• Category Archives Houston 2016
  • Category I Nationals » Houston 2016
  • Julie Scott Thu Strikes Gold in Houston in the 35s

    Julie Thu of Austin won the 35 singles last year in Houston, under different circumstances…it was pouring down rain and she beat Nancy Hilliard then indoors last year on a hard court; this year the final was played in about 80 degree weather outdoors on a very slow clay court. (The weather gods that punished this tournament last year, blessed it this year…it could have been San Diego, the weather was so perfect all week.) Julie played her doubles partner, Kaysie Smashey (who upset Hilliard in the semis) in the final and it was an excellent match. It was a comeback of sorts for Thu…after she won the title last year she fell doing crossfit (running backwards she tripped over a cone), and as a result has a metal plate in her left wrist. (She is a lefty.) This year she dropped the opening set, but her “crossfitness” allowed her to finish strongly after she found the range with her two-handed passing shots. Hilliard took the bronze. Smashey is in blue below. You can tell she’s in the 35s because of how low she bends to hi the ball!

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    The gold in doubles went to Thu/Smashey over Hilliard/Amy McCambell. The first set was all Smashey/Thu, but the #2 seeds kept it close in the second, but eventually succumbed to the top seeds 61 75. 

    There were various consolation finals going on as well. Emily Schaeffer/Kristin Hess won on a lot of levels…a year ago Kristin was quite ill with cancer and this year she was finishing fifth in doubles in an national championships. There were no losers on that court.

    Carol Gay was 5th in the 65 singles (Sue Bramlette tried but couldn’t finish the match, pulled muscle).


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    Grace Woo was 5th in 75 singles, beating Patti Boyer.

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    Susan Boyer played errorless, precision tennis to beat Sally Smith 60 62. The two look like sisters and even dressed alike today (Sally has the yellow in her shoes). They Boyer/Erin Boynton took on Smith/Gail Warden in an entertaining match won by Boyer/Boynton in two close sets. Boyer again played pretty much errorless tennis.

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    Thanks once more the the Houston Racquet Club and its members for hosting and supporting this event; to Cathy Lassiter and Sue Bramlette for running such a great event along with all their volunteers; to  Harriet Hulbert the referee, to Mary Ann Gralka for manning the tournament desk; to Judy Job for taking photos..and to all the sponsors, particularly the Gardere Law Firm and Bob Bramlette. This is The Best senior tournament!

    Draws: http://m.tennislink.usta.com/TournamentHome/tournament.aspx?t=171179


  • Thu, Smashey Advance to 35s Singles Final Saturday in Houston

    Julie Thu and Kaysie Smashey took different routes to the 35s final, but both arrived there in straight sets. Thu blasted her way past Julie Lessiter 61 60, in a match that looked closer than that score. Thu, a Stanford star in the 90s, is a lefty who hits two-handed off both sides.ThoughThu said she much prefers hard courts, she looked pretty comfortable on the clay. Smashey edged her way past #2 seeded Nancy Hilliard, in a closely contested semi. Smashey had a 4/1 lead in the first set, at which time Hilliard served a 15 or so minute game and held, and broke…they stayed on serve but Smashey broke at 65 for the set and won the second 63. Smashey is aptly named…when I first came by the court, onlookers told me to look for her overhead smash, which they said was amazing. The final is a repeat of the 30 hard court final in March, which Thu won.

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    In doubles, Smashey/Thu and McCambell/Hilliard advanced to the final without drama.

    In other action, Susan Boyer will meet Sally Smith in the 55 consolation final. Boyer beat Buholz 62 61. Susan was just too consistent and crafty on the clay for Buholz. Smith edged Kathy Vick in a long match…one in which Vick actually won more games. 75 16 64. Smith said she was a bit more aggressive in the third set and quit thinking too much.

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    Sue Bramlette, the many hat wearer, survived a long match with Cindy Babb (and retrieved a lot of drop shots). She will face Carol Gay who had a walkover.

    Grace Woo beat Kathy Langer in the 75s Kathy said the balls got heavy in the 2nd set which favored her, but that Grace blasted her off the court in the third with new balls. Patti Boyer beat Dorcus Miller 61 64.

    In 45 doubles, Hartsock/Thomason will play Hess/Schaefer. Charlotte Hartsock won the backdraw yesterday.

