Annual team tennis event another friendly competition

Though muffles of profanities and reviews of out-of-play shots rang throughout competitive atmosphere at the Chautauqua Tennis Center on Saturday, echoes of support and friendly play dominated the annual team tennis event.

Doubles tennis players can play in the round-robin events that take place most afternoons at the tennis center, but several came out before 8 a.m. Saturday to play a slightly more competitive tournament with fellow Chautauquans.

Lee Robinson, program director at the tennis center, organized and ran the event.

The doubles format dominates the scene at the tennis center, and the competition brought together a lineup of players who are tennis regulars, he said.

“The idea is that they find someone who can challenge them,” Robinson said. “There’s all levels of players here, and they just get to know each other on a personal level. If they weren’t playing this morning, they would during the week sometime.”

The 24-player field was split into two teams: Red/Blue and Green/Yellow. In years past there had been enough players for four teams, but Robinson said several players’ injuries kept the field small to allow for two teams.

Competitors were paired with a different partner for each of the three rounds that were played throughout the morning. Men and women — some as young as 13 and as old as their early 80s — made up the two teams.

Teams played each round to win a set, which is the first team to six games. The competition implemented no-ad scoring, which does not require teams to win by two games.

Bright T-shirts dotted the courts as competitors volleyed and practiced serves before official play began. Players of like ability played each other, which was made possible by a self-designated handicap system.

After the first round of play, the Red/Blue led the Green/Yellow team 29-28 and carried their solid play into the second round with the same margin of victory. Competitive play was broken up by mid-round breaks under an awning near the tennis courts, where players talked about their games with one another.

Red/Blue would close out the third round with a 25-24 victory that gave them an 83-80 edge over the Green/Yellow team. Players gathered for a luncheon after play finished.

“You put any four of us on the courts and we’re going to try and do the best we can,” said Dick Redington, former vice president of education and planning at Chautauqua Institution, who played on the Green/Yellow team. “That’s what the sport is all about. There’s no hard feelings, and at the end of the day. You’re here for the fun of it.”

Bill Lasher, a Chautauquan who plays at the tennis center five to six days a week, played on the Red/Blue team. Though Lasher would be deemed a regular at the tennis center and competitive by his consistent play, he was able to play the event with other thoughts in mind.

“You play with different people you wouldn’t normally play with, and it’s always fun to just be out here,” Lasher said. “You kind of keep score just to figure out where you’re done playing.”

Yet, that didn’t keep him from playing hard, as Lasher looked down at his Fitbit activity tracker on his wrist.

“I just got 10,000 steps, actually,” he said.