Photo: Susan MullaneMark Vines (USA) and Glenn Busby (AUS)
Frequently a tennis draw, especially one that boasts 128 players, will go topsy turvy regarding the results.
But on some occasions, when it’s time for the final, it’s found that the draw has gone to form with the top two seeds reaching the finals. And that’s just how it’s worked out this week with the Men’s 55 singles competition at the 34th ITF Seniors World Individual Championships in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
On a hot and humid morning at BallenIsles Country Club, top seeded Glenn Busby of Australia and second-seeded Daniel Waldman of USA secured their berths in the final.
The 57-year-old Busby, the Director of Tennis at the Kooyong Tennis Academy, the Melbourne club that used to host the Australian Open, trounced eighth-seeded Mark Vines of USA 62 62. An avid competitor and better sportsman, Vines only could pay Busby a compliment when walking off the court: “The better man won today, that’s for sure.”
Busby is an expert in the art of taking a player out of their game and capably playing his own game to work a win. Busby forced Vines to hit backhands —not his strongest suit —and managed to capably run around his own backhand to orchestrate many lethal forehands.
“For me, it wasn’t necessarily playing my best tennis but I had to be disciplined with how I wanted to play,”Busby said. “I played a certain way and stuck to it. He’s got a great forehand so I had to make sure I hit 90 percent to his backhand. I definitely tried to use my strengths to his weaknesses and today it worked.”
In the other semifinal, 58-year-old Daniel Waldman, a high-powered Washington attorney specializing in securities enforcement and litigation at Arnold & Porter LLP where he’s a partner, put up a 64 62 win over 18th-seeded Luiz Penna of Brazil.
“It’s been a long, long two weeks but I’m getting a little better used to the heat, but the humidity and the heat is tough,”Waldman said. “The balls are heavier so it’s a lot of work. I’m very fortunate to get there (to the finals) because it’s a big draw.”
For Busby, tennis is a way of life and the ticket to his making a living.
Boasting a Bachelors in Applied Science - Physical Education and a diploma in Sport Psychology, Busby spent one year jaunting around the world playing tennis which resulted in a career high ranking of No. 326.
Once he stopped playing the pros he started coaching seriously and even lived in Boca Raton, Fla., for two years where he worked with some well-known pros: Aaron Krickstein, Vince Spadea and Marlene Weingartner.
“I probably learned more about tennis from those two years than I have in my 30-40 years of coaching,”Busby said. “I learned more that teaching the elite players is no different than teaching the juniors and it’s the same concept that they need to focus on. To me, now, it’s more about teaching how to play the matches than it being a matter of how to hit the ball. It’s actually a problem worldwide that we have so many kids that hit the ball so well but they don’t know how to play tennis.”
His wife longed to go home to Melbourne and that’s where they’ve remained. And while the majority of his efforts is in coaching he still makes sure to carve out time to play important international events such as the ITF Senior Worlds.
“I have a very big coaching program back home but I love the competition,”Busby said. “That’s the thing. I enjoy the technical part of playing and I love the travel. I wasn’t able to do it when I was growing up because my parents didn’t have a cent so I just traveled when I needed to, but I appreciate it so much more now when I can travel and see the world.”
As for Waldman, he played at Harvard while studying for his undergraduate degree and then went on to law school at Columbia University. Initially out of school, Waldman teamed with Tim Mayotte to play doubles on the pro tour, but his father kept emphasizing that practicing law would be a more stable profession for the long haul.
All that said, Waldman never lost his zeal for tennis and has played at the top of the senior game. And his life in the legal realm allows him to look at tennis with an appropriate mindset.
“It gives you a perspective when you have a lot of stress at work,”Waldman said. “When you’re out here and you put stress on yourself because you want to win you realize it’s not in perspective. People going to jail —or their livelihood is threatened —you realize this is just for fun.”
But be assured that all that said doesn’t preclude Waldman from already thinking about how best to play Busby.
“He’s so tough,”Waldman said. “”I hope to play a little better than I did last time (we played) and hope he’s really tired, but I doubt it. I’ve played him several times before and I know what I need to do, but it’s just very hard to do it.
“He makes it difficult to execute your game plan since he tends to execute his.”