Girl Power at Bayview

By Rick Boettger

The tennis at Bayview Park has never been better.  Saturday afternoons at 4 the best players in town gather for a semi-organized mini-doubles tournament.  The first 8 who show up split into teams on two courts, winners play winners, everyone gets two sets on a beautiful afternoon.

In my day we were lucky to have a single woman skilled and tough enough to run with us Big Dogs.  I was surprised to see not only TWO women among the 8, but that they played together, as opposed to mixed doubles.

Even more impressive was the first time I saw Mika, she reminded me exactly of my daughter when she was Number One in the U.S.–but at the age of TWELVE, when she was about 4’11’ and 85 pounds, before she grew to 5’9” and 125.   But it turns out Mika is a fully grown tiny woman, and the beauty of her game, even better than my daughter’s, evidenced her tennis history—5 years on the WTA Tour, making the top 200.  I was glad my daughter, a NCAA finalist her last year of college, did NOT pursue a tournament career, because she would have been around 400, and the money is not worth the travel miseries.  The same for Mika.  “Top 100 is good money, but not 200,” she said.  Her Dad is the top player in Japan in the 80’s age bracket, showing he inherited way more talent from his daughter than I did from mine.

The first time I saw Mika play, she was with one of the top men, and they won too easily, 6-1 in the winners’ set.  The next week Mika teamed with Aimee, another woman, with the best volley structure of anyone there.  A Penn State ladder player, she has a game which makes me believe she could have beat my butt too.  When I played, I was not in top five men, though maybe best for my age, but I could have beaten all the women at that time.  Now, TWO women could have cleaned my clock.

The guys are the usual diverse group of mostly ex-foreigners, if you count Canada, with a lot of Slavic accents.  Two guys speaking Russian are from Latvia, one with his Mom watching, a rare nice touch. They have the expected skills, which I couldn’t bear to watch for five years after I quit.  My game fell apart in my mid-60’s, getting beat by guys I used to beat 6-1.  I used to be able to bounce my overheads over the fence onto Truman Avenue, but then it got so bad, I’d fluff them right at someone and they’d easily get it back.  The jealousy faded, and now I just admire and imagine I was once that good, happy memories instead of mournful loss.

So it’s a free ticket to see beautiful tennis, maybe bring something to drink, on the comfy chairs on Court 3 in the shade.  Better than the Tennis Channel, and you get off the couch.  Not for free but a special, Key West style-treat is that ex-WTA pro Mika actually gives private lessons, kids to pros, which I assure you is a rare find.  She’s letting me put her contact info out there, and if you play tennis, you’d be a fool to pass her up.  If you don’t play yourself, forward this as a link or cut and paste to someone you know who does.  She is Mika Todo, mikatodo701@hotmail.com, 810-824-9131.  I wish she’d been around before I got too old.

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