Tennis: Gilroy Tennis Club claims USTA sectional crown

The Gilroy Tennis Club team of Harold Fite, Jerry Mathews, Gary Melching, Dencil Bailey, Earl Leibich, Ray Blagof and Marco Renella won the USTA Northern California 65-plus Sectional Championships June 24 in Napa. 

GILROY—The members of the Gilroy Tennis Club team felt like underdogs as they walked on courts at Silverado Country Club in Napa. They were facing the best of the best from Northern California’s elite, private clubs—and they beat them all.
GTC boasted an undefeated 6-0 record at the United State Tennis Association’s Northern California 65-plus Sectional Championships to claim the title June 24. The team advances to the USTA 65-plus National Championships April 8-10, 2016 where it will represent NorCal in Surprise, Ariz.
“We’re coming from a small town and representing Gilroy and playing against these big clubs,” team captain Gary Melching said. “We’re just the Gilroy guys and beat them, which was pretty cool. We’re still smiling about that.”
The undefeated record might paint the picture that GTC had it easy, but team member Marco Renella said that couldn’t be further from the truth. The team played two matches each a day over the three-day tournament and it in scotching 90-degree temperatures. Most of the matches went into tiebreaker sets and were between two and three hours long.
“The good news is everybody is your age; they’re suffering just as much you are,” Renalla said with a laugh. “It’s not like you’ve got a bunch of 18 year olds running around; they’re all our age, but they’re very fit.”
Melching added: “You’re out there running around as much as you can. We were tired; you sleep good at night.”
The road to sectionals was just as grueling. GTC, which plays most of its tournaments at Las Animas Veterans’ Park in Gilroy, had to win the Monterey Bay League just to qualify. The team went 13-1 this season and qualified for sectionals for the first time in 12 years, Renalla said.
GTC has played together on and off for about 15 years and is made up of players from Gilroy and Morgan Hill who are all retired. They are all avid tennis players and can be found playing out on the court between two and four times per week.
The team is comprised of various skill levels, but most have pursued tennis as a lifetime passion. Renella, for instance, first picked up a racquet in 1954 when he played for Live Oak, and Melching has played for over four decades.
With all that experience under their belts Renella said the team won’t do anything different as they wait for next April to roll around. He said just qualifying for nationals is a “big deal” and he is delighted to share the experience with the gentlemen on his team.
Since the East Coast leagues start later than warmer climate teams, GTC must now wait nine months for them to “catch up.” The team will take on the champions from USTA’s 18 sections and Melching said he can’t wait for the challenge that lies ahead.
“You know that you’re playing against the best from every region and that’s part of why we play,” the team captain said. “It’s a competitive thing, you want to go out and test yourself against people that are good and they’re the best.”

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