New league gives tennis newcomers a place to play

Dana Elliott, who is just learning to play tennis , hits a serve.

Every year when Cynthia Bulgier would visit her mother in California, they would play tennis.

That only created an itch to play more, but every time she tried to get her friends to play, they weren’t interested.

Finally she took the plunge and joined a local United States Tennis Association women’s league.

“I cold-called Parks & Rec,” Bulgier said. “(The league) was short a woman on the team last year and I ended up joining in her place. I lost every single match but one.”

That phone call wasn’t easy to make. Bulgier had never played a competitive league or tournament match.

“I was frightened,” Bulgier said. “I looked at the phone number for two weeks before I called. The first time I called, I hung up on the answering machine.”

Bulgier realized she would have to overcome her fears if she really wanted to play.

“I had to suck it up if I wanted to play,” Bulgier said. “I play three times a week now.

“It’s worth it to get over your fears. I was intimidated at first. I didn’t know how to score. I was losing over and over. It wore on me, but I was determined to get better.”

Bulgier is one of 12 women between the ages of 25 and 55 relatively new to competitive tennis who are playing in a new local USTA 2.5 women’s league this summer. Several of them said they are planning to play in their first Taco Bell Western Slope Open next month. The deadline to enter the tournament, which runs July 21-26, is July 8.

Although players first starting out are considered a skill level of 1.0, most USTA leagues and tournaments start at the 3.0 level.

The USTA uses a numbered rating program to determine a player’s skill level for leagues, from 1.0 (beginners) to 7.0, reserved for people who make a living playing tennis.

Because of the interest at the 2.5 level, Western Slope Open tournament director Lena Elliott was more than happy to add a 2.5 men’s and women’s singles and doubles division.

The 12 women play league matches every Monday and often get together outside of league to play matches.

Dana Elliott is new to the league this year.

She started playing tennis last summer with her husband and liked it so much, she decided to take lessons from Kathy Elliott. She’s now taking lessons from David, Carol and Sandra Elliott.

Dana, who is not related to her instructors, is also playing in the Grand Junction Tennis Club’s 3.0 league and plans to enter the Taco Bell Western Slope Open and play doubles with her brother.

“What I love about the 2.5 league is everybody is at the same level,” Elliott said. “None of us take it too seriously. We break a few rules. I get excited during a game. I like to cheer when I make a good hit. That’s been fun. It’s a good group of women.”

Barbara Price, who started playing three years ago, has enjoyed the camaraderie playing at the 2.5 level.

“It’s fun and the pressure is off,” she said. “I’m playing better and enjoying it.”


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