Tennis isn't just for youngsters — it's a lifetime sport. Four Howard Countians — Jennie and Jim Murduck, Hedy Brandt and Mark Taylor — brought home gold, silver and bronze from the recent Summer National Senior Games, in Houston.
The Murducks won the mixed doubles title in dramatic fashion. Jennie paired with Brandt to finish second in women's doubles. They lost the championship in a tie-break. And Jim and Taylor placed third in men's doubles, winning in a tie break. All were competing in the 50-54 age group. For Brandt, 61, that meant playing down two age groups.
All four qualified at last fall's Maryland Senior Olympics for the National Games, which take place every two years.
"I thought it would be cool when I turned 50 to do the National Senior Olympics," Jennie Murduck said. Her father was a world-class miler and qualified for the 1952 Olympics but he wasn't able to participate because of a heart murmur, she said.
She and her husband have played in a number of tournaments around Columbia, but weren't certain what type of competition they would face in Houston. Turns out it was often intense.
"People come from so far to play. They had a lot on the line," Jim Murduck said.
The Murducks' 50 mixed doubles final did not get off to a good start. Jennie had just finished the women's doubles semifinal, which she and Brandt won in a tie break third set, 12-10. Dashing to the mixed doubles final, she opted not to warm up and soon worried that she had made a big mistake.
"They were kicking our rear in the first set," Jim Murduck said. "The guy was especially good."
"They made us look sick," Jennie said.
But after the first set, the duo decided to switch sides of the court, and that changed their luck.
"And we brought our game up to the next level," Jennie said. "Next thing you know, we were winning."
At the senior nationals, teams play two regular sets then a 10-point tie break, if a third set is needed.
The Murducks split the first two sets with their opponents, who were from Washington state. That brought the match to a deciding 10-point tie break, and they were able to win a couple points off the guy's serve.
The critical point, Jim Murduck said, came with him and the net and his wife serving.
"You never look around at your teammate," he said. "But I happened to look around and she had hammered the ball right at my head. I had to belly flop on the court to keep from getting hit."
His action screened Jennie's serve and the ball careened off the opponent's racket, making the score, 9-6, and match point.
The Murducks won, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 1-0 (6).
"That was probably one of the most intense victories we've ever had," Jim said.
Although both are 4.5 rated players and they've known each other for years, Jennie Murduck and Brandt, who is nine years older, are normally not doubles partners.