DAVIS ISLANDS — Fred Farzanegan has won numerous tennis titles in his nearly 50 years of tournament play. But his most recent victory at the 2013 International Tennis Federation Super-Seniors World Team Championship was particularly gratifying.
That's because for the first time, he did it as part of a team.
Farzanegan captained a four-man squad to victory in the 75-and-over division at the event, which was held Sept. 9-14 in the Czech Republic. His teammates were fellow Floridian King Van Nostrand of Vero Beach, Lester Sack of New Orleans and Herman Ahlers of Las Vegas.
Not bad for a man who initially took up the sport as a way to fill an athletic void created after his college baseball career ended. He tried golf, but said it didn't offer enough action to pique his interest. He moved on to tennis and found exactly what he was looking for.
"Tennis is a great workout, but it is fun at the same time," he said.
Farzanegan's athletic background allowed him to pick the sport up quickly. The more his skills improved, the more he found himself craving the level of competition that would keep those skills sharp. He began navigating his way through tournament play, facing off against such notable up-and-comers as Bobby McKinley, Tim Wilkison and Jimmy Connors.
By age 35, this self-taught tennis player was competing nationally in the U.S. Tennis Association seniors circuit. And by age 40, he was ranked in the nation's Top 10 in his age group — a ranking he maintains.
In 1991, at age 53, Farzanegan was chosen to represent the United States at the ITF Seniors World Team Championship in England. Considered to be the senior equivalent of the Davis Cup, it is the highest-ranked event on the ITF seniors circuit and is held annually at venues across the globe. He made subsequent trips to the competition at the super-senior level (ages 60 and older), traveling to Turkey (2008), Australia (2009) and back to Turkey (2010).
While Farzanegan won the men's 70-and-over singles title in Australia in 2009, a team cup victory continued to elude him.
When he was nominated to take part in this year's ITF Super-Seniors World Team Championship, he set out to change that. The tournament pits nations against each other in set age divisions in a round-robin format. A final round determines which country takes home the coveted team cup in each division.
Farzanegan, who turns 75 in November, captained the men's team in the 75-and-over division, an age group the United States had won five straight years. "I tried not to think about continuing the winning streak and just focused on my game," he said.
The U.S. met Germany in the final round. Farzanegan led Leo Sucker 6-0, 3-0 when Sucker conceded. Sack then clinched the title with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Klaus Haas.
"It was very satisfying to captain a winning team," Farzanegan said.
In the years since he first picked up a tennis racquet, Farzanegan admits his game has changed. The focus becomes less about quick footwork and more about things such as precisely placed drop shots.
"As you get older, you begin to use your guile more," he said.