Old-man Bristol keeping up with the kids on RVR tennis courts
CARBONDALE — Ted Bristol was once really good at tennis.
Well, actually, he still is.
“I’m only about a 3.5 now,” the 73-year-old Missouri Heights resident said with a wry smile about his playing level. “At one time I was in the 4.0 to 4.5 range. Yeah, I’m getting old.”
That hasn’t stopped Bristol, who is playing in the 17th-annual River Valley Ranch Tennis Classic for the 17th time this weekend. Bristol, who is originally from the Chicago area, has been playing tennis for close to 50 years and became a permanent resident of the area just a year before the tournament began.
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The tournament, which is played on the clay and hard courts at RVR, is a big draw statewide, also. Ian Haas of RVR said the USTA-sanctioned tournament played on the green-clay and hard-court surfaces at the club has drawn more than 200 entries, with skill levels ranging from 2.5 (more intermediate) to 5.0 (expert). Play began on Friday and continues through Sunday when it concludes with championship singles and doubles matches.
Bristol, who owns the UPS Store in El Jebel, has sent plenty of his opponents packing in the past. He teamed up with Neil Henley to win the 4.0 men’s doubles championship 10 years ago, and is a regular participant at tournaments at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif., a site that regularly hosts ATP World Tour events. He also reached the men’s singles finals at the Western Open in Chicago 40 years ago.
“That’s the best I’ve ever done,” he said.
It’s not like all of his best years are behind him, though, as he reached the men’s doubles finals with partner Peter Dolan last year. He also got to the mixed doubles semifinals with Lindsey Cheney.
So how has he remained competitive after all of these years?
“I stay active,” Bristol said simply. “People die of boredom faster than they die of disease.”
Bristol does plenty to stay active outside of what he does on the tennis court. He plays on the indoor courts in the winter in Snowmass, where he also serves as a ski instructor. He’s also invested in one of the market’s more innovative tennis rackets, which can decipher and analyze everything from how hard a ball is hit to how much top spin a ball has as it leaves the racket.
“My serve is still good,” he said. “In modern tennis, you’re not going to do well unless you have some kind of top spin on the ball.”
Bristol will play doubles again this year and, along with one other player, will be the oldest registered participant in the tournament. Not that it bothers him.
“There have been times when I’ve seen an 18- to 20-year-old kid across the court from me and thought to myself, ‘Hey, he’s young enough to be my grandson!’” Bristol said. “That’s OK, though. I’ve still managed to hold my own.”
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