KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A special regional tennis tournament in Overland Park this weekend will feature more than 40 teams and 400 players from five different states.
All the participants share something in common and the tournament has led to a special bond for them all.
The United States Tennis Association’s Heart of America 65s Invitational, open to players 65 and older, is being held at the Overland Park Racquet Club and started on Friday.
For the teams competing, the event serves as a fun occasion.
"We're of an age where we've formed friendships through decades of tennis," explained 70-year-old Jan Koder, who traveled from Iowa for the tournament. "We're still on the court. We're still competing. We're still playing."
Despite going up against each other on the court, many of the competitors have gotten to know one another through playing.
"We meet people and it's nice to catch up with people we've played before," explained Kevin Nebergall, who turns 70 in two months. "We'll say, 'How'd your year ago? Not too bad. How about yours? Fine. Made it through alive and we're ready to go.'"
Nebergall, who is also from Iowa, is competing with his friend Rick this weekend.
Both are retired professors and have played many tennis matches together.
"We're not like the guys over at Wimbledon right now. We're not that fit but we're pretty fit," he joked. "We don't have quite the speed we once had and maybe not the shots. Maybe we've got other shots. We've got a lot more control. People know where the other is going to hit the ball."
Players from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma are all part of the tournament and some of the participants in their 80s.
The winners of each level will advance to the national championships in Arizona next spring.
However, for those competing, the experience of being in the tournament goes well beyond the court.
"At this age level, nobody is out to beat everybody," explained Nebergall. "We're all going to forget the score a little bit and be reminded of it. Everybody is pretty congenial."
"Friendships and team comradery last forever," added Koder.
The USTA Heart of America 65s Invitational goes until Sunday at the Overland Park Racquet Club.