by Tony Quick
Alburquerque, New Mexico, site of the National Senior Games, delivered an incredible opportunity to play pickleball with men and women from all over the USA. Matches were played at the Manzano Mesa & Multi-Gen Center, which featured 18 individually fenced pickleball courts.
The weather was perfect when the matches began at 7am - 60° and 20% humidity. As the day wore on, the afternoon temps climbed to 98° (but still low humidity) and lots of wind. The high winds and the Dura40 balls made it difficult to play.
I played Men’s Doubles; 60-64, with Jon Post (Salisbury, NC). Jon is a great dinker and our strategy was to have him dink against all our competitors. We stacked most of the time, with Jon on the left side.
Our strategy worked in the first 4 games. We played well and finished 3rd (Bronze Medal) out of 37 teams. The teams and scores are as follows:
1st Round Bye --------------------
Nichless (3.0) - Parobok (3.0) Won 11-0, 11-1 I guess they came for the experience.
Clay (4.0)-Hussey (4.0) Won 11-1, 11-4
Rowse (4.5)-Tew (5.0) Won 12-10, 12-10 We were down big in both games, kept our composure, had Jon dink against Tew (Tew was the more favorable dink match-up) and we finished strong to beat them.
Harris (4.5)-Kaufman (4.5) Lower Bracket Winners: Won 11-5, 11-3 (somehow this team beat Lammer –Solfest, see below.)
Cash (5.0)-Guess (5.0) Upper and Lower Bracket Winners: Lost 11-8, 5-11, 11-6
Paul Cash can dink as well as Jon, so our strategy didn’t work. We allowed Dale Guess to play too much and they beat us.
Lammer (5.0)-Solfest (NR) Consolation Bracket Winners: Lost 12-10, 11-4
In the 1st game, we fought back to 10-10 and serving, but could not finish it off. Greg Solfest played error- free Pickleball and Greg and Pat’s hand speed during volleys was exceptional. We made a big mistake by practicing against Lammer –Solfest earlier in the week. They figured out our weaknesses.
Lammer-Solfest beat Cash-Guess twice, to win the Gold metal out of the Consolation bracket.
Take-away: you must stay focused the whole time. A missed 3rd shot or a missed dink at the wrong time is enough to cause a loss.
I also played Mixed Doubles; 60-64 with Chris Powers (go Aiken!!). Chris is a great player and our strategy was to stack most of the time, with Chris on the right side. Chris is a lefty, so we were playing with forehands in the middle.
Our strategy worked well in the first 3 games. Once we started playing the 5.0’s, their level of play and consistency was tough to beat. We finished in the 9th - 12th group out of the 66 teams (they gave medals and ribbons to the top 8 places). The only consolation is that our losses came against two of the best teams. The teams and scores are as follows:
Ogle (3.5) - Fox (4.0) Won 11-2, 11-0 (I guess they came for the experience, too.)
Tyree (4.5)-Gutierrez (4.0) Won 11-3, 14-12 In the 2nd game, they hit everything at us, as hard as they could. Their soft game strategy didn’t work, so they tried this. They were going for broke on every shot.
Metcalf (4.5)-Tenold (4.5) Won 11-1, 11-3
Chao (5.0)-Freso (5.0) Lost 11-9, 11-4 (eventually the 4th place team). Cherie played great, with very few unforced errors. We had no choice but to hit balls to Byron to make him play. This wasn’t a good choice either. Byron and his wife Marsha just recently played pickleball with us in Aiken and he had a chance to scout us out. Darn, not again.
Johnson (5.0)-Duplechien (5.5) Lost 15-4 (eventually the 2nd place team). Cindy Johnson was one of the best female players that I have seen. She was never rushed, made very few unforced errors, and could put the ball on a dime.
Take-away: It’s going to take allot more practice and playing against those high level players before we can consistently win at 5.0.
I would encourage everyone to put the Senior Nationals on their pickleball bucket list. There was hardly any place we went (sightseeing, restaurants, shopping, our hotel) where we didn’t meet someone competing in the games – from badminton, swimming, golf, walking, archery, softball, volleyball, you name it, and people were there to compete. It was fun and we had a blast!