My Love Affair with Tennis

We’re keeping that tennis theme going since I don’t have a piece about football!


My Love Affair with Tennis……..

It’s all right, my wife knows and tolerates this addiction.  You might think that someone who spends hours on court almost every day would be a terrific player.  In my case, you would be wrong.  My fellow players agree that I’m slow, but I’m also clumsy.  My main strengths come from my size.  I’m 6’3” and my wide wingspan of nearly 7 feet helps me cover the net. Serving in tennis involves leverage on the ball, and tall players have more leverage.  My role model, John Isner, is the classic example of a tall man with a killer serve. In addition to being a famous tennis star, John is from Greensboro and graduated from my alma mater, UGA!


So, what do I get from tennis? Sunshine, a mixed blessing – vitamin D is good, skin cancer isn’t.  Wear sunscreen and a hat, and remember to avoid the heat of the day (11:00 am – 3:00 pm).  Night play is a cooler option, especially during Raleigh’s extended summer.  Another benefit of being outside is fresher air – indoor air may be filtered but, usually, it’s more polluted than the great outdoors. Exercise – any time spent on your feet is good for your heart and other muscles.  Much of the time between points involves walking from side to side, bending over to pick up balls, and those steps can add up – I walk at least 2 miles for each hour on court. During points, we run and whack balls (great stress relievers), yell and laugh at ourselves.


Tennis is a great way to meet fun people and enjoy their company – this is especially true of the senior tennis group at the Raleigh Tennis Center (Millbrook Exchange Park) and other facilities throughout the Triangle.  Tennis is a lifetime sport – just ask the kindergartners and their great grandmothers and grandfathers


Dad and Son

Most tennis centers have coaches who will help you learn to play and improve your game.  I found that coaching helped my game, as long as I listened to the coach and practiced doing what they told me.  A key part of coaching is found in the phrase: “keep your eye on the ball.” The US Tennis Association (USTA) has a “Try Tennis” program to give beginners of any age a chance to see if tennis fits their lifestyle. Students receive a Wilson racket, six weeks of professional instruction and a “Try Tennis” T-shirt for $40.

Coaching K

Lessons learned on the court often apply to life, for example: 1) don’t think too much; 2) you may lose today, but tomorrow brings another chance for redemption; 3) there are always players better and worse than you, so do your best and enjoy the game; 4) doubles is easier on senior bodies than singles; and finally, 5) the Hopman Rule: stick your racket out and something good might happen.   See you on court!


Mark Long (OLLI Member and Volunteer Instructor)










A few minutes in the public eye from my earlier (Yankee) life.

Tennis Court

 In 1983 I was living in Hyde Park, NY, Roosevelt country. I played a lot of tennis. I began calling lines at an amateur event, the Poughkeepsie Tennis Tournament. The chair umpire, a member of the USTA (United States Tennis Association), recruited me for a tryout he was holding for chair umpires and linesmen. About 50 people showed up. Myself and two others were invited to New York City for further training. I joined the Eastern Tennis Umpires Association. I worked formally as a USTA linesman for the first time in August 1983 at the Junior Davis Cup Inter-sectional Tournament at Poughkeepsie, NY. As time went by, I began working professional tournaments.


Boy Tennis Player

I made it to the U.S. Open in 1988. In 1989 I made it to the big time, the two show courts at the Open. On August 31, 1989 I was the net judge (the guy with his finger on the net to detect service lets) for a match between Andre Agassi and South Africa’s Neal Broad. The incident in this video was recorded by ESPN for posterity.

As an official I could not, of course, accept a gift from a player so I gave it to a very helpful ball boy. As the net man I was responsible for ball changes. One of the ball boys had a prosthetic arm with a clasp on the end which he used to open the ball cans for me. He was delighted to receive the shirt when my shift ended.

I worked at the Open from 1988-1992, and at other big events in Boston and Miami, and lesser events all over the East. I left umpiring in 1994 after I moved to Raleigh. With a new job, at SAS, I couldn’t afford the time off. So it goes. It was a fun time I will always remember.

Joe Gosselin, OLLI Member and Science Program Sub-Committee Member