The over 40s National Championships held in Philadelphia proved to be a great success this year based on the number of players and the quality of play. Some of that success was because it was run in conjunction with the US Open in Racquets. Crossover players decided to play in both events and have an Athletic weekend full of camaraderie and competitive play. There were players contesting who straddled the 40s, 50s, and 60s in age. Three quarters of the players had handicaps below 20 and matches were competitive in every round. Peter Hill, the defending champion, was facing tough competition from the likes of Washington’s own in Barker and Morosack as well as a former World Racquets Champion, John Prenn. The stage was set; great competitors striving to win over the “ROLAND GARROS” court of Philadelphia.
Play began on Thursday with some local matches, with a full day of play beginning on Friday. With 16 players there were a lot of matches to be played over the course of the weekend. The standard of play was tremendous as the elder statesmen of the game jousted with one another. While some still moved as well as when they were in their 20s there were others that used strategy and shot making to compensate for their lack of mobility. Ultimately in the singles, those that were able to retrieve the best, made it to the semis. Peter Hill cruised into the finals defeating his Whitney Cup Captain, Norris Jordan, 6-4 6-2. The other semi final match pitted the newcomer to the 40s, Rich Moroscak of Washington against former World Champion in Racquets, John Prenn. The fit Quintagenarian Prenn was in exceptional form versus the hard hitting Orangeman. Rich, though somewhat familiar with the court as he had just won the Jimmy Dunn this past November, found the going tough in the first set losing 6-2. John seemed to get more accustomed to the play of the slow court and showed his incredible athletic ability making incredible gets, volleying well, and hitting winners on open balls. The second set was a barn burner with Rich coming back, staving off defeat, and winning it by the score of 6-5. One set apiece, it was down to the third and final set. Both warriors were beginning to feel the effects of a tough match. Ultimately it came down to a miss here and there, an incredible get, and the use of chases. The game match toughness of the former World Champion carried him through winning the final set 6-3. The final was set: #1 seed and defending Champion, Peter Hill, versus #3 seed John Prenn.
The Singles final followed the Doubles Semifinals Sunday morning and began at 11:30 AM. Both participants had played earlier with Peter Hill coming off a tough semifinal doubles match. Rather then waiting around, he changed his shirt and proclaimed himself ready to play. John Prenn, already showered and rested, was ready for play. It was a superb match. John Prenn was exceptional retrieving in the back hand corner especially on the service side. Not only did he make incredible gets but he would continually hit the grill on any loose ball. Peter was constantly chipping the ball for good length or hitting the galleries to produce chases. On the receiving side John was effective using his Racquets skill, to retrieve serves that seemed to nick. More often than not he would get it back but for length or drive it to the dedans. Peter’s great racket skills enabled him to keep the ball in play and grind down the ex world champion. Peter exploited his advantage on the service side using the tambour. Countless times Peter would hit the tambour or chip it around the tambour throwing doubt onto his opponent. Peter also served his tight railroad to good length further negating John’s racquet work. Back and forth it went with no one taking more than a one game lead. At 5 all in the first Peter seemed to raise his game that little bit more and won 6-5. The second set saw John take his game up a notch and at 5-2 it seemed we would have a third set. Peter, however, stuck to his game plan and dug in. May be it was a sign of his game maturing, but Peter seemed to settle in and went after the set point by point, game by game. Commenting after the match Peter talked about how important it was to get to 4-5 and begin to pressure John on winning the set. He turned out to be absolutely correct. At 5 all, Peter was able to get on the serve side and won the decisive game easily. 6-5 6-5, the defending champion repeats.
The Doubles was very interesting. You had Moroscak teaming with Tuxedo’s Greg Van Schaack, Washington’s Bill Barker and Philadelphia’s Peter Vogt, Philadelphia’s Peter Hill and John Madzin and the longtime team of Norris Jordan and Ted Manges, and a Racquets team made up of John Prenn and Jeff Yager who is the Chairman of Racquets at the RCOP as well as a Senior team of Peter Desvatich and Dick Tanfield. It seemed to be a wide open tournament. The semis had Yager and Prenn, having barely won over Barker and Vogt with a 6-5 win in the third set, versus Van Schaack and Morosack. The racquets players had decided on a strategy of defending the galleries at all cost. John Prenn was unable to cover as much of the court as needed and the wily team of Van Schaack and Moroscak took the match 6-2 6-3. The other semi was a Philadelphia rumble. In a three set nail biter that lasted over 2 hours, the longtime team of Jordan and Manges overcame Hill and Madzin winning the third set 6-4. The doubles final followed the singles on time as neither Singles contestant remained alive in the doubles. It was a well played match but the home court team of Jordan and Manges proved to be too much for the visitors and their win 6-4 6-5 completed a Philadelphia sweep. Home court advantage won again.
Many thanks go to the USCTA for planning the tournament in conjunction with a major Racquets event. There is no doubt that the combined events filled out the draws for both tournaments. Thanks also go to the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, to the manager of the club Ed Noll and his entire staff, to the Pros headed up by Head Professional Rob Whitehouse, to the Entertainment Committee for providing a fun weekend to be shared by all in attendance, and to the Court Tennis Committee of the Racquet Club for their support of the weekend.