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Stockton serves up success at Open

Dick Stockton's career on the pro tennis tour may be over. But the Virginia men's tennis coach's success on the professional level is far from complete.

Last week, Stockton and Tom Gullickson won the Men's 45-and-over Doubles competition at the U.S. Open, defeating the American tandem of Robert Lutz and Stan Smith, 6-3, 6-2.

"The tennis is usually of a pretty high caliber," Stockton said. "We both played well and we had to because there were some very tough matches."

Stockton has competed in the senior events at the U.S. Open since 1987 -- impressive, considering that players are allowed in strictly on an invitational basis. He also has teamed with Gullickson on repeated occasions during the last 12 years.

"Between the two events, the 35 (and over) and the 45, we've won five times," Stockton said. "It's very competitive [and] it's a lot of fun. The fans enjoy seeing the old guys still play.

"Everybody enjoys it," he said. "It's more nostalgic than anything else. It's nice to see everybody still playing."

The tandem of Gullickson and Stockton has enjoyed phenomenal success in such events, especially in recent years. They reached the final match in 1998 and won the U.S. Open 45-and-over title in 1996. Earlier this year at Wimbledon, the duo reached the semifinals in the 45-and-over division.

Stockton, who returns to play at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open each year, said making the biannual pilgrimage always evokes special memories.

"Wimbledon is different because it's always been the premiere event in tennis and it's always something very special to walk in the gates every year," he said.

The U.S. Open, however, carries special significance for Stockton.

"It's special for me because I grew up in New York and have been playing [in the Open] every year since I was 16," Stockton said. "It's unbelievable how you can go to a place where there's 30,000 people and bump into people that you know. That's what makes it so special."

The win last week merely adds to Stockton's already impressive resume, including a NCAA Singles Championship and several other doubles titles.

Stockton said he sets no limit on how long he will compete at the senior level in either the U.S. Open or at Wimbledon.

"I'm sure as long as I'm invited, I'll continue to play the U.S. Open," he said. "Wimbledon, I don't know. I'm definitely going there next year. From there, I'll just play it by ear [from] year to year."

While Stockton's success is extraordinary on an individual level, it brings added prestige to the Cavalier tennis program as well.

Stockton's success in competition "was one of the things that made Dick such an attractive candidate for the coaching job is that he's such a very fine player himself ... but also loves coaching at the college level," Virginia Athletic Director Terry Holland said. "We've got the best of both worlds"


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