With four wins and zero losses as a team, the men’s 40-and-over Florida team won second place overall at the USTA National Championship in Surprise, Arizona, on Oct. 13, according to TennisLink League championship reports.
“It was exhausting in a sense because all the matches were so close, and they are the battle of your mental capacity,” said Gaurang Gandhi, tennis team member and pharmacist by trade at Magellan Health. “For us, winning was unbelievable; now, we didn’t win finals, which was disappointing, but getting up to number two was so special.”
In the final, the team of 13 players, who mainly practice on the Village Walk courts in Lake Nona, battled against tennis teams from all over the country. Prior to making it to the semifinals in the National Championship, the Village Walk team won their men’s age group for all of Florida in July.
“We had to play two matches per day for three days; then we got into [the finals] and lost to Texas,” Gandhi said about the National Championship.
While the tennis team was dominating the courts in Arizona, tennis team captain Fernando Colon had to get surgery to remove cancerous skin cells from around his eyes.
“I decided not to tell anyone on the team, so I flew there on Wednesday to organize as a captain, and I practiced Thursday then flew back that night and went in for surgery on Friday morning,” said Colon, a strategic customer development manager at United States Pharmacopeia.
He maintained his responsibilities as captain through it all by texting who was playing whom at the next game. He had the team texting him live updates on all the matches. In the end, Colon said the surgery was successful, and he will be fine.
“It was tough for me because I like to be there, but by the phone, everyone was texting me,” Colon said.
The recreational tennis league is made up of over 300,000 players every year across all age ranges and different rankings within the ages. The adult 40-and-over league for men and women was created in 2013 due to the high volume of players in this category. This category is the largest demographic for the USTA, according to the official USTA website.
The team takes their practices very seriously. Mondays and Thursdays for two hours at 7 p.m. at the Village Walk courts, then they have games on Saturdays from February to July, playing against local teams to make it to the top.
“If you play a tennis match, you need to enjoy yourself; if not, don’t play,” Colon said. “If you are going to get mad, don’t play.”
Colon’s philosophy on the team’s dynamic and on coaching is to always stick together and have fun.
“No matter if we win or lose, we stick together because this is a lifelong thing,” Colon said.
Out of the 20 team members, only 13 could make it to the championship to play. Each team member had to pay for their own flights and hotel stay, and on top of this, all the members have jobs.
“If we had more guys, we definitely would have won,” Colon said.
In December, the team will find out if their status of playing at the 4.0 category will be moved up to the 4.5 category. The team’s individual players’ rankings throughout their time playing the whole year will be taken into account to decide where the team goes from here for next year’s matches.
“Some will be around, and some will move on, so it will be closing time for some of us,” Gandhi said.
The entire team is awaiting the confirmation text from their captain to see when the big celebration of their win will happen.
“We always organize parties in my home whether we win or lose, but for this one, we will rent the clubhouse in Village Walk to party in December,” Colon said.