Thursday, July 22, 2010 - by B.B. Branton
Fifty years ago this weekend two juniors would win their first national tennis championships, which would jump-start them on a path to national acclaim and notoriety and hall of fame careers.
With Chattanooga’s Manker Patten Tennis Club as the site of the inaugural national 11s and 13s tennis championship, a boy from the South – Zan Guerry (Lookout Mtn., Tenn.) – and a girl from the Midwest – Jane Marie “Peaches’’ Bartkowicz (Hamtramck, Mich.) – swept through their respective 11s singles and doubles tournaments.
Guerry was impressive in the 11s as was junior phenom Bill Harris by winning the 13s singles, but the kid who stole the show that third week in July was the 4-foot-10 inch, 79-pound Bartkowicz.
By lunchtime today (Friday) a half century ago, Peaches was the first of all the juniors to claim a championship silver bowl with the 11s singles and by supper (that’s what dinner was called in the South in those days) she had the 11s doubles crown (with Judy Dixon) as well, sandwiched around a Guerry-Don Lutz mid-afternoon doubles final triumph.
Saturday produced more trophy presentations from tournament director Tommy Bartlett as Guerry, the No. 2 seed, claimed his first of six national junior singles crowns, by beating the No. 1 seeded Lutz (younger brother of future U.S. Open doubles champion Bob Lutz) on court 1, with Bartkowicz (Bark-ah-wits)taking home the 13s singles on an adjacent court.
“I have been fortunate to win several national titles, but clearly winning that first ones in 1960 here in Chattanooga has to be a highlight of my career,’’ said Guerry earlier this week, who has 29 national junior and adult national titles (singles and doubles) to his credit.
Doubles winners were Roy Barth-Johnny Sanderlin in the 13s doubles and Vicki Holmes-Gloria Jean Sullivan took home the girls 13s doubles.
The Michigan girl with the two-handed back hand – “because I wasn’t strong enough at that age to hit a one-handed back hand’’ – and a under-hand second serve – “because my second serve just wasn’t that great” – took the tournament by storm.
“At first, the tournament committee was not going to let me play in the 13s but somebody on the committee said that ‘she won’t win it anyway so why not let her play’’ and so let me play both age groups,’’ Bartkowicz stated.
And play she did.
Peaches was a straight sets winner throughout the 11s bracket, including a 14 minute 6-0, 6-0, triumph against nine-year-old Connie Capozzi (who would win the 12s singles and doubles in 1963) and in the 13s was pushed to three sets only in the semifinals and finals.12s
Seeded second in the 13s, she stopped Lookout Mountain’s Cindy Kemp, 6-4, 6-2, in the quarters, No. 3 Gloria Jean Sullivan, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, in the semifinals and No.1 Vicki Holmes, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 for the title.
“Peaches had a real strong forehand and Zan was a human back board,’’ said Kemp who was nationally ranked throughout her juniors career. “We (other players) would look at Zan in amazement in that he could stay out on the court for hours and outlast everybody.’’
Born two months apart in 1949, Peaches (April) and Zan (February) would continue to be familiar faces in the winners circle at Manker Patten the next three years through the 14s.
Guerry, the CEO of Chattem, would claim six national titles from 1960-63; 11s singles and doubles (Don Lutz) in 1960, 13s doubles (Hugh Curry) in 1961, 14s doubles (Richard Howell) in 1962 and 14s singles and doubles (George Taylor) in 1963.
Bartkowicz, who currently works for the government in Detroit, would see Guerry’s six and raise him one for seven titles in that same four-year span; 11s singles and doubles (Judy Dixon) in 1960, 13s singles, twice (1960, 61), 14s singles, twice (1962, ’63) and 14s doubles (Ginger Pfeiffer) in 1963.