    In 55 doubles, Smith/Warden were down 26 15 0-40 when their opponents retired (plane to catch tomorrow). They play Boyer/Erin Boynton tomorrow.

    In 65 doubles, Gay/Johnson will take on Pruitt/Simmons for 5th tomorrow.

    In 75 doubles, Langer/Tietz will play O’Sullivan/Oldfield.

    In 35 doubles, Loeffler/Phillips play Graham/Guszak.

    All results: http://m.tennislink.usta.com/TournamentHome/tournament.aspx?t=171179

    Photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/111133686884013323699/HoustonNationalSeniorWomenSClayCourts2016

  • Barker, Downing, Fales, Lutz & Price Earn Singles Gold in Houston

    There were gold ball matches and main draw 35 matches going on all around the club today but the match of the day had to be the 45 consolation doubles match between Pam Cooke/Kim Lackey, the #3 seeds and Susan Dawson/Tosha Smith. I heard that Dawson/Smith had nine (9!) match points but Pam/Kim won 16 76(14) 75 to live to play another day.


    Diane Barker completed her utter domination of the 55s with a comprehensive 62 60 defeat of Tracy Houk. Barker hit winner after winner past Houk, which no one else was able to do all week. Houk moves extremely well, and defends really well, so getting the ball past her isn’t easy, but Diane hit laserlike groundies corner to corner and finished with sharp angles and volleys. She played just amazingly well. I took bronze over Susan by default (sore/tired  shoulder).

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    in the 65s, Martha Downing was just as precise in beating Toni Novack, if not hitting with quite the same power. She hit her targets and didn’t allow Novack to hit her famous dropshots, or not often enough anyway. Molly Hahn won the bronze over Kathy Barnes.

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    Donna Fales moved smoothly past Charleen Hillebrand to take the 75 crown in straight sets. Suella Steel beat Sheila Weinstock for the bronze.

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    Jane Lutz won the 85 singles …again!

    Rita Price beat Cathie Hall in the final 90s RR match, with men from a nearby senior center watching on and cheering (I heard Rita got a marriage proposal afterwards!). Rita won 61 62, she moved beautifully.

    Julie Cass/Alissa Finerman won the 45 doubles, edging Jean Marie Alpert/Tammy Morris 76 75. The #4 seeds, Laura Hudson/Cynthia Rice won the 3/4 playoff over Neuthaler/Bottinelli

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    In doubles, Tracy Houk and Kathy Vick played a terrific match to beat Susan and me. The ball just kept coming back…our match lasted about three hours. Lots of interesting exchanges. Unfortunately for us Diane didn’t let Tracy hit enough balls to wear her out! Vicki Buholz/Marianne Caplan took the bronze with a 75 62 victory over Pam Cooke/Kim Lackey.

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    The 65 doubles champions are Ann Stanley/Sue Bramlette (sorry, had the wrong winner’s name earlier but the right photo!) who beat Downing/Kathy Bennett 63 21 retired (Kathy was ill). Leslie Vallejo/Kathy Barnes took the bronze with a marathon three setter over Cindy Babb/Barbara Hubbard 75 in the third.

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    Hillebrand/Steel won the 75 doubles over Weinstock/Jane Pang. Donna Fales/Roberta Sung took the bronze.

    And the 35s were in action too today. Julie Lessiter upset #4 seed Amy McCambell but the rest of the seeds advanced to the semis including Nancy Hilliard.

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    All results: http://m.tennislink.usta.com/TournamentHome/tournament.aspx?t=171179

    Photos of players: https://picasaweb.google.com/111133686884013323699/HoustonNationalSeniorWomenSClayCourts2016

  • Jolene Watanabe Wins 45 Singles Gold in Houston; Finals Set for 55, 65 & 75s

    Jolene Watanabe avenged her 2015 loss here in the final to Julie Cass this year, beating Cass 76 64 to win the 45 Clay for the second time. Jean Marie Alpert, who upset #4 seed Hudson in the quarters, took out #3 seeded Shelly Works 63 61 to win the bronze. In doubles,  Cass is still in the running for the gold, teaming today with Alisa Finerman to beat Neuthaler/Bottincelli. They will face #4 seeded Tammy Morris/Alpert in the final.

