Linda Davis is the captain of an area tennis team that gives double meaning to the designation "super seniors."
Officially that means the players are at least 60 years old. By Sunday morning they hope it signifies "best in the country."
Just the fact they're representing the entire Southern United States in Surprise, Ariz., this weekend is super in itself.
Back in late September, Davis' group of 3.5-rated players won the Tennessee championship. The first weekend in December, they won the nine-state USTA Southern Sectional at Hilton Head Island, S.C.
This weekend is the national tournament in the Phoenix satellite city, beginning with pool matches Friday and Saturday morning against teams from Minnesota, Northern California and Arizona. The semifinals and final are set for Sunday morning.
"There are 17 sections there," Davis said Monday. "We think we're ready. Everybody's getting excited about going."
She and Marilyn McCamish live on Signal Mountain. Dianne Abney and Sylvia Hutsell are Hixson residents, Donna Smith is from Ooltewah, Faye Hope from McDonald and Mickey Randolph and Charmaine Hayes from Cleveland. Another Signal resident, Jane Marsh, is unable to play because of a rotator-cuff injury.
Davis, Smith and Hayes have been teammates for three years, reaching the sectional each time.
"Chattanooga is at a big disadvantage in Tennessee, because our population is so much less than Memphis, Nashville and even Knoxville," Davis said. "But we beat all those people all three years."
"This year most of us have been together at least two years, and I think we've just gotten more used to each other," she added. "But we're also pretty good. Six of our nine are already bumped up to 4.0 for the coming year."
In 2013 the USTA age for super seniors will drop to 55, so this may be this group's best opportunity.
Hutsell and Abney are in their first year with the team and usually are doubles partners, and Hutsell has national championship experience -- in Arizona. In her early 40s she was on a team of 3.0 adults that won a USTA title in Tucson. She said she went again with a seniors team.
"I've been playing at least 40 years," she said.
Randolph, who just turned 65, said she stared playing at the age of 12.
"That's 53 years. I should be a lot better," she joked.
She was on a team that qualified for the nationals in 2001, but she didn't get to go. That's because she moved to Arizona, ironically. She lived there for more than three years before returning to the area seven years ago.
Going back to Arizona this week is costing her and her teammates about $3,000 apiece, which is reason both to take the tournament seriously and to have fun off the courts as well as on.
Davis thanked Leland Goldston at the Racquet Club for helping the team throughout her three years -- providing courts for practice as well as some donations along the way.
The mild winter has allowed the team to get in a lot of outdoor practice in trying to maintain its momentum.
"We definitely were on a roll," Abney said, "and we've got the mindset to stay competitive -- to get geared up for another tournament."
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