From 1960-67, Guerry would win 13 national junior titles plus an Orange Bowl 16s in 1964. One would be hard pressed to match Guerry’s overall run of national singles titles won in the 11s, 14s, 16s (2) 18s (2), 35s (2), 40s (3), and 45s, along with 17 doubles titles, the most recent coming this past fall with son, Jeff, in the Senior Father-Son Nationals.
Along the way he has had wins against Stan Smith, Eddie Dibbs, Mike Estep, Guillermo Vilas, Victor Pecci, Frank Froehling, John McEnroe (in juniors) and Dick Stockton to name a few.
Bartkowicz won 17 national junior titles in the 1960s, plus a Wimbledon juniors singles crown in 1964 and added 14 pro titles before retiring in 1971
Prior to the national 11s and 13s in 1960, the only junior nationals were the 15s and 18s.
Zan’s dad, Alex Guerry – chairman of the Southern Lawn Tennis Association junior development program – was the driving force in persuading the United State Tennis Association (USTA) to add the 11s and 13s in 1960. The USTA then made four even age groups – 12s, 14, 16s 18s – in 1962.
Guerry along with Baylor School tennis coach and math teacher Jerry Evert and Bartlett organized and ran that first national event accepting district champions from across the country and others who were certified as sectional caliber players.
Bartlett moved to Knoxville in 1962 to be a basketball and tennis coach at Tennessee, while Evert coached Guerry at Baylor and compiled 300 plus prep wins as the Red Raider coach.
Evert also watched a future Baylor School star that week in Tony Ortiz of Puerto Rico who lost to Guerry, 6-1, 6-0, in the round of 16 and in the doubles finals with Almonte Ramon, 6-2, 6-2.
Guerry and Ortiz would win the national 18s doubles (Kalamazoo) and the National Interscholastic doubles in 1967.
While the dynamic duo of Guerry and Bartkowicz had the common denominator of winning multiple national titles, but for the most part the similarities stopped there.
Bartkowicz came from a poor family with her father, John, a factory worker and a Polish immigrant, while her mother, Eugenia, was Russian and put in the work camps at the age of 18.
“My parents, who had moved to the United States from Germany after World War II with no money, didn’t know much about tennis but for sure were supportive of our careers,’’ said Bartkowicz whose younger sister, Plums – who passed away in June at the age of 55 – would win the national 12s in 1966 by beating a girl from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. named Chrissie Evert.
“Tennis was the gateway to a world I would otherwise have never seen,’’ stated Bartkowicz who had her travel and tennis expenses underwritten as a junior by interested parties and even with the absence of a high school or college net career would later claim doubles victories on center court at Wimbledon, win Wightman and Federation Cup team titles and bring home Olympic silver (singles) and bronze (women’s and mixed doubles) medals from Mexico City in 1968.
“Tennis also taught me great discipline and focus on the court and in the classroom,” she stated.
From a young girl who couldn’t speak English in the first grade – but would be forever grateful to that elementary teacher who helped her early on with the ABC’s and how to write – to graduating in the top 10 percent in her senior class at Hamtramck High School, Bartkowicz was a success beyond the baseline.
Guerry was raised in an upper middle class tennis family during the tennis boom of the late 50s and early 60s on Lookout Mountain that produced nationally-ranked juniors such as Chris Brown, Cindy Kemp Battle, Roscoe Tanner, Forrest Simmons and Thorny Stang.
Later would come David Dick, Buzz Willett, Jack and Scott Webb, Eric Voges, Zan’s younger brother, Pem, and sister, Chappell, and Kappie and Sholar Clark
“Peaches had a wonderful spin serve that no one could handle,’’ said Evert. “She was very accurate and steady in all phases of her game.”
Evert saw Guerry as one “bound and determined to win. He was steady, under control and did what it took to win.”
While Bartkowicz had no formal pro lessons ever, but hit off a wall near her home for hours on end to hone her skills “at first with a broken racquet I found in the bushes near my home,’’ Guerry developed his clay court game against top-level skilled adults – Alex Guerry (father), John Guerry (uncle), Frank Willett and Jack Webb Sr.