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    In the 55s, Tracy Houk upset #2 seeded Susan Wright 61 64 in a two hour plus match. Tracy has wicked topspin on her backhand, a funky slice on her forehand, and a “refuse to lose” attitude…and fast fast feet. She’ll need all of that in the final against Diane Barker, who beat me 62 61 today in a match which was not nearly as competitive as even that lopsided score would indicate. I was like a target on a tree and Diane was the rifleman lining up shots…she missed a few at first, then honed in on the center. She was hitting laser-like shots to any spot on the court I wasn’t near. The good news is that the match did not wear me out for our doubles! Susan and I took on Vicki Buholz/Marianne Caplan. Caplan was nursing a knee injury from the previous day (she had to play Susan and they had a 76 64 match, followed by doubles). Susan and I won 61 62, but the points were often long and there were several long deuce games, lots of lobs again. We play Houk/Kathy Vick, the #2 seeds, in the final. They beat Pam Cooke/Kim Lackey in the semis 26 62 60. So it will be a good final tomorrow afternoon.

    In the 65s, Martha Downing cruised into the final against Molly Hahn 61 62 but the 2nd set was close, every game going to deuce. Martha plays Toni Novack in the final. Toni beat Kathy Barnes 64 76, rallying from 04 down in the 2nd to win. Downing/Kathy Bennett beat Cindy Ball/Barbara Hubbard in one semi. They face Sue Bramlette/Ann Stanley, who edged Kathy Barnes/Leslie Vallejo in three sets (Kathy probably spent the rest of the day in the hot tub or ice bath…running after Toni’s drop shots and Sue’s lobs will do that to a person).

    The 75s went according to the seeds today: Donna Fales beat Suella Steel 1,1 and Charleen Hillebrand beat Sheila Weinstock (who is fortunately mostly recovered from a nasty bicycle accident she was involved in last year) 63 63. Hillebrand/Steel are in the doubles final. I’m not quite sure who they play…the results say Fales/Roberta Sung but I thought Donna told me she’d lost the first set, so I’lll check tomorrow. They played Jane Pang/Weinstock.

    In the 85s, Jane Lutz won again over Caroline Clark. Rita Price/Joyce Vanderpol won the 90 doubles over Elaine Mason/Cathie Hall.

    In 85 doubles, Clark and Lutz are getting their money’s worth…they’ve gone 3 sets in every match, but only lost to Jones/Ray. The 85s are shown below, the top four teams.


    There was a nice player dinner tonight and NSWTA silent auction. Cindy Babb won the Betty Gray Washington sportswoman award.

    Results: http://m.tennislink.usta.com/TournamentHome/tournament.aspx?t=171179

  • Houston Wednesday: On to the Semis and a Visit by Katrina Adams

    We had an early start today, 8:30, but it was overcast, so the shadows weren’t a factor today at least and the weather was fine, 60s in the morning and 80s in the afternoon with a brief rain shower.

    I played Vicki Buholz, a 5-8 seed today. She’s from the Dallas area, and teaches tennis at T-Bar there and is a member of the 2016 USA Maureen Connolly Cup team. The conditions were quite heavy and slow which probably favored me a bit. We had a 2+ hour match which was much closer than the 61 64 score would indicate. I did a lot of running! Diane Barker took out Susan Boyer 64 61 and I play Diane tomorrow morning. Susan Wright had a tussle with Marianne Caplan but won 76 64 (and finished before Vicki and I did, even though we started at the same time). Tracy Houk outlasted Kathy Vick 62 61. Tracy and Susan, who have known each other since the juniors in NorCal, will face off tomorrow.

    In doubles, Susan and I played Abbi Neuthaler and Ligia Bottinelli. We won 63 62 but it lasted nearly two hours and featured a lot of long points and games (and lobs..hey, it’s clay).


    We play Vicki and Marianne in doubles tomorrow; they beat Yvonne Gallop/Anne Pellow 64 62 today. Pam Cooke/Kim Lackey took out Kathy Foulk/Terri Thompson and in the match of the day, Houk and Vick beat Boyer/Erin Boynton 64 in the third…that was a match that had a lot of long points and rallies…it was fun to watch.

