A few days before I was to compete in the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS in La Jolla, California, severe back pain kicked in. I had recently recovered from a pulled hamstring preceding the tournament, but, unlike the types of pains and injuries many of us who love to play tennis face regularly, the back pain was related to the Tarlov cysts in my spine. Tarlov Cyst Disease is a rare disorder that causes nerve issues that include chronic pain. The timing felt terrible. I was sleeping on the floor in my hotel room and eating many meals standing up. Moving was better than sitting for sure. However, as the match schedule approached, things started to improve, and I felt ready to play.
The USTA National Women’s 50-90 Hard Court Championships ran from May 13 to May 19. I competed in the 70 and over division in singles, and in doubles with my partner Vicky McEvoy. The tournament took place at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, which is situated just a few steps from the Pacific Ocean.
I wanted to be prepared for my matches, so, with limited warm-up court availability, we headed to the local rec courts at 7 a.m. We were often the only players on the courts at this early hour … all except for Barbara Hubbard from Hawaii, who was always practicing her serve.
This reminded me of the creative ways I and other players have found to warm up over the years. When I played the Wimbledon Qualifying event in Roehampton, England, in the early 70’s, I warmed up with friends in the parking lot, in the bathroom over the sink, or against any wall that was available! Last year in UMag, Croatia, at the World Team Championships, although my doubles partner and I had warmed up in the morning, we had to wait 4 hours before our match would begin, we found ourselves hitting volleys out of the air to each other steps from the Adriatic. I’ve always said that the match begins with the warm-up, and I’ve never let limited court availability stop me. (To read my Strategy and Technique Newsletter about things to consider when warming up, subscribe to my Strategy and Technique Newsletter, or visit the Newsletter archives.)
I was the first seed in La Jolla in singles, and despite the physical challenges, I breezed through my first singles matches. In the semi-finals, I faced the third seed, Carol Gay. I won the first set 6-3, then lost the second set in a tiebreaker. I regained my advantage and won the third set 6-2, earning my place in the finals, which I won 6-3 6-0. I received my first Gold Ball in singles! Vicky and I fought well and made it to the finals, where we lost to the first seed.
At La Jolla, I felt grateful to be playing and competing so well. In addition, I got word that I had been chosen to be on the USA team to play the International Championships in September, again in Croatia.
With the Moving on Up with Tennis and Education program set to begin in a few weeks in Springfield, I am looking forward to supporting this program and the children who will be new to tennis and those who will return from participating in prior years. And of course, I will be practicing for the World Championships. Looking forward to another summer of tennis.