Despite physical challenges, I aim for Spain

As many of you know, I have struggled in the past with some unusual health issues (chiari I, a brain malformation, for one). Maybe partly related to some underlying conditions and perhaps also indicative of getting older, I am riddled with physical challenges these days, all of which make competing a challenge. A torn labrum, which I am told is typical for older women athletes, a spine filled with cysts and a bulging disc, loss of feeling in my left leg, tingling in my arms and hands, long Covid symptoms of headaches, vision issues and fatigue, and more recently an MRI showing 3 brain bleeds. Although I have always been one to “play anyway” or return to the court as soon as possible, I admit that this configuration of physical challenges has been daunting. But I am focused on making the USTA World Team competing in Mallorca, Spain, in October. So my plan has been to play the minimum number of tournaments required to be selected. As such, I have been aware that I needed to do well in order to be chosen for the four-person team.

I have recently returned from Florida, where I played a USTA 70s+ Division Tournament. I was seeded number 1, a position that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t particularly like the bullseye on my back and felt the need to defend the seed even though it had been almost a year since my last singles match. The first match is always the toughest — all of the practice matches mean nothing when compared to the nerves of competition. I needed a game face, and I managed it, as I moved through this match 6-1, 6-1. My semi-final opponent was a very good competitor and a friend (this is so often the way at senior events). She moves well and given a mid court ball she is able to use intense angles off her two handed forehands (yes, she hits two handed off both sides!). I was able to hit with enough depth and pace to set up a frequent dropshot … an excellent play on the slippery slow clay. I won this match 6-0, 6-1.

In the finals, I played a player who also is hoping to make the World Team (in my place perhaps…). She is lefty and likes to be at the net as often as possible. She has excellent touch and angles with her volleys, and I needed to force her back from the net. With the wind swirling, it was not easy. I won the first set 6-0, but then began to play too softly and the balls were then more affected by the wind. I found myself down repeatedly in the second set, and I knew I had to increase the pace and depth of my groundstrokes, which I started to do. At 4-4, we played a long game on her serve, which is a weakness, and after I won that game I closed out the set. A relief.

My body held up as well as can be expected but I always wonder how much more I can ask of it. Each day, each week remains a question. I am growing increasingly aware of how much I took my health and body for granted. Perhaps part of the price I pay is from so many years on the court. However it’s hard to think of a life without competition and my court  friends, and I am still determined to try to make it on the USTA World Team in Spain. I am scheduled to play one more event, National Clays in March. With the win this past week in Florida, unless I have a poor showing, my chances are strong.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. You are such an inspiration to the rest of us aging players! Wishing you all the best!


  2. Ken Rubin says:

    For all the years I have known you, you are an amazing skilled competitor! I am sure you will achieve your goal in getting qualified for this event! Good Luck!!!


  3. Gladys Villalobos says:

    Good for you Judy. I will be turning 93 next month but you can guess my movement on a tennis court is pretty pathetic. You might say I have turned to the dark side and playing pickleball. Less ground to cover and more of a chess match requiring strategy. I wish you well and look forward to reading about your exploits in Spain.


  4. Good grief, Judy. What a record, what determination and skill. Keep aiming up (keep moving forward?) and we’ll all try to do the same in our own smaller ways.


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