TENNIS FOR LIFE:Glory is waiting at the Super Seniors!

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Today’s quiz question : which Niagara tennis player holds the highest world ranking?

If you answered that the bragging rights belong to Joyce Cutts, take a bow. As of December 25th 2017, Joyce appears on the ITF (International Tennis Federation) world rankings as #21 in singles, #9 in doubles, and #2 in mixed doubles. This distinction also places her at #3 in Canada for singles and #2 for doubles. The category? 85 years of age and over.
 
In case you imagine there’s not much competition at this level, think again. The top-25 list includes players from France, Brazil, Great Britain, USA, Hungary, Australia, The Netherlands, Germany and Argentina as well as Canada. And beside each name is a date of birth : all in the year 1932 or earlier.
 
Seniors tennis is so popular that the ITF now conducts three separate world championships each year : Young Seniors (35,40,45); Seniors (50,55,60); Super Seniors (65,70,75,80,85).
 
The ITF’s 37th annual Super Seniors World Championships were held October 14-21 at the beautiful new USTA Center in Lake Nona near Orlando Florida. Four players from the Welland Tennis Club made the trip to compete : Joyce Cutts(85+), Anne Rungi(70+), Violetta Nesukaitis (65+) and Coby Dommasch (65+). With hundreds of players from all over the world, it was an exciting adventure, but Anne, Violetta and Coby were thrilled to have a front-row seat when their teammate Joyce had the tennis week of her life.

The Singles matches set the stage, with some extending for hours despite the very hot Florida temperatures. Joyce played several tough rounds and advanced to the consolation final. Next up was Doubles, in which Joyce partnered Yvette Laubus from France. In the semi-final, they lost in a very close match to the eventual champions, but then went on to win the bronze medal.

Joyce’s partner for the Mixed Doubles was Gordon Oates of Great Britain. They had a tremendous semi-final win over the #1 seeds, with a score of 6-2, 5-7, 10-7. The final was another thriller, ending when the team from Australia won in yet another 10-7 tiebreak. But it was a well-earned silver medal for Joyce and Gordon.

How many sports offer you the opportunity to launch an international competitive career after you reach “a certain age”? This is truly a fabulous aspect for tennis. The Seniors ranks are filled with inspiring stories of players who overcame adversities in every conceivable form …. always motivated by the dream of returning to the tennis court and competing with old friends and new.

The year 2017 saw considerable success by Niagara Seniors. The Audi Senior Ontario Championships were played at the Boulevard Club in Toronto on July 25-30. Anne Rungiand her partner Gisela Nouisser are the 65+ Ontario women’s doubles champions. They then traveled on to Vancouver for the Steve Stevens Senior Canadian Championships on August 20-26, where Anne and Gisela won the silver medal in 70+ women’s doubles. Anne finished the year ranked #6 in Canada in 70+ singles and #3 in doubles.

Each year in June, there is an ITF Seniors Tournament at Mont-Tremblant Quebec. This year,the Mont-Tremblant Cup was played on June 6-11. For the second consecutive year, the champions of 60+ women’s doubles are Maria Dingaand Violetta Nesukaitis, and Maria won the bronze medal in singles.

Closer to home, the Niagara Senior Gamesare bigger every year. Hosted by the Welland TC at the end of May/early June, with Tournament Chair Bill Sawchuk leading a strong committee, the event features age groups beginning at 55+. Winners in 2018 will advance to the OSGA championships in Mississauga in August.

And then there’s the Huntsman World Senior Games. This event is held in the middle two weeks of October each year in St George Utah. The city of St George is similar in size to St Catharines, and yet it has hosted this event – featuring 10,000 athletes from 35 countries for 30 sports – each year since 1987. You’ll find St George in the southwest corner of Utah, where the state shares boundaries with Nevada and Arizona. The tennis event at the Games features age categories from 50+ to 100+. There are two levels of tennis competition : Open and Challenger (up to level 3.5).

This year, the Open 80+ women’s doubles silver medal was won by Wendy Abbott and Sylvia Mergl of Fonthill. They had won the gold medal at the Niagara Games in June, so decided to have the adventure of a trip to Utah.

The Games are founded on a principle that holds throughout Seniors Tennis worldwide : that the golden years are better when good health and physical fitness become a way of life, rather than an occasional afterthought.

Here in Niagara, this is certainly true at the Welland Tennis Club. All of the players mentioned above are members there, and they credit Club Pro Dave Boland with helping them improve their game and encouraging them to go into competition. And ‘Hooray’ for the Niagara Senior Games!

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