USA Tennis New England celebrated its 75th birthday on February 5, 2002! As part of a year-long celebration of tennis in New England, people from throughout the section are sharing with us their favorite tennis memeories from the past 75 years.
This is the first part of an occassional series that will bring our tennis history to life. We start this series with the following stories, shared with us by Louis Stein, Anna Germano Enke and Paul Fein.
Louis Stein is also celebrating his 75th year of playing tennis. He states, “I started at age 12 and am still playing at age 87. Over the years, I have been ranked as high as #1 in New England and #5 in the country. I had both knees replaced 18 months ago. As a result, I haven’t been ranked the last two years. However, I am playing tennis again, hoping for more rankings.”
Anna Germano Enke truly demonstrates that tennis is, in fact, the sport of a lifetime. She was a skilled and recognized high school tennis player. During her high school career, she was the tennis champion twice, and finished as runner-up the other two years. She still clearly remembers the day that she got her high school yearbook, and saw the caption, “The Helen Wills Moody of Mamaroneck High School,” under her picture. Anna was so excited that she ran straight home to show her mother. Today, at 83 years young, she is still excited to step onto the tennis courts of the Beaver Brook Tennis Club in Danbury, Conn.
Paul Fein was was a “thrilled spectator” at the following match, which he says inspired him, and a few friends, to earn sectional rankings, play college tennis, and devote at least part of their careers to the sport of a lifetime. Paul is a tennis writer and has taught tennis during the summer months.
“In the 1960s a powerful force from the West Coast left his mark on the Pioneer Valley Championships, the eagerly awaited NELTA-sanctioned men’s tournament in Springfield, Mass., in July. Paul Welles, a 6’3″ serve-and-volleying Californian with a national men’s ranking, had married Pat Knox, also a talented player and formerly from Springfield.
Welles, who was visiting Springfield, entered the Pioneer Valley event and immediately produced a frenzy of excitement. Local players and fans were awed by his power, especially his 110-plus m.p.h. serve. Fortunately, he faced a worthy adversary in perennial New England No. 1 Henri Salaun in the final. But would the 5’6″ Salaun, who relied on unerring, medium-speed groundstrokes, speed, touch and guile stand a chance against Welles’s explosive game, even on clay?
Salaun, then in his 30s and the late-prime of a career that produced wins over several nationally ranked players, including No. 13 Crawford Henry, started confidently. But Welles banged serves so hard that they occasionally ricocheted off Salaun’s racket and sailed over the fence into the trees. The Forest Park crowd of about 200 loved every minute, as Salaun took the first set 7-5. Welles hit far more winners but also many more errors on a surface he likely had little experience on. Despite falling down and injuring himself in the second set, Salaun prevailed 7-5, 6-4.
New England had shown on that memorable day that tennis here was more than leisurely stroking a few balls and then enjoying tea and crumpets. Our best had beaten a premier player from America’s greatest tennis state. We all felt good afterwards and talked about that memorable match for years to come.”