It was the Bob Vincent Tennis Challenge, which is played each year when the boys tennis team at San Ramon Valley High School faces the older gents known as the Tuffs. Vincent, the coach at SRVHS for whom the tennis courts are named, founded the Tuffs in 1982; they play drop-in tennis each Monday and Thursday morning at Rudgear Park in Walnut Creek. Vincent died in 2003 at the age of 80.
As Vincent divided his time between coaching teen tennis and the Tuffs he thought of matching up the diverse age groups - may the best men win. They play one super-set; the first to get eight games is the winner. Both teams learn something from the event. The teens realize that they will still be able to enjoy tennis in their later years, and the Tuffs discover that they're not as young as they used to be. And that playing a 16-year-old is different from playing a 60-year-old.
A few of the players were six times as old as their opponents. Three of the players were over 80 years old, and two of these octogenarians were paired up. I haven't heard the final score but I know they survived, and that alone is impressive.
Disclaimer: My husband Jim is a Tuff. He and Steve Granno played the No. 3 team, two guys named Brody Lee and Tim Scatterday. I'm proud to say that Jim and Steve gave the boys a run for their money although the teens won, 9-7. At first the boys were intimidating with their slices and backspin. Not to mention the way they killed anything that didn't hug the net. But the Tuffs played steady, returning ball after ball.
Jim was most impressed thinking of all the tennis years in front of his opponents. No matter what Brody does in life, Jim said, he will only get better on the tennis court. If in middle age he plays recreational tennis, other players will always been impressed by his skills developed with early training.
Jim and I began to play tennis in our 30s when we bought a house with a view of the Rudgear Park courts. And although Jim is now a solid player, he also knows that he looks like a player who came to the game late in life. So he envies Brody his tennis future. And me? I look like a solid pre-Title IX woman. But it's glorious to get out in the sunshine each week with my regular opponent Judy, who is a perfect match for me.
Tennis is fun to watch at any level. The Bank of the West Classic held at Stanford each July is a favorite of my family. Last year we were disappointed when Serena Williams had to retire after only one set because of an injury. But my glass-half-full son Pepe said he didn't care, he was thrilled that he had been able to see her play at all. The exhibits outside the courts include a chance to have your serve clocked. Heck, if the pros can hit over 100 mph, I should be able to serve 50. Right? Wrong!
Last week's tennis challenge in Danville didn't draw any big names but it was sure fun to watch. And the Tuffs did some watching of their own. Roger Emanuel, appointed by Bob Vincent to succeed him in heading up the Tuffs, said the day went well and that his players each made a donation resulting in $180 for the SRVHS tennis parents' club. He called it a surprise that the No. 1 Tuffs, Hari and Avi, beat their opponents. And he made note of the "beautiful moms" that came to the event.
Instead of strawberries and cream, there were snacks provided by the high school boys' moms. Coach Andy Lutz said the boys always enjoy the matchup, which was the last of the year. Until I can get to Wimbledon, the Bob Vincent Tennis Challenge will do nicely.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.