Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
Local doubles duo take GLTA by storm
San Diego is home to the San Diego Tennis Federation (SDTF), the gay-centric, year-round tennis league based out of the Balboa Tennis Club located at Morley Field.
In addition to SDTF matches several days per week and on weekends, the league hosts the San Diego Open Tennis Tournament every June, and members also participate in various tournaments sanctioned by the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Association (GLTA), an international organization that boasts thousands of members and holds 70 tournaments around the world annually.
Placing in each of those tournaments offers players points towards qualifying for the “invitation-only” GLTA World Tour Championship, held in a different city every year. If a city’s open tournament is designated as a “master’s” tournament, double points can be accrued.
Three San Diegans were recently chosen for the most recent GLTA World Championship — held President’s Day weekend at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage — and two of them emerged as top winners in their divisions.
Only the best eight players in each of the five divisions (Open, A, B, C and D) — internationally — are invited to the World Championship, and SDTF members Allen Sanchez, Priscilla Martinez and Jay Palma were all sent qualification letters for the prestigious event.
Palma and Martinez were thrilled to be going to the tournament together.
“Jay is my GBF [gay best friend],” Martinez said, laughing.
Though Sanchez fell early in the round robin, Palma and Martinez, who generally play as doubles partners here in San Diego, both continued on.
Martinez, who is currently ranked against males, went on to take first place in D division singles, playing a man from Thailand in the final.
The two friends were able to use the luck of the draw to their favor, allowing them to also compete and win together in doubles, though it was not planned — by the GLTA, anyway.
A member of SDTF for over 10 years, Palma said it wasn’t until November of 2013 that he decided to give tournaments a try.
“This was my first invitation to the GLTA World Championships since I started playing in tournaments and it was an amazing experience,” he said. “Not only did we get a chance to play against the best of the best, but we also got to play with them in doubles.”
Martinez — office manager and bookkeeper for San Diego Community News Network, the parent company of Gay San Diego — is an ally of the LGBT community. She first learned about SDTF by attending one of their “Friday Night Doubles” tournaments along with Anthony King, the former editor of Gay San Diego, in October of 2013.
Friday Night Doubles events offer SDTF members — and non-members interested in the league — a chance to come out and participate in doubles match play on a weekly basis.
Martinez’ first tournament as a member of SDTF was the Los Angeles Open last spring, identified that year by the GLTA as a master’s tournament. Martinez took first in singles and in doubles in the men’s event and was the only woman to ever win two masters titles in one tournament. Those wins gave her extra qualifying points for the World Tour, and subsequent wins since, in both singles and doubles, in Long Beach and Palm Springs no doubt cemented her qualification.
Martinez said she doesn’t like the handicaps offered to female players, so she chooses to remain rated along with the men.
“When I got invited to this tournament the person that was running the tournament had asked me — I qualified for women’s singles and women’s doubles — and he emailed me later and said ‘we don’t have enough women for a women’s event, can we put you in the men’s event?’ and I said, ‘I have a men’s rating so I was expecting to play in the men’s event all along.’”
The 88 total attendees at the World Championship came from all over the world — many from Germany, London, Thailand — and the nation, such as Seattle, Cleveland, New York and Arizona.
“One of the things I really liked about this tournament was that we had the opportunity to play on three services,” Martinez said. “We played on grass, clay and hard court. I’ve only ever played on hard court, never on clay or grass before. So everybody got to play two matches on grass on the first day, Friday, and then one on hard court; then on Saturday you got to play two matches on clay and one on hard court; and the third day was all on hard court — if you made it that far.”
She did, tallying up a total of nine matches over the long weekend, four of which were on Sunday.
“Jay and I got lucky,” Martinez said. “I threw one of my matches so I didn’t have to play him in the semi-finals and then hopefully we’d play against each other in the final.”
Though she did make it to the final and took first place in singles, Palma didn’t fare so well. Still, he placed second in singles after a tiebreaker, which still worked in their favor.
“I was first in my group and Jay was second in his group, which got us partnered up as doubles; which is what we wanted,” Martinez said. “And we ended up winning together; which we also wanted.”
Palma couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
“I’m so proud of my doubles partner for all her achievements in the past year, including winning singles and doubles in her first tournament,” he said. “I’m most proud, though, at her level of play during these championships. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Next up for Martinez and Palma is a doubles tournament in March, also in Palm Springs. On the horizon is the SDTF’s Open here in June, which will be designated as a master’s tournament this year, and then the West Coast Cup in August — also here in San Diego — where Martinez has her sights on captain.
For more information about SDTF, visit sdtf.org.
—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at email@example.com.