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March 11, 2014 12:36 PM

Bill_and_Gail_Long_(2)The APS Singles Tournament is the harbinger of teenage tennis in Albuquerque. It’s like Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. Early each March, on a Friday and a Saturday, Bill and Gail Long run the show at the APS. They check kids in, direct traffic, answer questions, solve disputes, congratulate winners, cheer-up losers and all the while try to stay warm on what are typically two breezy and chilly days. The Longs not only co-direct the APS Singles Tournament, they serve as referees for the venerable competition. Bill, 71, oversees the boys singles and Gail, 76, manages the girls play. The Longs are also fixtures at the annual Metro Tournament, a doubles and singles event in April for public and private school kids in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. If that’s not enough, the couple officiate at the New Mexico Open and at Lobo Tennis Club events and at UNM men’s and women’s matches.  

How long have you two been running the APS Singles?
Bill: I think probably about 10 or 12 years.
Gail:  I think 9.  No, wait, when did Richard Rubin die? 2002? 2003?
Bill: That sounds about right.  Richard was in charge of the tournament for a while. He died on a tennis court at Highpoint.  He was a smoker.
Gail:  He was a New Yorker. He’d been an attorney, the hard-charging type. But he had a heart of gold.
Bill: He has a bench named in his honor alongside the Highpoint courts. Just like Ralph Thompson does.
Gail: When we started, Richard was doing the boys part of the APS Singles and I was doing the girls.  Then, when Bill and I took over, Bill took the boys and I stayed with running the girls. The boys singles the first day at Sierra Vista West and the girls at Jerry Cline.  On Saturday, all the finals at Jerry Cline.
The weather in early March can be pretty unpredictable, can’t it?
Bill:  More than once I’ve shoveled snow off the tennis courts.
Gail: We get snow and rain and wind.  Always wind.
Any particular troubles at the tournaments you run?
Bill: Maybe you remember the Metro tournament last year?  We had one Eldorado player playing another when a fight broke out between them.
Gail: They were doubles partners.
Bill: The older brother of one of the boys stepped in to restrain them.
Gail: These kids are generally great, though. I love these kids. I first see them as real young kids and then I see them grown-up. Being around them always makes me feel younger.
You two are officials as well right?
Bill: Yup. We’re both certified officials. We sit in the chair when called upon.
Gail: Lately, we’ve been called upon frequently.  Maybe 25 times so far this year. Officiating is not for everybody.
Bill:  You’ve got to be thick-skinned and have an even temperament.
What brought you to New Mexico?
Bill: I was career Air Force.  I moved here in ’83 and was stationed at Kirtland and wound up retiring here.
Gail: I moved here in ’79.  I had been living in New Jersey and came out here to start another life.
Have you always played tennis?
Gail:  I started to play when I was 40, back in New Jersey where I grew up.  I was always an athlete. I played volleyball, softball, I bowled.
Bill: I grew up in Fullerton, California, and played, as a boy.  I went to college at Cal-Berkeley and played No. 3 on the freshman team.  Cal had a very good team, with Jim McManus and Bill Hoogs. They were No. 5 in the nation then. After my sophomore year the coach suggested maybe I would be better off not being on the team. I went on to play tournaments in the Air Force, but I didn’t really get involved in tennis until 1990, when I retired.  
Where did you meet?
Gail: At Highpoint. We were both 4.5 players.
Bill: We were looking for a partner to play in a mixed doubles tournament.  
Gail: We were both married at the time—to other people.
Bill:  We were tennis partners before we were marriage partners. We won a lot of tournaments together, mostly in the 50s and seniors.
Gail: Bill and I played mixed doubles a long time together before we started going together. We’ve been married 17 years now. I was on the one of the first women’s teams from Albuquerque to win a national tournament. A 4.0 team from Highpoint. This was 1989, in Key Biscayne, Fla.  
Bill:  One year we went to the Senior Olympics in Florida and competed.
How much tennis do you play these days?
Bill: Not that much. I don’t play singles. I play doubles on Wednesdays at Tanoan with a bunch of guys who are in their early 70s. Contemporaries.
Gail: I played singles until I was 60.  I stopped because I didn’t want to do any more damage to my body.
Bill: We’re golfers now. Tennis is about mobility. You can have the greatest strokes, but if you can’t get to the ball, you’re not going to do well.
How is your health?
Bill: I’ve had two artificial hips.
Gail:  I’ve got an artificial knee, an artificial hip and had two rotator surgeries.
Bill:  I had a heart attack in ’88 while I was still in the Air Force.  Then, in 2008, I went into full cardiac arrest.
What happened?
Bill: I had gone into the kitchen and I fell over backward and hit the refrigerator.  Gail saved my life.
Gail: I heard a thud in the kitchen and found him on the floor. He looked quite dead.  He was gray and not breathing. This was 6:30 at night.  I shook him and talked to him.  Nothing. Then I did CPR, or what I could remember about CPR. I called 911. It was a miracle.  
Bill: They had to ice me down in the hospital to lower my body temperature, which causes less stress on my heart. I’ve got a built-in defibrillator. In December 2012, I had a-fib.  
Gail: He went to atrial-fibrillation. An abnormal heartbeat.  His heart was beating too quickly.
Bill: I’m the healthiest-looking guy who almost died twice.
Do you think having played tennis got Bill through these physical crises?
Gail: I think that he was in good physical condition from all the tennis definitely helped him.
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