“I learned from some of the best adult players in the area and we had some great Sunday afternoon doubles matches at Fairyland Club,’’ said Guerry who starred at Baylor School and Rice University (three-time All-American) and is a member of seven halls of fame.
“Playing against such top level players taught me to develop my entire game from ground strokes and return of serve to drop shots and lobs, plus of course court strategy.’’
Life After 14s
Peaches Bartkowicz Highlights
Beat The Boys: “I didn’t play high school tennis in Hamtramck, but would regularly play and beat the opposing school’s No. 1 guy in an exhibition after the boys varsity match.’’
… And the Girls: She also related the story when the Michigan State women’s team came to Hamtramck and Bartkowicz at age 14 or 15 took on the Spartans’ top player.
“The high school guys were pretty cool about playing me, but the Michigan State player wasn’t too thrilled when this local kid beat her,’’ said Bartkowicz with a laugh.
17 Titles: The Michigan native won 17 national juniors titles in the 1960s, including a 16s singles at the age of 14 and three straight 18s singles and doubles.
Since the national Girls 18s was first played in 1918, Bartkowicz was the first to win three straight singles and doubles titles; 1965-66-67.
Looking Back – Needed a Mentor: “A teaching pro at the 1960 nationals (quite possibly Nick Bollettieri) offered to give me lessons, but what did I know at the age of 11 so I turned him down. I wish I had taken him up on the offer and as the years went by I really needed someone to help me with the pressures of winning.’’
Bartkowicz said that by winning right out of the gate in the 11s, everyone expected her to win every time she walked on the court.
“The pressure to win got worse and worse in the 18s and it was such a relief to win that third 18s title and be out of the juniors.’’
Virginia Slims – The Original Nine: Bartkowicz was one of the original nine on the Virginia Slims tour starting in the fall of 1970, along with Billy Jean King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Tegart Dalton, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville Reid, Valerie Ziegenfuss.
Winner of 14 pro tournaments with a world ranking of 8th in 1969 … reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals twice (1968, 1969).
1969 Federation Cup: “Since I was a baseline player and seldom came to the net, not many of the critics gave my partner (Nancy Ritchey) and I much of a chance in the final against Australia’s Margaret Court and Judy Dalton.
“But we fooled them and our doubles win clinched the Cup for the United States which was a great thrill for me,” stated Bartkowicz who had a 7-0 career record in Fed Cup matches.
1969 Wimbledon: Bartkowicz and Julie Heldman upset two-time defending champs Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals in an early round.
1970 Wightman Cup: Bartkowicz was a last minute entry to play with Billie Jean King and they rallied from an 0-2 third set deficit to win the Cup.
Halls of Fame (3): National Polish-American Hall of Fame (2010), Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, USTA/Midwest Hall of Fame
Zan Guerry Highlights
Turner Howard: “We had some wars in our matches at Baylor and on the clay courts at McCallie.”
Zan played No. 1 singles for Baylor for six years (7th -12th), winning the Mid South and Southern Rotary titles each year … His only two high school singles losses were to Howard in regular season matches and Howard also had a win while at Tulane.
Jimmy Connors – 1977 U.S. Open: “I played Jimmy in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open in 1977 and was well prepared for the match having won two straight set matches to each the round of 16.”
Also in the round of 16 were familiar names who had played at Manker Patten as juniors 15 years before; Roscoe Tanner, Brian Gottfried, Dick Stockton, Harold Solomon, Guerry and Connors.
”It was the middle Saturday of the Open late in the afternoon on center court at Forest Hills playing before a huge crowd ... Before the match I told myself not to get embarrassed and knew that the world was not ready for a Zan Guerry to beat Connors.
“Former Rice teammate Harold Solomon and I practiced a lot for that match and he and I thought I had a 50-50 chance of winning.
