Family Fun in the Sun: Jubilee Tennis Provides Competition, Socializing

May 31, 2009

By R. Sirvell Carter, The Decatur Daily, Ala.

May 31--The Alabama Jubilee Tennis Tournament provides not only competition for tennis players, but also an opportunity for families to play together and for people of all ages locally and from other areas to mingle.

Several entries are members of the United States Tennis Association, and use the tournament as a means to tune up for state competition. Along with the matches, a cookout with a live band was Saturday evening. Saturday's sunny sky proved to be friendly to the event.

"We're blessed to have this weekend of no rain," said tournament director Rhonda Wagner. "The last three years we've had great weather."

The 183 participants in the 2009 tournament marked the largest in the event's 10 years, despite the nation's economic struggles that have hampered other events.

"It doesn't seem to faze this one," said Wagner, who also serves as president of the Decatur Community Tennis Association. "It's a fun way for them to release the stress from the economy."

The four-day tournament is also a fun time for families to spend time toether on the tennis court.

"It kind of became a family tradition," Maggie Hartman said.

Hartman has been a regular participant. Her husband, Rick, and sons Kevin, 21, Scott, 19, and Matt, 16, also are competing in the event.

Debby Crowell previously served as a tennis coach for nine years at Austin High School and has continued to work with Austin players. She has also played in the tournament several times.

Newell Johnson is competing in both doubles and singles matches. During his years in the tournament, he has enjoyed the occasion for the competition, the love of playing tennis and the opportunity to socialize.

When not on the court, he watches matches of other players, including his wife, Susan, who is competing in doubles with her mother, Martha Sue Bethshares. He also likes the inclusion of a consolation bracket that ends with its own winner.

"You've got another match at least," Johnson said of players who lose their opening match.

In addition to the regulars, others in the tournament are new to the event. For Rene Mendez, it is his first tennis tournament.

He overcame two Saturday matches totaling three hours within a six-hour span to reach the men's 3.0 finals Sunday. He said his experience as a mountain climber helped him endure the heat and a tired body with aching knees.

"I was very nervous," Mendez said. "I'm very happy to be in the finals."

Mendez, a native of Mexico City, also appreciated the friendly atmosphere and the work of the tournament staff.

"The organization is terrific, and the people are kind. They have very nice prizes," said Mendez, who received a portable television as a door prize. Other door prizes given to players included coolers, thermoses, tote bags and T-shirts.

Wagner's husband, Dr. John Wagner, did not compete in this year's tournament, but he has played in the past. He said the annual tournament provides exposure for tennis to attract other people to play the game.

"We're hoping it will inspire young people in this community to play," he said.

One of the young people includes the Wagners' daughter, Jordyn, 16. The Austin High student advanced to play in the women's singles finals Sunday.

"It's a great feeling, getting to play against older competition," she said.

Alabama Jubilee tennis

What: 10th annual Alabama Jubilee Tennis Tournament

Where: Point Mallard Park, Jimmy Johns Tennis Center

When: Finals Sunday at noon and 2 p.m.

Spectator admission: Free

R. SIRVELL CARTER

See Also: 10th Annual Alabama Jubilee Tennis Tournament

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