Andes team wins Pickleball title

By John Bernhardt
They went to SUNY Cortland to take place in the Empire State Senior Games not really knowing what to expect. It was more adventurous spirit than expectation that brought them there. At the start of play in the 60-64-year-old age bracket of the pickleball championships, any pressure Peter Lederman and Jeff Ditchek may have felt they put on themselves.
Yet, as the day progressed and the drama unfolded, the Andes duo found themselves locked in a battle pointing toward possible gold. The crowds grew and the competitive juices surged as team after team was eliminated. When the final curtain closed, Lederman and Ditchek were awarded gold at the medals ceremony.
The championship was a double elimination event with a winner’s and a loser’s brackets. Matches were best two-out-of-three with each game played to 11 points. It was clear sailing for the Andes pair at the start. Lederman and Ditchek cruised through their opening two matches winning both sets in just two games.
Things got sticky in the third match. The Andes pair faced a doubles’ team from Cortland with trick serves like none they had ever experienced in local play. “We just like to hit the ball when we serve here in Andes,” Lederman laughed as he explained the third match. “These guys had cuts and spins we had never returned before.”
The serving acumen of the Cortland team paid handsome dividends. Lederman and Ditchek were game and battled hard but couldn’t overcome the serving advantage of their opponents. The Andes team lost in two games, 12-10 and 11-9, dropping to the loser’s bracket.
With no room for error, Lederman and Ditchek began to climb again. As fate often has it, they found themselves winners of the losers’ bracket looking across the net at that same Cortland pair who had defeated them earlier.
This time the Andes tandem was ready. Facing the trick serves the second time around was not as daunting. Lederman and Ditchek’s serve returns unnerved their competitors, and the tide turned. The Andes team took the match in two games forcing a rematch for the gold.
The championship match was a single game affair. A fairly large and vocal crowd had gathered. Tired, almost nearing exhaustion, Lederman and Ditchek called on adrenaline and emergency reserves, surging to an 11-6 victory.
“It was really pretty amazing,” noted Lederman as he summed up the gold medal performance. “The level of play of our local group in Andes is equal to or better than the level we faced in Cortland.” The Andes duo will head to Rochester this fall to take part in the National Senior Games in doubles’ action. Lederman and his wife Linda will also be competing at the mixed doubles level.
Anyone curious about the sport or interested in playing Pickleball may contact Lederman at plederman@hotmail.com.