They played the Philly Open over Valentine’s Day weekend and served an ace! How the tournament came about and what made it such a great success tells you a lot about Philadelphia area paddle – about its history; about how it built up a sport and embedded it into the community’s social fabric.
Tim McAvoy knows something about building. He comes by it naturally enough. His grandfather, Thomas Bell McAvoy Jr. established the McAvoy Brick Company in 1896 on the banks of the Schuykill River. When it comes to building, you can’t get much more basic than that.
A concurrent construction vein runs through him as well, one not connected to building materials. It is potent, though. It is his link through his mother, Lucie Bel McAvoy to the sport of platform tennis. Both mother and son have been instrumental to the game’s introduction, development, expansion and current exploding popularity in and beyond their community.
Mark Parsons and Johan du Randt, currently the top ranked men’s doubles platform tennis team in the world, are looking to secure a “three peat” as Nationals champions in Chicago this March. You could make a case that they are an unlikely pairing, an odd couple given the differences between them. After all, they are from different countries, continents, hemispheres – practically polar opposites; Parsons growing up in eastern Canada edging toward the Arctic Circle, du Randt an hour or two north of South Africa’s southern tip, pointing the way to Antarctica.
It means their native climates are about as opposite as you can get – the at times searing South African heat versus the frigid snow and ice of Canadian winter cold.
Gerri Viant’s love of adventure knows both external and internal landscapes. Whether backpacking around the world or exploring the vast interior of her feeling system and psyche, the joy of the journey permeates her. Viant, teaming with Sue Aery to win eight Womens Nationals and reach the finals of another two during a remarkable 13-year run from 1990-2002, knew travel was in her future.
As a child she remembers looking at maps and plotting itineraries. “I always knew I was going to travel,” she says. “My parents encouraged me. My mother would sit down with me and I would show her trips I was planning.”
It wasn’t just that Viant loved to travel. It was the way she did it that says so much about her. Growing up in Adelaide, Australia there was a kind of cultural bias within her social sphere toward the big tour – of doing Europe, first by flying West to London and then fanning out across the Continent to begin a long trek that would bring the wanderer home.
“I can’t remember not playing paddle,” says Mike Stulac. A two- time winner, finalist, and three- time semi-finalist of the Men’s Nationals, Stulac with his wife Kerri Delmonico has won a Mixed Doubles and three Husband-Wife Nationals as well.
Unlike the majority of Nationals champions who converted from tennis to paddle, Stulac is a rarity, a paddle player who didn’t grow up a tennis and squash guy. Introduced to platform tennis early on in his native Toronto, Stulac recalls how he grew up with it.