“I played well, but so did Connors – who won 6-1, 6-4 – and it was real tough in the late 1970s to beat Connors at the top of his game.’
A Guerry win would have set up a quarters match with former Baylor teammate Roscoe Tanner, whom Connors beat, 6-0, 6-2 … Guillermo Vilas defeated Connors 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-0 for the title.
30s and 35s Doubles: “Zan and I won the 30s doubles (1998) when Zan was in his late 40s which is quite remarkable, ‘said current Baylor coach Ned Caswell who also teamed with Guerry in 2001 for the 35s crown.
“Our opponents, in their early 30s, went at Zan who was old enough to be their dad, but it didn’t work.”
Caswell went on to say that, “I have never seen anyone who can focus on tennis when he is on the court as much as Zan can. He can have a multi-million dollar deal on the table back at Chattem, but he is all tennis once he steps on the court.
“I read somewhere that to master a sport who have to put in 10,000 hours. Zan has lapped that four or five times. Successful people are the ones who do the things to succeed that average people won’t do.”
Three Titles With Wes Cash: “To me, Zan is known for preparation. He is so well prepared when we enter a tournament and it shows as we won the 45s on clay and grass in 2002 and the 50s in 2007 on clay,’’ said Cash who also carries that tag of preparedness shown by his “golden slam’’ in 2002 with four national doubles titles.
“Zan has such a deep well of experience by having played in some of world’s biggest tournaments, that when tough times come in a match there is not a whole lot of panic on his part,’’ Cash stated.
Toughest Losses: “In the semis of the national 16s at Kalamazoo when I was 14 … My hero Bill Harris was in the other bracket and I really wanted to meet him in the finals … But it rained before the semis which forced my match to hard courts at some public park against Chuck Brainerd (from Bartkowicz’s hometown of Hamtramck, Mich.) who I could beat 99 out of a 100 times, but the one loss was that day.”
“In the national 18s semis in ’67 at Kalamazoo, I lost on hard courts to F.D. Robbins. He had a great serve and served bombs that day to win.”
Cherished Wins: 11s singles and doubles in 1960 … “the first ones are always special.”
National 16s vs. Mike Estep: “That was a good win for me against Mike who would later be a teammate at Rice. It was the thing to win at Kalamazoo’’
Houston Open: “I beat Stan Smith twice in my career; one of those wins came in the Houston Open when I was at Rice and Stan was ranked No. 1.’’
Father-Son: “It was great to win a nationals with my dad (1967, 1971) and then with my son Jeff (2009) … Hopefully, we will win a couple more.’’
Giving Back to the Sport: With Zan’s help, the Hamico Foundation has contributed financially to tennis programs at Baylor School, University of the South and Tennessee at Chattanooga as well as the Champions Club.
Chattem also is a major player in junior tennis sponsoring all the Southern Bullfrog tournaments.
Stanford or Rice: “My two choices for college were only Stanford and Rice. Both had great tennis coaches, programs and facilities and were well known for academic excellence.
“I enjoyed my four years at Rice and glad I went there, but if I had known where the sport was headed on the pro level I might have chosen Stanford.
Championships Spanning Five Decades:
The numbers are impressive … Guerry has won at least one national title in five decades from 1960s to 2000s … 29 - 1960s (14), 1970s (1), 1980s (3), 1990s (4), 2000s (7).
Four Surfaces: Guerry has won at least two titles on each of four surfaces; clay (his favorite), grass, hard, indoor.
1967 – It Was a Very Good Year: Zan won seven titles … In the 18s, he won singles on hard courts and clay, plus the national interscholastic, doubles on grass, hard courts at Kalamazoo and the national interscholastic, plus the Father-Son Nationals.
Halls of Fame (7): Collegiate Tennis, Baylor (charter member), Rice, Greater Chattanooga, Tennessee Tennis, Southern Tennis, Lookout Mtn. (charter member)
contact B.B. Branton at email@example.com