    The 45s finals are set for singles and will be a repeat of the 2015 final between Jolene Watanabe and Julie Cass. Both advanced easily to the final, losing only 3 games between them. so both should be well rested for the final. Cass combined with Alissa Finerman to advance to the semis. They face the team we beat today in the semis. Abbi and Ligia upset #3 seeds Cooke/Lackey 76 (4) 75, rallying from 53 down in the second to win the final four games.

    In the 65s, there were a number of upsets. In singles, Molly Hahn (5) took out her doubles partner, Vicky McEvoy (3) 64 63. Kathy Barnes advanced when Anne Guerrant retired after Kathy won the second set (she lost the first). Toni Novack beat Sue Bramlette and Martha Downing took out Carol Gay. In doubles, Barnes/Leslie Vallejo upset #3 seeded Hahn/McEvoy 46 64 64 but the remaining seeds advanced, though Cindy Babb/Barbara Hubbard barely escaped with a win over Debra Pruitt/Pam Simmons.

    The four top seeds prevailed in the 75 doubles, though Miller and Woo won by the skin of their teeth over Judy Janc/Norma Veal 76 (5) in the third (no wonder Norma was napping in the locker room later in the day!). However, in singles, Donna Fales, Charleen Hillebrand, Sheila Weinstock and Suella Steel advanced with ease to the semis.

    In the 85s, Carol Cofer and Jane Lutz are headed for a collision as are Cathie Hall and Rita Price in the 90s.

    There was a super cocktail party with great food in the afternoon and Katrina Adams came by to watch some tennis and talk to the players and answer questions here. It was nice for the Chair of the Board of the USTA to take the time out of her busy schedule to visit the best senior tournament in the world.

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    More results: http://m.tennislink.usta.com/TournamentHome/tournament.aspx?t=171179

  • Houston Tuesday

    Just a brief post because I have an 8:40 am quarterfinal tomorrow plus 12:30 doubles.

    I played Althena Cahas from Houston today, a crafty lefty. We had some good points and a couple long games but I won 61 61 and play Vicki Buholz, also of Texas (Dallas) tomorrow. Susan won handily too in singles and we won our doubles 60 60. We play Abbi Neuthaler and her partner tomorrow.

    Tamara Nelson, playing her first national (she turns 55 tomorrow.. Happy Birthday!) won a 4 hour marathon with Gail Warden. It wS played on a show court, so she’s no longer a newbie!

    We had the NSWTA annual meeting too.. Lively discussions ensued. Join the National Senior Women’s Tennis Association everyon! Go to NSWTA.org to join. 

  • Let the Play (on the Clay) Begin in Houston

    There are two big tennis tournaments going on in Houston this week (along with some final 4 thing for basketball). One is an ATP (men’s)  250 at River Oaks CC. The other is the USTA Category I National Clay Court Championships for women age 35/45/55/65/75/85/90. Just so no one is confused, the women’s tournament is being held on green clay (at the Houston Racquet Club) and is a gold ball event, while the men’s tournament is being held on red clay. I don’t think they get gold balls if they win!

    Play began today in the 45/55/65 & 75 divisions. No seeds lost today in any division and most matches were short but there were a few 3+ hour 3 setters. One interesting match in the 75s featured Normal Veal and Julia Levering (the former USTA president). Norma whales on the ball but Julia is more mobile…Julia prevailed in three sets.

    Oh…I played Teal Lang and won and play Althena Cajas tomorrow, a lefty who is good, and Susan Wright and I play doubles.

    Since the tennis, though of a good level, lacked a lot of drama, this is a good time to write about what a great tournament this is. The players are treated so well and made to feel so welcome. The theme this year is “hats off to Houston”. Sue Bramlette, the tournament director is going to have a tough decision as to which hat to wear to the cocktail party tomorrow night or to the player dinner the next night because she wears a LOT of hats this week…player (seeded #1 in doubles and in the 5-8 in singles); tournament director; fundraiser; detail person…she does it all with her great committee including Judy Job and Cathy Lassiter. In addition to the two aforementioned parties, the tournament provides a hot breakfast daily, and lunch daily, a free masseuse and a free trainer; full use of the fabulous facility including the dining facility. The members make us feel welcome and it’s really the best senior tournament I’ve played. So my hat is off to Sue and the Houston Racquet Club members and staff.

    Here’s a link to the results: http://m.tennislink.usta.com/TournamentHome/tournament.aspx?t=171179

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