Kenny Carter (from right) and Ed Dilworth won the doubles championship of the 22nd NW La. District Senior Olympics tennis tournament over Tom Guanella (from left) and Tommy Poljak. In singles play, Poljak ruled the roost. (click photo to enlarge)
The duo of Kenny Carter and Ed Dilworth and Tommy Poljak ruled tennis in the 22nd Northwest La. District Senior Olympics.
Poljak, 75, swept to another singles title and Carter, 77, and Dilworth, 71, bested Poljak and partner Tom Guanella, 77, for the doubles Gold Medal at Bossier Tennis Center Thursday.
In the tandem event, Carter and Dilworth turned back a rally by Poljak and Guanella during Guanella’s serve in the 16th game of the pro-set battle, winning 9-7. The winners jumped out to a love-40 advantage, but Guanella saved two points with a sharp cross-court and a nifty drop shot, before a double fault ended the match.
“I guess you know I’m in with three teaching pros,” Guanella pointed out prior to the match which saw some sharp tennis by all four players. Indeed, Carter was once the club pro at Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club, Dilworth taught summer classes at East Ridge Country Club and Poljak has for the past several years taught tennis at several local clubs, most recently at POTC. But Guanella, an active regular at the Bossier club, showed often he could match strokes with the others.
Poljak didn’t stay long on the short end Thursday. In singles play, he defeated former LSU collegiate player Carter, 8-1, and bested Dilworth, who was a member of the Byrd High prep juggernaut that was unbeaten in 150 straight matches in the 1960s, 8-0. Dilworth’s Byrd High teammates included Ray Lake, Tommy Tooke and Chip Kinnebrew.
In the tournament’s Level 2 singles championship, Sam Merritt defeated Ted Hardan, 6-1, 5-0 retired.
In the doubles, a three-game surge put Dilworth-Carter ahead by 6-3 in games. But Poljak held his serve, thanks largely to a crisp volley at the net by Guanella. A key cross-court shot in the 11th game by Guanella cut the margin to 6-5 and then he served winners at ad out and advantage to tie the match a 6-all. Poljak later held his serve to tie the count at 7-all.
Carter, who was a teammate with brothers Johnny and Tommy Robinson, Buddy Tudor and former Shreveport physician Larry Hammett in 1958-59 at LSU, managed to take a game off Poljak to open the singles competition in the tournament. Then the craftiness of the winner began to take its toll.
Poljak, once president of Yugoslavia’s tennis federation and 16 time national champion through the years in his home country, came up with well-conceived ”hit-em where they ain’t or where they can’t get to” shots that left his opponents smiling wryly and mouthing, “good shot.” He won 16 straight games in the singles competition.
Poljak said he feels he plays and performs at a high level at his age because ”I have kept a relationship with sports. I have been playing and in active competition for 60 years. It has given me a healthy life.” Then he adds, “And I never smoked even a day in my life.”
During his federation presidency, he led the Yugoslavian Davis Cup teams in matches with England, which was spearheaded by John Lloyd, and Australia, which featured the play of Wimbledon champion and World No. 1 Neale Frazer.
Poljak came to this country with his wife to escape the ravages of war in Bosnia and Herzegovenia, leaving a successful career with the steel company Zenica Bosnia. He says he spoke seven languages at the time, adding with a smile, none of which was English. As he settled in to a new country, he kept active in sports. And soon he was making a name in Senior Olympics, winning 15 singles Gold Medals in state events and claiming third place nationally as a 65-year old in Pittsburgh and a fourth place nationally in San Francisco at age 70.