Tennis veteran still in finals
ROCKHAMPTON tennis products Oli Smith and Rod Laver are of a similar age – the only difference is that Smith is still reaching the final in major tournaments.
Smith recently returned to Rockhampton after losing narrowly in the singles final of the Australian Masters tournament at the Gold Coast.
With 25 players in his division, competition was intense with some excellent tennis and close matches.
The remarkable thing is that Smith plays his tennis in the 75-to-80-year age group.
Smith enjoys his sport and was a talented rugby league player, but over more recent times it is tennis that has been his great sporting love.
“I’ve always been a keen club player,” Smith said.
As a member of the Delwood Tennis Club, Smith still enters tournaments, although owing to a lack of numbers, he is unable to compete locally against players his own age.
The Gold Coast tournament was an International Tennis Federation-sanctioned event and therefore attracted the best players nationally, plus a number of overseas competitors from Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States.
It was an American who ended Smith’s run in the singles.
“I played good, but I was never good enough,” he admitted.
Smith’s opponent in the final was John Powless, who went on to win the event 7-6, 6-3.
“He’s a class act,” Smith conceded.
“He plays around the world all the time and is number two in the world.”
Not that Smith is overawed at playing high-ranked competitors; after all, he was ranked at number three in the world a few years ago.
To maintain a ranking, players have to regularly play in major sanctioned tournaments and keep building their ranking points.
“That was the year we (Australia) won the Britannia Cup,” he said.
Smith was in a team of three which beat America in the prestigious event with the Rockhampton ace winning his matches.
Although suffering the disappointment of losing the singles final at the Gold Coast, Smith did achieve some compensation by pairing up with Don Anderson to beat Alan Hocking and Graham Brown 6-2, 7-6 in the doubles final.
During the first week of the tournament, Smith was also a member of the Queensland team that won the teams event, trouncing South Australia 8-0 in the final.
All competitive players need to train and Smith is no different, playing tennis three or four times each week and running regularly.
“You are no longer as loose as you think you are,” he said.
“All over-70s need to do some kind of training.”
Smith said Rockhampton’s Merv Bidgood and Ken Wollschlager deserved high praise for their efforts at the same tournament, finishing runner-up in the doubles in a very strong over-55-year division.