NET GAINS Senior Tennis Champs
Courtside with tennis champions, lessons from the country's best at age 65 (and older)
The first thing you notice about captain Ed Marcelo is how young he looks. He is very tan and trim, still has his black hair. He is a small, wiry man radiating good health. “I can’t believe you’re 77,” I tell him. “It’s the tennis,” he says. “It keeps me in shape. We practice two hours, three times a week. Every week. Even in summer.”
We had met this year at The Landings (Yacht, Golf and Tennis Club) in Fort Myers to discuss his United States Tennis Association Adult 65 & Over Men’s National Championship Team. Marcelo, originally from the Philippines, is captain of the team that had played at the Hideaway Country Club in Fort Myers and took lessons from its professional, T.A. Niles. “Tell me how you put your team together?” I ask Marcelo.
The country’s best amateur team in its division, he tells me, consists of himself, Steve Romaine, Richard Fell, Thomas Martin, Masahiro Kumamoto, Nile Evans, Robert Bachula, Timothy McClary and Larry Blohm. Only six may play doubles tennis at any given time in three different matches. The captain decides who plays and against what opponents. The team won 14 of 15 matches at the Sectional in Daytona Beach, and from there won at the USTA National Championship in Surprise, Arizona, in March 2015.
A great surprise of my life was Marcelo inviting me to his Cape Coral home to hit tennis balls. With some trepidation, I went the next morning, dressed for tennis. “I don’t suppose you have a banana?” I ask him upon arrival. “I am cramping up a bit and need some phosphates.”
“It’s calcium,” he tells me―Marcelo was
Just block the ball. You don’t have to hit it. Just block it.” —Ed Marcelo, Cape Coral
a pharmacist before retiring in 1992.
Before we get to hit the ball around, Marcelo insists on touring his impressive Cape property. It is a gorgeous day, not too hot and there is a wind blowing off the river. Eventually we got back to his courts. “We will do some drills,” he says. “You stand near the net, and I will feed you some balls.”
“I have never done a drill,” I say, having in seven years not taken a lesson, let alone drill with a player of Marcelo’s caliber.
I take a defensive stance close to the net. From the baseline, Marcelo starts hitting me balls. I am pretty athletic and not a bad tennis player, so I am able to return about 50 percent of his shots pretty effectively. But I swing and miss a lot, too. “You don’t have to swing!” he instructs me.
“I don’t volley too much,” I reply, apologetically, after we have run through the first basket of balls.
In a soft but authoritative voice, he says, “You are not standing in the right place and you are swinging too much at the ball,” showing me exactly where to stand, how to use my racket. “See? Just block the ball. You don’t have to hit it. Just block it.”
About this time, Steve Romaine, an old sailing buddy of mine and member of the championship team, shows up, ready to hit some balls. Things get even more exciting as we move around, near the net and at the baseline, striking the ball at each other and going through a number of drills. You could see Steve has a lot of power and is a bit of a bomber, while Ed plays the percentages and is a very crafty player who depends on angles more than power to win his points. I struggle a bit but still hold my own. “What do you think, Ed,” Romaine asks. “Is he ready to play with us?” “Not yet,” Marcelo answers. “He has a way to go.” This kind of pierces my bubble―but what the heck. We have finished up and I am making plans to meet with the whole team at its new practice facility, the club at Park Meadows, where I would bring my camera for some nice shots. Catching my breath and rehydrating, Marcelo jokingly says, “I think I know the angle you can take for your story.” “Oh, yeah? What’s that,” I answer. “I played with the national championship team!”
Things get even more exciting as we move around, near the net and at the baseline, striking the ball at each other and going through a number of drills.
The national amateur team in its age category includes Steve Romaine (left), Tim McClary, Larry Blohm, captain Ed Marcelo, Nile Evans, Masahiro Kumamoto and Richard Fell.Not pictured are Thomas Martin and Robert Bachula.
Steve Romaine (pictured) is more of a bomber, while teamcaptain Ed Marcelo depends more on angles over power.