Tennis Ace of the Month – Larry Reed
Tennis Ace – June 2017
Where were you born and raised?
If you aren’t from Pittsburgh or the surrounding areas, what brought you to Pittsburgh, PA?
How long have you been associated with the Highland Park Tennis Club? In what capacities?
15 years – I was the treasurer, served as a coach for the Summer clinic and am a Board Member.
At what age, where and with whom did you first begin playing tennis?
I began playing in my early 20’s and Manny Rhodes was my inspiration.
Did you play for any school teams? If so, what teams, when and at what schools?
What level tennis player are you now? What was your highest ranking?
3.5 – 4.0
Do you play in tournaments now? If so, why? If not, why not?
Not anymore. My body is beat up.
Do you prefer singles, doubles and or mixed play? Why?
I like them both.
Name two of your favorite tennis players and tell why they are your favorites.
I’d have to say Arthur Ashe. He was such a big figure on and off the courts. On the female side, Venus Williams is my choice because of her dignity and perseverance.
If you could ask each of them a question, what would the questions be?
Can we hit a few?
What is it about the game that you like? Why?
Fun way to work out with good folks and always a challenge to improve
Is there anything about the game that you don’t like and if so, what is it and why?
It’s as good as it gets.
If you could change one thing about tennis, what would it be?
What do you consider the strongest aspect of your tennis game? Why?
What part of your tennis game would you most like to improve? Why?
Hitting each ball smoothly.
Do you have a personal tennis match that stands out in your mind? Please share the circumstances of that match with us.
Upsetting a seeded player in the NAACP tournament.
Aside from tennis, in what other athletic activities do you participate?
What is your favorite type of music?
Name your favorite musical artist/group?
What is your favorite food?
What can always be found in your refrigerator?
What is your favorite vacation spot?
If there is anything that you would change about the world in which we live today, what would it be?
Threat of Nuclear War
What would most others be surprised to know about you?
I’m a voting machine tech. As such I train people on how to operate the machines and make certain repairs.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes, I’d like to share the following narrative:
The Highland Park Tennis Club’s web site features the “Ace of the of the Month”, an interesting series of articles about how various members got into tennis. Reading those inspired me to narrate my own tennis story. I first stepped on a tennis court at the suggestion of my oldest friend Manny, who I call my ‘Baby Bro’. I was in my early twenties. Manny learned the racquet sports, tennis, squash and racquetball from his days at a New England prep school and like a good little brother introduced them to me. Being an intensely competitive type of fellow, he took great delight in pounding the ball right past me. It was all I could do to make contact with the Jack Kramer he lent me and the ball, much less hit the ball back in the court.
Playing with Manny and his big brother Joe, I was heavily influenced by their style of play which featured “get”. The greatest thing you could do was run down a ball that looked to be ‘ungettable’. You might hear a ‘good hit’ ‘or good serve’ – usually just to mess with your head, but a ‘good get’ earned respect, because it required, even more than speed, anticipation, focus and will.
One day me and Chuck ‘the backboard ‘Ulmer decided to leave the familiar confines of Highland Park to go try out the new surface at the Frick Park courts. Jose Mieres has really fixed things up over there; in the old days the courts were dirt, forget clay, sand, or har–tru, they were just plain old dirt. They now look like Roland Garros and are a joy to hit on. I always did like sliding around and the patience of the clay court game anyway. Two players on the next court approached us. They looked familiar, I thought I’d seen them play in the annual clay court tournament, so they say “Hey you all want to play some doubles?” Well, we were a little hesitant you so we said we were just hitting, not really looking to play. Then they said “Ah, come on, it’ll be fun.” Now anytime somebody wants to play tennis with you and you hear the words, ’it will be fun’, you can bet what is to follow will be an absolute blood and guts slugfest and this time was not to disappoint. We had to dig deep but competed fairly well against the veteran team. On one play, their net man hit a volley at such a sharp angle it bounced off the court but being totally in the moment, I anticipated it, flowed with the ball, and at full extension flicked the ball around the net post back inside the baseline for a well-deserved point. My mentors would have been proud.
That reminds me of the time I was hitting with my son, Ian, at the Bunker Hill courts. First off, our hitting together is the most rewarding experience. It is so great to see the enthusiasm for tennis passed down the line and hopefully through the generations. Ian had actually passed up an opportunity to attend a youth tennis camp in Florida, with the venerable Willa Bentley, but he was very devoted to his Dynamo soccer travel team (he could be single minded that way). We were already spent and soaked from a good workout in the high humidity, 90 plus degree temperature and were turning it in when what appeared to be a father and his young daughter, asked if we wanted to play one. Not your everyday doubles team, I thought, eyeing them up. Sapped of all energy, we declined. “Ah, come on, it’ll be fun” he said. “Oh no, I thought. We murmured, “Ok, but just one”. As we took some warm up serves, the young girl tossed the ball up, body arching back, eyes to the sky, racquet whipping through the ball (now minus some fuzz), and rocketing down in the service box, making a clanging sound as it bounced into the fence. We just looked at each other. ‘Ok, here we go, let the fun begin’.
Perhaps my most sustained involvement in tennis was with the renowned NAACP tournament, starting with the first one in 1970 and going 20 consecutive years, through changing tournament directors, sponsors and locations. It was known far and wide as the most fun tournament of the year and drew large and diverse crowds, especially for the final dinner and party. Man, those were the days. I was usually good for a, few rounds, not bad for a street player, but not on the level of the more polished players. One match that pops in my memory was a 2 hour plus, 3 set marathon played, again in 95-degree Fahrenheit heat, at Schenley Park against Quig who’s as tough as nails. I wandered off the court a few pounds lighter in near delirium, completely drained. I still have many of the tournament T- shirts collected over the years.
It was around 2005 that I got a call from Sir Henry Reynolds. The recently established Highland Park Tennis Club needed a treasurer. I stepped up and held the job for several years, helping establish the growing club, which earned a Community Tennis Organization of the year award. I was proud to be part of a team that had such a positive effect; promoting tennis in schools, senior centers, neighborhood fairs and city and club courts, even producing the national Arthur Ashe Essay contest of year winner. About the same time, I volunteered to coach in the club’s signature activity, the Saturday morning Free Clinic. Participation has skyrocketed since the earlier days when I had the beginning adult group that had only several people in it. We were a close group, everyone knew everyone else’s name and we just had fun together.
At season’s end, the group gave me a gift certificate and a card with Jackie Robinson saying “A life is not important except in the impact it has on others”. I love tennis for so many reasons. There’s the social aspect; all the good, positive people we’ve met and played with over many years. There’s its versatility; boys and girls mixing it up a little, singles, doubles, Australian or just rallying. Enjoying the outdoors on a sunny day (my favorite) or hitting it up at the Mellon Bubble on a snowy morning, (helps to make the winter season a little more bearable). In this ‘sport for life’, the many seniors that are regular players are especially inspirational. Like Jerry, a math professor who plays at the Mellon Bubble, who recently decided to hang up the racquet. He’s 93.
Thanks Baby Bro.