06 Nov 2017

Love of tennis a family affair

News Article

By Harvey Fialkov

Tokuho Inoue, daughter Mami, wife Mitsuko

There are many reasons for hundreds of the world’s best baby boomer tennis players to congregate in South Florida this week to compete in the ITF World Seniors Individual Championships.

Some like Aussie Glenn Busby and American Dan Waldman, longtime rivals on the ITF Senior Circuit and high seeds in the 60s’ event at Crandon Park Golf Course tennis facility, briefly attempted to play professionally, but either financial or talent constraints altered their career paths.

Winning a combined nine World Individual singles gold medals and a plethora of Grade 1 tournaments in their respective countries over the past 20 years have helped to satiate dreams gone awry.

Then there are participants such as Tokuho Inoue, a retired Physical Ed. Teacher from Kobe, Japan, with no realistic chance of winning these tournaments, which are filled with world-class amateurs and former pros with Grand Slam experience.

Inoue derives enough pleasure from hitting a tennis ball at beautiful destinations around the globe, often with his wife, Mitsuko, at his side, as well as his 38-year-old daughter, Mami and husband, Anthony Bugge.

“I love to meet different people and find out where they came from,’’ Inoue said via Mami, his personal translator. “I just love tennis and want to challenge myself. My goal is to play in the 80s and over.’’

Over the past 20 years, Inoue, 65, has participated in 12 World Seniors Individual and Team tournaments in Germany, Spain, Great Britain, Austria, Turkey, Mexico, the Netherlands and four in Florida with one victory.

On Saturday, Inoue endured a humbling 60 60 loss to 32nd-seeded Michael Stumbaum, 65, of Germany. He and his partner were then ousted 62 62 in doubles.

Inoue was still smiling behind his graying, Fu-Manchu goatee when he returned on Sunday to cheer on Mitsuko in her first-round match in the women’s 60s draw. However, Mitsuko, 63, also absorbed a double-bagel loss to Sylvia Singer of Austria.

Still, the cheerful couple were excited to play their mixed doubles match. After all, the duo did reach the finals in a Grade 3 ITF event in Saint Malo, France in 2013. Mitsuko has played in several World Individual events and has yet to win a round in singles.

“Through tennis we all go to the same tournaments around the world and see beautiful cities,’’ Mitsuko said. “Without this we wouldn’t have this connection as a family.’’

Inoue, a participant in Iron Man competitions in Hawaii and triathlons, was happy to reconnect with the Japanese contingent, friends from Tokyo, Takamichi Hirooka and Eizo Kurashima, who competed in last week’s World Team Championships and were in the 60s’ draw with Inoue.

Kurashima said it cost about $4,000 to travel from Japan and play these two events, but not for Inoue, who moved to nearby Plantation, Fla., three years ago. He fares better against 4.5 rated senior hackers with his feathery touch and pinpoint ground strokes at Plantation’s Veltri Tennis Center.

Inoue first came to the United States 22 years ago when he dropped Mami off at the renowned (IMG) Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton. She went on to play college tennis for East Tennessee and Jacksonville before embarking on a pro career that lasted from 1998-2010 where she had a career-high rank of 455.

Now Mami and Anthony are proud parents of 20-month-old Anthony Jr., who has already swung a toy racket with mom. Mami teamed with Mitsuko for another gold ball in the USTA National Clay Courts Mother-Daughter tournament at Club Med in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in 2016, as well as a bronze with Tokuho in the USTA National Clay Courts Father-Daughter event in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“I enjoyed it very much and was so proud,’’ said Tokuho, who turns 66 Tuesday.

Not as proud as he was a few weeks ago when he competed in his first Super-Seniors World Individual 65s’ event in Orlando where he finally notched a 63 64 victory over American Sandy Fisher in the first round.

Like a fine wine.