Callen Cup 2022: The Arkansas Men’s 65s Team

On the court before us, Doug Stursma (above) is playing Keith Richardson (once #63 in the ATP World Rankings) at #2 singles. We call it getting Stursmad when you lose to Doug, who at 68 years old hits every shot with heavy slice all over the court without missing while running down every shot you hit. The two players sprinted and stretched and sprawled all over the court for over 2 hours in the heat, Doug cramping in the left calf late in the match, Keith tumbling to the ground after a long run for an angled drop shot. Doug Stursmad Keith in a deciding third set breaker.

John Bailey recovers back into the court after a big forehand.

Every morning, Bill Bodie and I would warm up John Bailey (above), our #1 singles player, for 20 intense yet relaxed minutes. Get the blood flowing. Remind the muscles of what they know. Sharpen the tools you have. Short court first: John hitting big topspin strokes from the service line. Then sharply punched volleys back and forth. Then aggressive ground strokes from the baseline for 10 minutes, the longest portion of the warmup. A few returns, a few overheads . . . (A beautiful morning warmup ritual.) 

Bill Bodie hitting a forehand.

In another twenty years, the one shot I will remember was Bill Bodie’s drop volley that crawled along the tape for as long as it takes me to write this sentence before it decided to drop on the opponent’s side in the deciding match tiebreaker. John Bailey and Bill Bodie won this final match, clinching third place, one of the highest finishes an Arkansas team has had at this prestigious event.

Me leaning into a slice backhand. with my Big Bubba racquet. (John Bailey and Doug Stursma use the Big Bubba, too.)

In between matches, I remember long discussions with Van Light (below) from the Arkansas 65 women’s team about methods of recovery after matches: numerous brief workouts alternating with rest over 24 hours, breathing exercises of various types where you often held your breath . . . I tried some on the drive back home to Fayetteville.

Van Light playing singles for Arkansas in the Women’s 65s.

Our opponents played wondrous tennis. How late Joaquim Rasgado (who beat Borg at Wimbledon in Juniors) could hold the ball on his racquet. How elegantly Maxime Buyckx (often ranked #1 nationally in singles) covered the court. John Bailey played both of them in singles, splitting those matches. In the doubles match Bill and I lost to the Georgia team that won the title, I remember well the stinging forehands of Gert Van Den Heever, the quick 70 year-old reflexes and gleefully crushed overheads of Danny Carlson (both pictured below.)

Danny Carlson and Gert Van Den Heever (both multiple gold ball winners) from the winning Georgia team. They smoked Bill and I in doubles.

One thing that bound almost all of us together from every state was the common experience of getting smoked, at least once, by better players. Tennis is a humbling sport.

Photographs from Callen Cup 2022 are from Mark Partain, the official photographer of the event. The one exception is the final photo of Danny Carlson and Gert Van Den Heever, which was taken from Danny Carlson’s facebook post.

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