Doubles duo back in the fray at Taco Bell Western Slope Open

John Davis, front, hits a shots as his doubles partner, Gaylen Kettle, backs him up Thursday during their first-round match in the 3.5 doubles division at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open at the Elliott Tennis Center.



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John Davis, front, hits a shots as his doubles partner, Gaylen Kettle, backs him up Thursday during their first-round match in the 3.5 doubles division at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open at the Elliott Tennis Center.

It was like old times again.

John Davis and Gaylen Kettle were back playing in the Taco Bell Western Slope Open tennis tournament Thursday at the Elliott Tennis Center.

It was the first time they’ve played in the tournament in two or three years.

“We haven’t played at all,” Kettle said. “We thought we’d try it again and see how my knees held up.”

Kettle had knee replacement surgery — on both knees.

Davis, owner of Blue Star Industries, ran for president of the United States and was out on the campaign trail while Davis rehabbed his knees.

“It was a lot of work,” Davis said. “I didn’t know what to expect. That first Saturday we left town and until Monday morning, I convinced myself a thousand times to turn around and go home.

“Once we got started, a lot of people didn’t think we’d go far. A lot thought I’d hit 20-30 counties and quit. We did about 2,000 counties, 2/3 of the United States. We met a lot of people heartsick with what’s going on (in the U.S.). We would’ve liked to hit every county, but we didn’t have enough time.”

Davis and Kettle were originally registered to play in the men’s 3.5-3.0 combined doubles draw and discovered they still have what it takes to play well at that level.

They were about to win their first-round match when they realized they could compete in the 4.0 division and defaulted, leading 6-2, 5-2.

Davis and Kettle turned their focus to their next match, a few minutes later, in the 4.0 doubles draw.

The 56-year-olds from Grand Junction and Fruita won their 4.0 doubles first round match 6-7, 7-5, (10-3) over a pair of a 22-year-olds.

Kettle was pleasantly surprised how well his knees held up in the matches, but may have pulled a muscle in his calf in the second match.

“It was fun,” Davis said. “I’m a quick player and he’s got good topspin.”

“He’s got the speed, and I’ve got a little bit of the shots,” Kettle said.

Davis and Kettle have played in the Western Slope Open for so long, they don’t remember the exact year they started.

“I have a (Taco Bell) shirt that says 1990 on it,” Davis said.

“We could tell a lot of stories,” Kettle said.

The Grand Valley natives were wrestlers in high school for rivals Fruita Monument (Kettle) and Central (Davis), but didn’t meet until they started attending an Assembly of God church a few years after graduating from high school.

Kettle started playing tennis and taught Davis how to play. Davis played racquetball and taught Kettle how to play.

“When we first started playing (tennis), he could spot me anything he wanted and beat me,” Davis said. “It was the same way in racquetball (but reversed).”

They’ve reached several Taco Bell finals in their careers and won a 3.5 doubles title.

“I was 50 pounds lighter and 30 years younger,” Kettle said.

Davis has also overcome his own physical ailments.

He had testicular cancer in 1995 and 2001.

The first time, it was treated with chemotherapy. The second time, doctors removed the cell out of the abdomen.

“I’ve been carrying him ever since playing tennis,” Kettle said jokingly. “We have fun badgering each other.”



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