Glendale, CA is the world champion in the 60+ division and has yet to lose a singles match in that age division. She’s also the current world champion in 55 and 60 doubles. Playing as Tina Watanabe, then Tina Mochizuki, she was a sold WTA tour player for over a decade. This is I believe her 22nd Cup team and she’s won 20 Cups out of those 22, perhaps the best record of anyone ever to play ITF World team events. She’s also won three world singles titles and multiple world doubles titles. She won the 55 Grass last year over Wright. She’s married to Bob Karwasky.
I am the #4 player and the playing captain. In addition to playing, I volunteer a lot for the USTA and am a member of the ITF Seniors Committee. Last year I had a very good year, winning five ITF Grade 1 Seniors titles in Germany, Austria and Czech Republic, the 55 Clay doubles with Susan and came a point from winning the 55 Hard before Susan turned on the afterburners and coasted to a three set win. My dad and I won the 80+ father/daughter Hard, and considering he was 88 1/2 at the time, that was the highlight of the year for me. I finished the year ranked #1 in the world (I played more ITF tournaments than did Susan or Diane).
Here’s a photo of the balls we’ll be using in the worlds. I’ve been practicing with them all week and they are very good balls. I like to be prepared!
Susan arrives tomorrow and I’m picking her up in Fort lauderdale…game on!