I am recently back from competing in the 2022 Super Seniors World Team Championships in Boynton Beach, Florida. The ITF event included more than 300 players and 98 teams representing their nations and ran April 24 to May 1. Super Seniors include men’s and women’s 65, 70, 75, 80, and 85 and is the equivalent of the Davis Cup/Billie Jean Cup for senior players. Each team consists of 4 players (one of whom is a playing captain) and is selected based on their results over the past two years. It’s a huge honor to be selected and to represent one’s country in international play.
This year I was the captain of the 70’s team playing for the Althea Gibson Cup . Other team members included Tina Karwasky (California), Wendy McColskey (North Carolina), and Toni Novack (Florida). We were seeded #1 and Germany was seeded behind us at #2. The matches are all played on one court. #2 singles from both teams play first each day, followed by the #1 ‘s and finally the doubles. Teams need to win 2 matches to be victorious.
Boynton Beach Tennis Center had over 16 courts, slippery and dry. Play did not begin until 11am every day as the club had clinics each morning for its members. This meant that we were playing in the heat of the day during the tournament … over 85 degrees and 20 mph winds. Round robin play saw us drawing a talented and pesky Great Britain team on Day 1. Fortunately for us none of their players were acclimated to either the heat or the wind, and we won both singles matches before Toni and I squeaked out a 3-set doubles victory.
Day 2 round robin play against Sweden proved to be easier as both Wendy #2 and Tina at #1 lost only 3 games between them to clinch the singles. Toni and I won our doubles easily 6-0, 6-1. This put us in the knockout semis against Canada, who had defeated France in an upset. Our team was a bit too strong for Canada, and we moved through this match quickly. On to the finals, where the Brits were waiting. It’s very unusual to play the same team twice, but since they had upset Germany they were more than eager to come at us again.
The final day was hot … 90 degrees with very high humidity. The British team changed its lineup, which strengthened both its singles and doubles. After a long tough struggle, Wendy won her singles match at #2 and Tina played extremely well to repeat her opening day victory over Marjory Love, the British #1. As rain was imminent, Toni and I took to the courts knowing that we might not finish the doubles, and in fact that was the case. At 3-3 in the first set we were hit with torrential downpours and lightning. As the match had already been decided I spoke with the Great Britain captain and we decided to call the match as it was … U.S winning the gold medal and Great Britain silver.
Besides playing in extreme heat and humidity (it was Florida after all) we played at a facility that did not have a shower, nor did it have water on the courts. Since play began at 11am and was continuous we had to scramble to get lunch. There was no food at the site and food trucks that were brought in boasted of fried food or hot dogs. I think the vendors believed they were selling food at a baseball game! Needless to say, lunch then consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made from the hotel breakfast. Shade was at a premium and one of my jobs as captain was to hold an umbrella over our singles players on the changeovers. However, not any of this took away from the thrill of donning our clothes with USA on our shirts and caps, securing the American flag to the fence each day and hearing the umpire calling the score with “Game, USA.” Our team was a superstar team with #1 and #2 in the world playing singles. I played no stress doubles behind their singles wins and was proud of each moment. This is the reason I still compete. To play on a team is special, any team.… but to be on a team playing for your country is a thrill. I was honored to be a small part of our success.
The U.S. won 6 titles at the Team Championships, bettering their position by 1 over the 2019 results: