August 19, 2009: Thank you, Sindy, for your hard work


To The Editor:
I picked up my first tennis racket at about the age of 14. Living in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, I hit the ball against my schoolyard wall, then got a permit to use the decaying city courts under the George Washington Bridge. Hot or cold, sunny or drizzly, I played.
At the age of 18 I got a job as a busboy at Fleischmanns’ Breezy Hill Hotel. The hotel was equipped with a fenced-in clay court, in quite a state of disrepair, but it afforded me the chance to play with and against guests and fellow employees.
A marriage, a first child and summers in Fleischmanns found me on the village courts where I met and played tennis with Sindy, a sweet blond gal who loved the sport. On many a morning I would pick her up at her home and we’d drive to the ball field on Wagner Avenue.
And then one summer morning, at the ripe age of 41, I entered and was selected to be one of the first contenders in the first Fleischmanns Open tennis tournament.
I knew most of the regular players at the Fleischmanns courts and felt reasonably confident at my ability to “hold my own” in this newly conceived formal competition. On that Saturday morning I was one of the first to take to the court. I eagerly awaited the arrival of my first opponent. I waited and waited, not yet knowing who my challenger might be. At last a vehicle pulled up along the courts and this stranger got out. A very tall, well-built muscular, handsome, young man emerged. Sindy greeted this modern day gladiator and pointed him in my direction. Oh my God, who was he? Where did he come from? I’d never seen him play. We introduced ourselves, chose the right to serve first and thus began the first game of the first set of the first Fleischmanns Open!
I was poised for the opening salvo this sinewy athlete would deliver. With knees slightly bent, and racket at the ready, the first ball swooshed by me. Fifteen-love. On the second serve I swung with skill and grace only to miss the ball entirely. I started to perspire in the cool morning air. Shot after shot I was being demolished. Those balls that I was able to hit flew meekly into the net or soared out of bounds and over the fence. It was now my turn to serve. With great form and confidence I delivered my first shot. In my amazement he returned the ball as if fired from an assassin’s weapon. In but a few minutes it was all over. The carnage was evident. The match was his and the worst part of it was that I hadn’t scored a point!
It wasn’t ’til the year 2004 that I dared to show my face again and enter my second tournament. Now, at the age of 70, I was wiser, well-practiced, perhaps a step or two slower, yet confident. However, the results were the same except on that day I limped home with a great new polyester, washable dark vest emblazoned with a striking “Fleischmanns Open” logo that I wear to this day.
Thank you Sindy.
Tennis anyone?

Michael Mendel,