A United States International Tennis Federation senior tennis team on which two locals, Frank Ackley and Vinnie Horcasitas, played recently won the Amigos Cup in Merida, Mexico.
Ackley, Horcasitas, and Mark Harrison, who, in the summer, is the head pro at the East Hampton Tennis Club, played together in the same tournament two years ago, but the Mexicans successfully argued then that they should keep the Cup even though Hurricane Ida, with Mexico holding a slim 6-4 lead, had forced the cancellation of 50 of the scheduled 60 matches.
“Remember the Cup!” the three stateside amigos said at the time, noting that when the Davis Cup-style tournament was halted in advance of the hurricane’s arrival, the U.S. was winning all seven of the matches that were under way.
Thus this year’s win, which enabled the U.S. team’s captain, Andy Lake, to take the cup back with him to Florida, had been, said Ackley, particularly satisfying.
Playing on red clay courts at a resort in the colonial city that he described as “knock-dead gorgeous,” Ackley, who’s 62, won four of the seven matches he played, including two singles matches.
“In my first [50-plus] match,” he said, “I played a guy known as ‘the Cat,’ a guy who’d played Davis Cup for Mexico in the day. A very nice guy, but tough! He’d been fourth in the world championships. I went down early — it took me a while to get going. I lost the first set 6-2. In the second it went 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, and then, after he went down 0-40 on his serve, he dug in his heels and I was dead and lost 6-3.”
“I was coming off the courts when they ask me if I’m ready to go out again. I was dripping wet. The Cat was the best player in the senior division. They gave me 30 to 45 minutes to shower, and I’m back out on the courts again. This time, I beat my guy 6-0, 7-5. I’m hoping to go to the pool now, but then they tell me I’ve got to play doubles! I’m over 60 and I’ve never played three matches in a day in my life before. . . . We lost 7-5, 6-4. I was done for the day.”
“The next day, Saturday, I played the number-two guy on the senior team, Marcel Bouffer. I beat him 6-3, 6-2. I’m going off and they ask me, ‘How much time do you need?’ I was stiff! My partner was limping during the warm-up, and I knew we were in for it; they were going to lob him all day. But we won 6-4, 7-6.”
“On Sunday, we were up by like six matches, each worth a point, with eight to play. So, guess what, they take out their seniors, everyone but the top two, and the guy I’m matched with tells me he’s 39! They put in all young guys, and the older ones didn’t even show up to watch.”
“. . . Yes, it’s supposed to be 50-and-over, but it’s not set in stone. It’s in the bylaws, the fine print. I’d played six matches and they’re subbing in fresh guys. Andy Lake was out on the court, so I couldn’t ask him. I was going to ask their captain if this was allowed, but then I decided to take my beating for the team. My guy ran all over the court like a chicken. I knew the handwriting was on the wall. . . . But in the end, we won 28 matches and they won 25. We won the Cup! Andy had a sly smile on his face when it was over and said we were going to take it home. Next year, we’re going to play for the Cup where he is, in Florida.”
“I love the team format,” Ackley continued. “The camaraderie is great. You cheer each other on. . . . And playing at the international level is great fun. They have U.S.-England matches, U.S.-France. . . . You’re playing for your country and you do whatever you have to do. Vinnie did well and Harrison did, too. He was doing triple, double duty. He could barely walk at the end. We had three guys in the open division and five in the seniors. Mexico had at least double that.”
“There are no 18-and-unders in these competitions,” said Ackley in answer to a question, “but there’s everything else, all the way up to super seniors, 70-and-overs.”
Next for him, said Ackley, who hits regularly with Horcasitas at the East Hampton Indoor-Outdoor Club, would be “an invitational tournament up the Island at Thanksgiving, but I’m not going to move,” he said, “for the next three or four days.”