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Published: Monday, 8/22/2005

Tennis: For the love of the game

Serve, smash, and lob. They're familiar terms in tennis, a sport that many love. And tennis is alive in the Toledo area. Men, women, and children of all ages hit balls for fun, exercise, and competition. Singles or doubles, the sport zeroes in on aerobics, agility, and strength. Some say it's a mind game too.

The sport regards court etiquette and sportsmanship as paramount: From the shaking of hands after a match to not interrupting another court's play, to keeping chatter, gestures, and foul language off the courts.

Tennis togs are shorts or skirts, shirts, tennis socks and shoes, and visors or caps. In other words, save the jeans, baggy or low-slung pants, and low-cut tops for off-the-court activities. It was not that many years ago that tennis whites were the proper attire; however, most clubs have relaxed the rule. We have come a long way since the old days, when attire meant long skirts and sometimes hats for ladies.

Competition is part of the fun and a way to excel in tennis. The United States Tennis Association's USA Adult League is popular in most cities, including the Toledo area. Adult members are 19 to 49 years old, seniors 50 to 59, and super seniors 60 and older. Teams from all over Northwest Ohio make up 200 teams - with about 2,500 players - in this season's USA adult leagues. Members come from country clubs, tennis clubs, city parks, and other teams.

Players compete all summer, many times practicing all winter too to get a spot in state competition. It's a great way to have regular tennis matches, practice each week, and meet people all over town.

Shadow Valley Club kicked off the outdoor season with a special deal in May. Tennis professional Luke Jensen came to town and promoted the leagues by holding clinics for players of all ages at the club.

Westowne's men's senior 3.0-level team made it to the state level and will go on to represent Ohio at the Midwest sectionals championship next weekend in Indianapolis. If they win, they will compete in national competition.

Patty Cabanski, USA Adult League coordinator, said fall and winter teams are forming now.

Junior Team tennis is active too. The Junior Team tennis area director is Amy Beaverson of Shadow Valley. Some of the junior players go on to play on the high school teams.

In the high schools, boys play in the spring, and the girls play in the fall. St. John's Jesuit High School team coach is Jim Davis of Shadow Valley. St. Francis de Sales High School team coach is Mark Faber of Westowne. St. Ursula's coach is Mary Kay Minder of Belmont. Notre Dame's coach is Bob Krueger of Shadow Valley. Other schools involved include Ottawa Hills, Perrysburg, Sylvania, and Maumee.

Many of the high school tennis players go on to compete on college teams. Gal-around-town Penny Dean coaches the Bowling Green State University girls' tennis team. Al Wermer is the coach of the University of Toledo men's team; Tracy Honko coaches the women's team.

The City of Toledo Championships is a big deal. Shadow Valley hosted the men's doubles championship open division. Cousins Mike and James O'Connell prevailed. There was no women's doubles contest. The women's singles championship, hosted by Toledo Tennis Club, was won by Neela Vaez, a senior at Notre Dame Academy.

The men's single's championship, also held at Toledo Tennis Club, was extra special this year for winner Todd Dominiak, a tennis pro at Laurel Hill. Mr. Dominiak, 39, broke the record for the number of wins when he won his eighth title as champion this year. Three other men won seven title games, including Mike Ducey, who won his last title in 1976. Before that, it was in the 1940s that another man performed the feat. Mr. Dominiak started playing at 15, taking lessons from Pat Birney of Laurel Hills. He's been there ever since, at his first and only job.

Tennis is a great workout on the court or off. Most players work out for conditioning. Lisa Bialorucki, Inverness Club tennis director, teaches at Westowne in the winter, when she also holds cardio tennis classes. Tennis must be good for one's health. After all, Don Means, 90, has played the game for decades and still hits the ball at Laurel Hill every week.

Some folks play just for fun and recreation. Toledo Tennis Club is filled with folks of all levels who play for the fun of it.

Al Rava, tennis pro at the City of Perrysburg Recreation Center, promotes all ages to play and have fun. Mr. Rava is also the coach of the boys' tennis team at Perrysburg High School.

Summer or winter, indoors or out, tennis is the name of the game.



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