The Acura Classic continued to exude class on the courts as it hosted more than 40 of the world’s top female tennis players from around the world and honored two local legends of the game, La Jolla’s Bill Kellogg and Dodo Cheney, during the event’s 20 th anniversary at the newly renovated La Costa Resort & Spa.

As is typical with this event, the tennis was as impressive as the line up which featured both Williams sisters, Venus and Serena (although both pulled out due to injuries), Wimbledon champion, Maria Sharapova, and her Russian counterparts Vera Zvonereva and Anastasia Myskina, this year’s French Open champion and the first Russian woman to ever win a Grand Slam.

And that was just the top half of the draw. The bottom half was a bit less congested which featured Lindsey Davenport and Amellie Mauresmo who was the number two seed but lost in the quarter-final to Zvonereva in an exciting three-set match. Zvonereva then went on to battle fellow Russian, Myskina, in the semi-final, which Myskina eventually won in an amazing match that included a determining third set tiebreak that was the longest in women’s tennis history, 17-15, with Myskina as the victor.

Just twelve hours later, Myskina was back on the court for the finals, exhausted and obviously not yet recovered, and went down in a straight set defeat to American and crowd favorite, Lindsey Davenport.

Fans were also treated to a great doubles line up that not only featured the legendary Martina Navratilova, but also the number one and two ranked teams in the world who use Acura as a warm up to the U.S. Open.

Considered a first class even among both patrons and players, it’s no surprise that the Acura Classic achieved Tier One status this year, offering a record $1.3 million purse and has gained distinction as being one of the top ten largest non-Grand Slam women’s tournaments in the world.

Fitting of an event with first class status, Acura’s center court ceremony honoring La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club president, William J. Kellogg, and a true pioneer of women’s tennis, Dorothy Cheney, whom everybody knows as Dodo, was just another example of this event’s touch of class.

While Kellogg is well known in this community, what people may not know is that his affiliation with tennis has been life-long. He was one of the top-ranked Southern California Junior players who went on to letter in tennis at Dartmouth and was named to the all-Ivy League team in the NCAA Championships. Today Kellogg continues to be a major force in San Diego tennis and manages more National Senior championship events than anyone else in the country.

But when it comes to recognition for tennis achievements, there are few on the planet any more deserving than Dodo Cheney, who has competed in competitive tennis for eight decades, from her teens to super senior years.

As the first American woman to win the Australian National Championships in 1938, Cheney has won 343 USTA national titles, 20 Senior Grand Slams and was just inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this year alongside tennis greats, Steffi Graf and Stefan Edberg.

While many tennis aficionados felt Cheney’s Hall of Fame induction was long overdue, Cheney was thrilled with the honor, regardless of when it happened.

“This was the best year to have been inducted because it was the 50 th Anniversary so all the previous inductees were there too,” Cheney shared. “There was a big gala with dinner and dancing, which I did lots of with my family and even with my arthritic knees, I didn’t feel any pain so I guess I’ll just have to keep on dancing too!”

It’s likely Cheney’s feet haven’t touched the ground since getting the call about her induction. When asked who she wanted to introduce her at the ceremony, Cheney didn’t hesitate and said, “Johnny McEnroe.”

A big fan of Cheney’s McEnroe may deserve partial credit for Cheney’s induction since he referred to her as being overlooked by the Hall during his induction speech so he happily accepted the honor and Cheney’s request to introduce her at this year’s ceremony.

“What a thrill it was for an 87-year old grandma, well actually, great-great grandma, to be escorted around center court by Johnny Mac!” Cheney cheered.

But McEnroe didn’t stop there; he later invited Cheney to hit with him on one of the outer courts, to which Cheney thought he had to be joking.

“After the ceremony, Johnny asked if I wanted to go hit and I thought certainly he was kidding, but he wasn’t,” Cheney remembered. “We got our rackets and off we went. We had a ball! Of course, he made me look good – hit ‘em right to me and I even scooted a few up the line right by him, but I’m sure he missed them on purpose!” Cheney laughed.

According to Cheney, McEnroe told her she was the only woman player to take him up on his offer, saying Venus Williams and other top players always declined.

But Cheney’s always up for a challenge and some fun so she has no intention of stopping playing the game she loves. With more titles than anyone in the sport, or “gold balls,” as Cheney refers to them, the word retirement is virtually non-existent in her vocabulary. She has actually won titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles for every age group category she has ever played in and still continues to rack up the trophies in the U.S. Women’s 85+ division.

Cheney’s obviously still in great shape, still loves the game and maintains her competitive drive, so it should be no surprise she continues to thrive.

“I think our 85+ age group is doing a good job teaching people the benefits of tennis for life,” Cheney said. “At the Hall of Fame induction, all of us older players are still healthy and looking good and that’s what tennis does.”

Cheney credits her family support and her genes (her parents were both pro tennis champions) as key to her longevity. She and her daughter still compete and win Mother-Daughter championships and Cheney says her son-in-law doctor helps keep her healthy too.

“I love tennis and am so thankful I can still play this game. I owe so much to tennis and just hope I can give something back to it so others love it too!” Cheney exclaimed.

Spoken like a true champion and a class act indeed.

 


Kelly Ferrin is a local gerontologist residing in Carlsbad. She is a certified
AARP retirement specialist, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of a
nationally released book titled, "What's Age Got To Do With It?" For column
ideas contact her at (760)438-2126 or on the internet at ageangel@earthlink.net.
Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126 web: http://www.ageangel.com

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