There was a time in each of their lives when Patty DiCaprio and Deb Davis happily gave up playing tennis on a regular basis. That, however, is not about to happen again.
They now play two or three times a week, much of that coming in USTA leagues, and while they were rated 3.0’s when they resumed playing again more than a decade ago, they are now both competing at the 4.0 level.
The two women are now in their 50s, and have enthusiastically jumped back into the sport with a passion they didn’t quite have when they were younger. The reason they put their racquets aside for a time was to raise a family.
“I’ve played my whole life but I never really played competitively until my last child went to kindergarten,” said DiCaprio, a Gloversville native who has lived on Wendell Avenue in Schenectady for more than two decades. “And I had four kids so I didn’t really play for a while, but then I really got back into it. And I never really had any formal training until recently.”
Like DiCaprio, Davis has rejoined the sport with a new intensity.
“I’ve played since I was 11, and then I kind of took a hiatus, then started again in my twenties and stopped again when I had my children,” she said. “When I got back into it I wasn’t aware of all the USTA Leagues that were going on.”
A Hudson native who now lives in Delmar, Davis plays much of her tennis at Sportime where she and DiCaprio are on the same 4.0 team.
“It’s just a great way to keep your mind, body and soul active,” said Davis. “And there’s a little bit of socializing, even during this time when everyone is trying to be socially distant. I’m so thankful that tennis is the kind of sport where you can easily social distance.”
While many team sports have been negatively effected by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the impact on tennis has been minimal.
“Once it became clear the virus is not being carried by the tennis ball, and once the outdoor nets were up, tennis became the perfect sport,” said Davis. “Especially singles. Despite COVID, I probably played about the same amount as I have in the past. The only thing that held us back last spring was that the nets weren’t up at a lot of places.”
As for indoors, Davis said the folks at Sportime, Tri-City Racquet Club and the Saratoga YMCA are doing a great job making sure everone complies with social distance rules.
“They take our temperature, they have sanitizer, and you can’t walk around the lobby without your mask on,” she said. “On the court you have the option to use your mask or not, but it’s a large space and the air is circulated. I’ve been playing there since this all started and we haven’t had one bad incident, so I feel very comfortable playing indoors.”
‘My stress relief’
For DiCaprio, the COVID-19 Pandemic actually allowed her to play more tennis.
“Yeah, I would say that I played more this past summer than I did the year before,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot else you could do. The clubs were closed for a while, but once they did open Sportime and the other clubs did a great job of keeping everyone safe.”
DiCaprio, who calls herself an aggressive baseliner, says tennis is a perfect outlet.
“I like individual sports, and tennis is just a great sport because it combines everything into one,” she said. “There’s a lot of strategy, a lot of physicality, and it’s really good exercise. I guess I have a competitive nature so it’s very good for me. It helps me get through life. It’s my stress relief.”
Along with hitting the tennis ball, DiCaprio also hits the gym on a regular basis.
“I’m not a big runner, but I have always gone to the gym, my whole life,” she said. “I go to Orangetheory Fitness in Niskayuna for a really intense one-hour workout. Because I am competitive and because I’ve jumped up a few levels I need to get to the gym. I know it helps my tennis.”
Davis is also someone who spends a lot of time working out.
“If I didn’t have tennis in my life, I’m still the kind of person who wants to stay in shape just to stay in shape,” she said. “I have to be outside, too, and that’s where tennis comes in. I’ve gotten more competitive since I moved up to 4.0, so when I do go to the gym I focus on those muscle groups that will support my tennis game. I also like to work on my footwork, so basically I’m devoted to being the best tennis player I can be.”
Both women have competed at the national level in USTA and WorldTeamTennis events.
“What’s great about league tennis is that you know when you go into a match it’s going to be competitive,” said Davis. “It’s not like playing in a tournament and drawing the No. 1 seed. Sometimes that’s not a good experience. And sometimes you can play someone who you know had to be a Division I athlete who maybe took up the game later in life, and they’re really good. You know it wasn’t always their sport, but I think it’s great to have them playing it now.”
On those rare occasions when she does play someone a notch above her, Davis enjoys the opportunity. Even when the opponent happens to be her husband.
“When I met the man I married, he was the one who really got me back into tennis,” she said. “And he’s a much better player than I am, though I’ve been trying to catch up to him ever since we started playing together.”
Both of Davis’s two children were members of the high school tennis team at Bethlehem Central and also played in college. Davis also played high school tennis at Hudson, while for DiCaprio it was more of a fun thing to do with the family.
“My father was a pretty good player, so I would hit with him and other members of the family,” she said. “I never played in any rec leagues as a kid, or any formal league, so I didn’t get serious until much later. But I always enjoyed it.”
DiCaprio said part of her fitness regiment growing up included helping her older brother deliver The Gazette newspaper.
“My brother was a Gazette paperboy, and up in Gloversville his route took up a really large area,” said DiCaprio. “There was a lot to cover and I used to help him. I hated it, but I’d jump on my bike and do it. I’ve been a Gazette subscriber for 28 years now since we’ve lived on Wendell Avenue, so I’m always reminded of doing the paper route.”