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Member Profile: Jacqueline Tommelein

December 7, 2015 01:45 PM

TennisBallSMALL ADULT MEMBER PROFILE: Jacqueline Tommelein (Albuquerque, NM)

We recently caught up with 86-year-old Jacqueline Tommelein of Albuquerque, to get her unique story on her tennis background and the current state of her game. Tommelein is still going strong out there on the courts, playing on 43 league teams in the past decade, and four teams last year.

JackieTEarlier this year, Tommelein captured the women's singles 85-89 division title and the mixed doubles title in the same age classification at the National Senior Games in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She won all eight matches she played at the event...over two busy days!

Tommelein still finds her way to the tennis court on multiple days in the week when she's home in Albuquerque, even though many times she's giving up more than just a few decades to her competitors. The best part of Tommelein's league play story? She's doing it at every age range possible in the program, playing on teams in the 18 & Over League, 40 & Over League, the 55 & Over League and the 65 & Over League!

Tommelein was born in Belgium, and didn't get started playing tennis until she moved to America in 1961. She's always been the ultimate gung-ho tennis player, and is just making up for the later-in-life start she got on tennis.


USTASW: So we know you're from Belgium originally, did you get started playing tennis as a girl there?
JT:  I grew up in Belgium just around World War II. There was really no such thing as public courts at that time in the country. I never really played tennis as a child. It wasn't until I moved to America that I got to start this great sport.

USTASW: We know you came to the United States in 1961. You came to New York, right? Is that where you kind of picked up the sport?
Yes I started playing tennis in NY, hitting against the wall before venturing into actual games with people.  I only played singles at first, and then I joined a private league. I had a lot of energy and always have for tennis, so I added doubles.  At the public courts, I would play singles, then doubles - on weekends that would be from 7:45 am for singles,  until about 1 pm.  I purchased two tennis permits for the city courts (Summer). I played a lot!

USTASW: So, we heard a really great story about your love for the sport. We heard that you used to carry a net around with you, because the city of New York used to take down the tennis nets on city courts after Labor Day. You would roll out the net and just get out there and play?
Back then, the city would always close the clay courts completely,  but they'd leave the hard courts open...just without the nets. So, I purchased a net and strap, and yes I'd travel around with it! There was still plenty of nice weather, so we would mount our net and just play as long as we could, then remove our equipment when we were finished.

USTASW: This past year you've played on league teams in the 18 & Over, 40 & Over, 55 & Over and & 65 & Over divisions. You're giving up a lot of years, but you're still pretty competitive out there? What do you enjoy about league tennis?  
JT: I just enjoy the competition, so league playing fits nicely for me.  I am a member of HighPoint Sports and Wellness club here in Albuquerque, so I do play several days a week, so some of those partners know my game, and I partner with them in most of those matches.

USTASW: So, we heard that this past July you DROVE BY YOURSELF to Minneapolis from Albuquerque to play in the U.S National Senior Games Olympics. That's quite a haul. Sounds like that event has been a part of your yearly schedule?
JT: On my trips wherever the Nationals for the seniors are, I'll usually take my dogs with me and do some sightseeing as some of these places I have not seen, so I like to drive for that reason. The days I am scheduled for matches, I'll put my dogs in a kennel. On days off from tennis, I take my dogs (small) for a long walk in the open spaces in towns on these trips. I try to keep up with them!

This year, my singles opponent from Albuquerque died in May  -  I had roomed with her in Roswell, New Mexico earlier in the year ( the STATE games -  participants must qualify for the nationals by qualifying in the city and state games). It was sad and very unfortunate. Then my mixed partner for the event cancelled his trip to Minneapolis as he had some serious health problems. I had to search for another partner on the internet to play with.  It was a lucky match that my new partner was from Florida, but we pulled it off and won the mixed title.

USTASW: A lot of our younger members would love to know what's the real secret to being able to play tennis still at 86 years old?
JT: I suppose I am lucky to be in good health so far, and that's key at every age, but especially the older years. I do some gardening,  too. It helps me relax. I'd say just have fun with it and get out there every time you possibly can!

TennisBallSMALL Jacqueline Tommelein File:
- 86 Years Old
- National Senior Games Champion Women's Singles and Mixed Doubles (85-89 Age Dvision)
- Has played on 43 league teams the last 10 years
- IPlayed every single age classification of USTA Leagues in 2015 (18 & Over, 40 & Over, 55 & Over, 65 & Over)