NEWBURYPORT – Many sports are just beginning their autumn seasons, but a team from the Newburyport Tennis Club has already qualified for a national championship in Arizona in several weeks.
The local 3.5 Men’s 40-And-Over squad won regional and sectional titles to qualify for a tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Oct. 7-8.
Seventeen teams from all sections of the country will compete in the event, run by the US Tennis Association.
The USTA is the parent organization for thousands of amateur tennis leagues throughout the country. Because leagues are broken into age and ability groups, this is an event at which local club players can actually play for a national title.
“We’re excited to be the New England champions,” said Darryl Colden, a key member of the local team. “We’re all good friends, and we played throughout the year on a regular basis.
“It shows how a bunch of guys with busy lives can come together and have some success at this level.”
The USTA is the organization that runs the US Open, which recently concluded in New York.
It also manages the largest recreational tennis league in the country, with more than 300,000 players nationwide.
Match play is based on a player rating system, so that athletes will play against opponents of similar abilities. A match consists of three doubles and one singles.
The rating system runs from 1.5 to 7, with 1.5 being a beginner and 7 a touring pro.
According to USTA guidelines, a 3.5 rating means that the player has dependable strokes and can vary pace and spin. They return services and can control the ball, so they don’t set up opponents for easy shots. They might be weaker in other aspects of the game, such as first-serve percentage and hitting powerful backhands.
Most clubs offer leagues for men and women. Those who have played say one satisfaction of this competition is that one team is rarely overpowered by an opponent since everyone is arguably at the same level.
“This is a solid group of competitors,” said John Tracy, a teaching pro at the Newburyport club who works with the team. “One thing they will have to adjust to is playing outdoors.
“They’ve been indoors for months, and many other clubs are from warm-weather states where they are always outside. Once they adjust to that, they will be very competitive.”
Tracy will accompany the team to Arizona, in part to provide tips on positioning and strategy.
Angus Jennings, team captain, said the squad will be ready.
“It’s a great group of guys,” said Jennings, who is the town manager of West Newbury. “We practice together, we work hard and camaraderie is a major part of our team.
“We were totally excited to win the New England championship, and we’re ready to represent the region at nationals.”
Team members include the following: Jennings, captain, Ron Langill, Michael Wichroski, John Whalen, Greg Lynch, Colden, Chris Everest, Richard Noyes, Barry Mitchell, Gary Gastman, Felipe Schwarz, Mark Lim, and Tracy, coach.
The squad is slated to play a round-robin against the following sections: Hawaii, Midwest, Missouri Valley and the Southwest. The teams with the best records in the round-robin competition will move forward to the final round.