Ontario Tennis

Ontario Tennis 2017/2018 | Summer 2017

Tennis, Ontario

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INGE WEBER When Inge Weber stepped onto the court for the 2012 ITF Super Seniors World Individual Championships, she was not expecting to be the last woman standing. After all, the 76-year-old was unseeded and playing in her first world championship since 2009, taking a two-year break from the biggest super seniors' tennis tournament to have both of her hips replaced. Five matches later though, the women's over-75 draw in Croatia was down to just two competitors, and one was Weber. The Toronto resident eliminated the No. 1 seed in the semifinals, battling through a three-hour match to claim victory in a third-set tiebreaker. The reward was her second career world individual final, six years after she lost in her first championship match back in the over-70 age category. "I couldn't believe it when I made it to the final," Weber said. "I really was tired because it was a long match and I thought 'oh god I'm in the final'. But then I thought 'well I'm in the final – I cannot lose! There is no way'. So I pulled myself together." After fighting through another tough three- hour match the very next day, Weber, a longtime seniors tennis player, officially could call herself a world champion – the top female tennis player between the ages of 75 and 79. She defeated American Lyn Tietz 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to claim the gold medal. Making her incredible achievement even more impressive is the fact that her victory comes so soon after her surgeries. Weber had one hip replaced in September 2010 and eight months later had her other one done. Admitting she probably waited too long to have them done, she's happy it's finished and no longer feels pain. Now recovered, she is able to joke about how she has been able to play so well post-surgery. "Some of the ladies I played with years before, they say to me 'what did you do?', because I'm running around like nothing ever happened. And I say, 'well every night I have special oil and I oil each hip', and they look at me, like am I serious?" she said, laughing mischievously. She first stepped back on a court about four months after both surgeries, playing only mini- tennis with little movement in the beginning. Possessing a strong competitive nature, she made sure to rehab properly so that she could play tournaments again. She then played her first event in Florida in February, followed by another in Washington, the provincials, and nationals prior to heading off to Croatia. But she says it was only about two months before when she really began feeling comfortable on the court. "I wasn't scared but I thought 'oh my god' because you play one match, you win, and you play the next day," she said. "Because it was a big draw and the matches get harder and harder, and my last two matches, the semi-final and final, were both over three hours. So I thought, 'oh god what am I doing?' So I was tired after that. I surprised myself with how well I played, and I guess I surprised a lot of people but mostly myself." Born in Germany in 1936, Weber began playing tennis when she was 10 years old. Her father was the head groundskeeper at a private tennis club, and her family lived in an apartment on top of the clubhouse. Growing up, she was always picking up tennis racquets and hitting balls around. Moving to Canada at the age of 17, she and her family settled in Kitchener, where Weber says tennis courts weren't as readily available. She moved to Toronto when she was 29 or 30, in part for more opportunities to play tennis regularly. She was already an out-of-town member of the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, and has been a part of the club ever since. Calling it her second home, members will find Weber at the Lawn nearly every afternoon, socializing and playing tennis. "I think I'm better now," she said, comparing her play today against her early senior days. "I'm much more consistent. Also I think I use my head more, there's more going on up here. When you're young, you're invincible, you think you can do whatever and the next thing you know, you've lost. I use my head a lot more now." Her victory in the championship match is proof of her ability to use her intelligence and immense will to win. Against a player who regularly sent high lobs across the net and didn't use a lot of pace or variety, Weber struggled at first to impose her game. "I lost the first set, and I'm going totally bananas but then I thought 'I cannot lose to this kind of game, I just can't'," she said. "So after a while I started to figure out a little bit when she would lob and also on her serve I was all of a sudden able to hit the ball down the line and win points on the return. So eventually I pulled her down, and then I ran down every ball that I could." Winning the world championship is one of the heights of Weber's long tennis-playing career. She has represented Canada on the international circuit for years, as she was a member of the first women's squad sent to the world team championships. Back then, there were only two female Cups to compete for, the over-40 Young Cup or the over-50 Bueno Cup. So Weber, aged 48, played for the Young Cup. She has participated in every team age group since then, making four finals along the way. This year, she and her Queens' Cup teammates placed fourth. For Weber, playing seniors tennis was a natural progression. Once she could no longer compete with the younger players in the Open tournaments, she turned to seniors tennis and has played ever since, never considering calling it a career. "I remember one of the ladies years and years ago, a German lady, I think we could have been in the 50s or 55s and we were watching some of the players that were 70," she said. "And she said 'I will never play when I'm that old'. And she's still playing! In a way you don't even think about it, you don't realize, gosh, I'm 70 now or 75; it just goes on and on." With a deep affection for seniors tennis, Weber would love for more people to sign up for tournaments, especially women. She says some of the best benefits of seniors tennis are being able to travel to play tennis – Weber estimates about 80 per cent of her world travels have been because of tennis – meet nice people, represent Canada, and do well. "Also, you get experience," she said. "You most definitely improve your game when you play tournaments. I can see this with me, just today I played and I couldn't miss. I mean whatever ball came my way, my opponent on the other side was just like 'I can't believe this' and she's a very good player too. It's this confidence, that whatever ball comes, you can do something with it. Your game improves, your feel is so much better." Now 66 years after Weber first played tennis, she is better than ever, and fully expects to be around the game for years to come. "I just love tennis. Even when the day comes that I stop playing tournaments, I'll still be playing tennis. I think it's just a great sport." ONTENNIS.ca | SUMMER 2017 15 SUPERSENIORS WEBER HAD ONE HIP REPLACED IN SEPTEMBER 2010 AND EIGHT MONTHS LATER HAD HER OTHER ONE DONE. Shawn B. Bailey

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