CNMI Sports Hall of Famer Jeff Race recorded another feat, as he hit past the century mark, collecting the 100th and 101st title of his storied tennis career that started more than four decades ago.
Race bagged championship No. 100 after she and Lydia Tan ruled the 50 and over mixed doubles event in the 10th TanHoldings Tennis Classic last Sunday at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan resort. Race and Tan, who both played for the CNMI National Team in the 2010 Micronesian Games in Palau, beat the husband-and-wife tandem of Don and Marivic Dunlop in the finals, 6-3, 6-1. Race and Tan also needed only two sets to top Kyoko and Toshio Matsumura in the semis at the lower half of the draw, 6-0, 6-1. At the upper half, the Dunlops swept Mae and Kent Hsieh, too, 6-1, 6-1, to set up the title showdown against Race and Tan.
After their morning match at the Fiesta court, Race returned to the facility late in the afternoon to team up with Guam’s Sam Lai. They faced Roy Banados and George Poquiz in the men’s 50 and over finals and won, 6-3, 6-3. Lai and Race also prevailed in straight sets over Ronnie Decena and Diony Peralta in their semis match, 6-2, 6-2, while Banados and Poquiz eked out a 6-2, 4-6, 10-4 triumph over Don Lacbayo and Don Quitugua in the other Final Four Game.
Race, along with the other winners of the 10th TanHoldings Tennis Classic, were recognized at the awards ceremony last Sunday night at the Hibiscus Hall of Fiesta Resort and the many-time CNMI national player and coach was beaming with pride, as the crowd acknowledged his feat.
“It’s been a great journey since I started playing tennis when I was 17,” said Race, as he made trip down memory lane, recalling his first competition on Saipan and the long list of wins he recorded.
“My first tournament was at the Hyatt, I think back in 1988. I played five matches in one day and won all of them. I was young then and have all the strength to last long games,” said the 59-year-old player/coach.
Of the many matches and championships he won, Race picked three that stood out for him. One took place just last year when he competed in the Hong Kong ITF Seniors National Tournament and ruled the over 55 singles event of the world-ranking tournament.
“I came to the tournament without any expectation. I did even thought I would be wiped out in the opening rounds, but I ended up winning the tournament and getting a world ranking,” Race said.
The other two tournaments worth mentioning were the 2006 Micronesian Games on Saipan and a local competition sponsored by DFS Saipan in early 2006.
“I was a match point away from winning a gold medal in the singles in the 1994 Micro Games, but lost it. It took me 12 years to get that gold so that’s really big for me,” Race said.
As for the DFS-backed competition, Race said the men’s singles event had one of the toughest, if not the toughest field, with the likes of Faheem Ibrahim and former Davis Cup player for South Korea and tennis pro DongGon Son entered in the tournament.
“We had a whole bunch of very good players,” said Race.
Asked if he still has a dream tournament to add to his long list of achievements, Race said he does not.
“My dream now is for other tennis players to do well and help them realize their dreams.”