BY HECTOR TRUJILLO
Showing their never-ending passion for the sport of tennis, more than 300 seniors took part in a series of nationally recognized tournaments at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club last week.
With a combination of youthful exuberance and advanced tennis skills, those who participated demonstrated that playing the sport helps keep them young at heart.
"When people pick up a tennis racket, they not only keep their body and mind in shape, they also have a lot of fun with the sport," said Conan Lorenzo, La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club director of tennis. "These are senior players who are still competing at a high level and clearly living healthy longer."
Among the events played were the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Senior Women's Hard Court Tennis Championships. One of the participants was 1938 Australian Open and 2004 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Dorothy "Dodo" Cheney who, at age 93, played with the same vigor that made her a champion more than 70 years ago.
"The USTA states that when people continue to play tennis from an early age to later in life, their level of overall fitness is at its best," Lorenzo said. "All of the players participating, including Dodo, have been on the courts regularly maintaining a great physical exercise regimen and also enjoying many of the social aspects that surround this game."
In conjunction with the women's event, the club also hosted its 38th Annual Spring Senior Championships for men and the LURIE World Cup, an international men's team match for players 90 years and older that featured participants from as far away as Australia, South America and Europe.
"It's a great family sport at every level," said Dr. Heinz Hoenecke, a Scripps Clinic orthopedic surgeon who serves as head team physician for the San Diego Padres. "Tennis is a good thing for all sorts of skills. To older people we recommend that they do something they enjoy doing. The trick is going at it and taking into account your goals and capabilities."
According to a recent article published by the USTA, people who participate in tennis three hours per week (at moderately vigorous intensity) cut their risk of death in half from any cause. Also, since tennis requires alertness and tactical thinking, it may generate new connections between nerves in the brain and thus promote a lifetime of continuing development of the brain.
"I fell in love with the sport once I started playing it," said Jack Baker, Spring Senior Championship participant and a La Jolla resident. "Your quality of life becomes more important with people living longer these days. I plan to keep playing for a long time with my children and grandchildren."
Baker, 71, has been competing in tennis tournaments for more than 30 years.