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Love Match - Paul Ott Carruth

May 28, 2004 12:47 PM

During my twenty-five years of playing tennis, I have played with and against beginners, pros, politicians, preachers, celebrities and just “good friends” and family. I have played all over this United States…not due to tennis strings, but rather, guitar strings as a traveling entertainer. After all these years of winning, losing, surgeries, aches and pains, I’ve often wondered what has meant the most to me after a quarter of a century of playing the game. During a doubles match just recently in Jackson, Mississippi, I realized what has touched my life most of all. It was not the team or individual wins. It was a “love match” between a player and his wife.

I first met Ernie Vetrano as an opponent at a 40’s age group tournament in Jackson, Mississippi. It was my first tournament and maybe his second. I just knew by the name (Vetrano) they had put me up against a pro and I wouldn’t win a single game! But Ernie assured me “he” would not be the problem. Our next opponent by the name of “Toler” would have to be dealt with and it still holds true today! Since that day over twenty years ago, Ernie and I have played with and against each other many, many times. I don’t remember any match that his wife, Pat, was not there—in state or out-of-state. I had noticed the past several years she would be brought by him in a wheelchair. He was always very attentive to her, even to the point of putting her makeup on her as she was unable to do so. It was easy to tell she was his “Number One Fan.” That recent doubles match at the River Hills indoor court in Jackson, however, was quite cool inside and he had put a blanket over her and between each changeover of games, he would stop and kneel down to see how she was and if she was comfortable. This was the most wonderful “delay” I had ever witnessed and will forever remind me that tennis is not the real game of life: it is the love of family and of the friends you make along the way.

Paul Ott Carruth

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