the top seeds to claim the USTA National Men’s 40 Clay Court Championship.
By Brian Biggane
Gulf Stream Bath & Tennis Club assistant tennis pro David McNamara not only won the USTA National Men’s 40 Clay Court Championship May 17-22 in Atlanta, but he did it the hard way.
Unseeded after not playing in a high-level competition for more than five years, McNamara relied on his fitness and countless hours of preparation with B&T head pro Roger Ashcroft to mow down the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 seeds on his way to the prestigious title.
“I felt going in that I had put the work in, that I was ready,” said McNamara, 40, a native of Melbourne, Australia, who was ranked as high as No. 431 in the world in his mid-20s and has spent the past four years at Gulf Stream.
Ashcroft said he noticed when he hired McNamara in 2013 that, while his people skills and teaching ability were top notch, his conditioning needed work. So, McNamara embarked upon a daily CrossFit regimen to give him the stamina he would need to survive three-set matches in the Atlanta heat.
“I had dabbled in a couple of tournaments and when we discussed the USTA National 40s, Roger said, ‘You should play,’” McNamara recalled. “I thought, ‘What the hell.’ But because of who I am, I didn’t want to just go play. I still have enough of a competitive ego that I thought I could win. I wanted to make sure I was ready.”
McNamara got a break when his first-round opponent failed to show up. That put him against No. 5 seed Constantine Ananiadis of Wellington, Ohio, whom he dispatched 6-1, 6-4. He dropped a set against No. 3 seed Paul Mancini of Alpharetta, Ga., but credited his conditioning for his 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 quarterfinal victory.
That sent him to the semis against No. 1 seed Eduardo Rincon, a clay-court specialist from Colombia who resides in Kennesaw, Ga. McNamara and Ashcroft did some research and learned Rincon had played in ATP events featuring the likes of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
“Roger and I were talking after every match and my old college coach showed up,” McNamara said. “Both were telling me the same thing: You don’t need to go for too much, sometimes you’ve got to win ugly, just get it back. He was a good player and I didn’t know if I had enough to beat him, but I was able to pull through.”
His fitness once again proved decisive in a 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-0 win that sent him to the final against No. 2 seed Samuel Schroerlucke of Memphis, whom he defeated 7-5, 6-3 for the championship.
“That was a tough match as well, and the first time all tournament I’d felt some pressure,” McNamara said.
The victory earned him a coveted gold ball as a USTA champion, which was “something I’d always wanted to have on my résumé.”
It also brought a deluge of congratulatory phone calls, emails and texts, many of them from the Gulf Stream membership.
“My members were awesome,” McNamara said. “Absolutely fantastic. They were very excited for me. And I was so thankful to Roger, who was the one who had motivated me to have a crack at it.”
Now ranked No. 15 in the 40-45 age group, McNamara, who has since gone north to his summer job in Martha’s Vineyard, plans to go for more titles, at the Grass Court championship in Philadelphia at the end of August and the Hardcourts in La Jolla, Calif., in late November.
“I got so many calls and texts congratulating me, I didn’t realize it was that big a deal,” he said. “It was very humbling and very nice. So, it’s motivated me to keep going.”