This was supposed to be a column about my underdog Payne Park tennis team somehow winning a state tournament and qualifying for a trip to the USTA national championships in Arizona.
Unfortunately, we managed to lose four consecutive matches, so we’ll be staying home to work on our backhands. Fortunately, there was a Sarasota team that did well in Daytona Beach last weekend.
Our counterparts — the women’s 40-and-older 4.5 team — won three straight matches before losing in the semifinals.
The Sarasota women didn’t seem too disappointed. Two years ago, they qualified for a national tournament. They always enjoy staying at a beach resort and competing in Daytona.
“We have a blast,” said Julie Warren. “We have a great group of girls, a great group of friends. We all come together. It’s like a girl’s weekend with a lot of tennis.”
I was just going to hit the highlights from Daytona, but the Sarasota women insisted I list everyone’s name. Since they won and we lost, that seemed fair enough.
The Sarasota team members, based out of the Palm Aire Country Club, are Janet Kempton, Julie Warren, Allison Whitten, Celia Marchese, Page Halpin, Hartley O’Brien, Lisa Grain, Yvette Sherman, Lisa Brandy, Julie Heitman, Dina Berg, Michele Brown, Eve Goldberg, Lauren Ash and JoAnn DeMartini.
Rain delays kept pushing back matches at the USTA’s Florida Tennis Center in Daytona. On Saturday, the Sarasota women didn’t finish their final match until 10:30 p.m.
“That wasn’t bad,” said Kempton, the team captain. “I’ve had friends who had to play until 2 in the morning.”
The rain was a pain in Daytona, but it was also a relief from the 90-degree heat.
My legs were heavy all weekend. No bounce. I drank gallons of Gatorade, but still felt spent.
You could see players struggling to move back and forth near the end of matches. All of a sudden, everybody was hitting drop shots.
People were sweating through shirts and shorts, wristbands and caps. People were toweling off after every other point. People were still soaking wet.
I saw one guy playing at noon with a towel tucked under his cap, kepi-style. How he could see the ball I don’t know, but the guy was hitting winners all over the place.
Our Payne Park team, captained by Mick Behr, lost a few third-set tiebreakers, but we won some individual matches.
Bill Breda and Dave Norman took a doubles match from a Pensacola team. My team won at doubles, too, but that was mostly because my partner, Ben De Jesus, hit about 20 winners at the net.
After the match, one of our opponents joked about asking Ben for volleying lessons, which was pretty funny.
Maybe the rest of us can get tips from the Sarasota women’s team.