07 Nov 2017

Tennis is academic for Dan Waldman

News Article

By Harvey Fialkov

Photo: Camerawork USADaniel Waldman (USA)

Tennis is something of an athletic chess match, in that it’s advantageous to always be thinking two or three strokes ahead of your opponent before going in for the kill.

To that end, a Harvard University education combined with a lethal inside-out forehand has paid dividends for Dan Waldman, a boyish-looking 62-year-old George Washington University law professor, who’s seeking his fifth World singles title this week at the ITF World Seniors Individual Championships (60s) at Crandon Park Golf Course tennis facility.

“Law and tennis are both such mental exercises, but so different,’’ said the third-seeded Waldman, who reached the round of 16 on Monday after defeating Eizo Kurashima of Japan 61 61 in a hard-fought match that was closer than the score indicated.

“Out here it’s more about controlling your emotions. You need to stay calm. It’s the problem-solving aspects in tennis. Just like law, you’re confronted with a problem and you have to figure out how to solve it.’’

Whether it’s in a court of law or on a clay court in Key Biscayne, Waldman knows how to play the angles with an all-court attack that features slices, topspins and forays to the net. It has helped him become a major force on the Seniors Circuit for the past 18 years, while compiling a 104-22 record.

Waldman is making his 2017 ITF debut this week, but he’s on track for a semifinal clash with his friendly nemesis, top-seeded Glenn Busby, a muscular Aussie dynamo who he’s 1-3 against, including a 61 62 loss in the final of the 2014 World Senior Individual Championships in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

“He’s got a massive game,’’ said Waldman, a native of Croaton, N.Y. “A big forehand who just pounds the [fuzz] out of the ball. I have to get there first.’’

Busby, 61, and Waldman both took a shot at the pro tour, but a lack of finances forced them to pursue alternative career paths.

Waldman played No. 1 singles for Harvard for four years and held his own against the likes of South African Kevin Curren, a 1985 Wimbledon finalist who won five ATP titles and reached No. 5 in the world; John Austin, who won a Wimbledon mixed doubles title with sister and Hall of Famer Tracy Austin; Chris Mayotte, ranked a career-high 124th and Eric Fromm, who got to 46th.

After college Waldman joined the fledgling American Express Tour and played doubles with Mayotte’s brother Tim, who went on to become No. 7 in 1988.

“I tried it for four months with a lot of my friends who beat up on each other in college who made it to the Top 100, but I couldn’t make any money out there,’’ said Waldman, who has won nine World titles in seven attempts, including four gold medals in doubles. “My parents [Seymour and Lois] were both lawyers and into education, so it was off to Columbia law school.’’

Waldman received a few wild cards into the qualifying rounds at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., where he and his family settled. One year he thought he had a good chance of getting into the second round of qualies, but he made the mistake of scouting his potential opponent instead of focusing on his first-round adversary.

“It’s a young lefty playing 2-on-1 and he’s just smashing the ball like a young [Rafael Nadal] and I’m thinking there’s no way I could beat this kid. I was up 4-1 in my match and I started thinking about losing in the next round. That guy was Thomas Muster. I would’ve loved to have faced him.’’

Muster became No. 1 for the first time in 1996 at the Miami Open, a lob away from this venue.

Waldman better not check Busby’s record this year. Busby, who won the Australian Open Jr. doubles title in 1975 at 18, is 14-0 in completed singles matches this year without the loss of a set. His overall ITF record is 338-31, which includes six World Senior singles titles (2006, ’08, ’10, ’14-16).

“I enjoy playing Danny,’’ said Busby, who edged Waldman 7-6 in the third set to help clinch the World Senior Team championship title for Australia in Finland last year. “He’s a nice guy, a good competitor and you always know you’re going to be in for a battle.’’

Busby, who owns the pro shop and coaching stable in the renowned Kooyong International Tennis Academy in Melbourne, teaches and trains daily with elite 20-something juniors. Busby, known for his tree-trunk legs and overall fitness, designed a workout regimen that focuses on strengthening the core and tennis-related muscles that incorporates a trampoline and Thera-band exercises.

“If you put rubbish fuel in a Ferrari it won’t perform. What you put in is what you are,’’ said Busby, who reached 326th in the world in a short attempt on Tour, that included a four-set, first-round loss to David Carter in the Australian Open in 1975.

“I appreciate tennis so much more now because I didn’t get that opportunity to take it to the next level when I was 17. In the Seniors you get to meet so many people and get to see unbelievable places.’’