Winning never gets old. Roald Flater never seems to either.
Flater, 83, took home his fifth gold ball May 10 following a three-set victory to win the U.S. National Indoor Championship’s 80-and-up division in Vancouver, Wash.
“I was surprised,” the longtime Evergreen resident and member of the Colorado tennis hall of fame said. “Probably my best win I’ve ever had.”
And that’s saying a lot for a man that has quietly been making a racquet around the country and world for decades.
Flater said he honestly didn’t expect to defeat finals opponent, William Davis.
See, Davis is a bit of a legend when it comes to the sport of tennis. He was a longtime instructor and pro in Palm Springs, Calif., where he is rumored to have coached some of Hollywood’s elite back in the day, including Frank Sinatra.
Davis has 40 gold balls in his trophy case and just became eligible for the 80-and-up division, which made him the proverbial young guy.
But Flater had a plan and he executed it to near perfection. And, he probably gave Davis a reminder of an old lesson.
“The main thing, I think I probably focused better than he did,” Flater said.
To set the stage, however, one must begin with Flater’s semifinal match against Ed Kauder of Florida. Kauder’s claim to fame is serving 59 aces in a U.S. Open doubles tournament when he was younger.
Flater gave up just 10 aces and won 6-1, 6-4.
Against Davis, patience was the key. Flater’s plan was to hit the ball deep, avoid giving Davis angles and wait for the right ball to do something with.
Flater “eked” out the first set 6-4, but then Davis got rolling. Flater was down 4-0 and lost 6-2 to set up the decisive third set.
Flater built a 5-2 lead, but Davis was serving and up 30-love. Flater came back to tie it and won it all a few strokes later with a crisp volley.
“The thrill when you walk off and shake his hands, it’s like (former star) Stefan Edberg said, ‘The thrill lasts for about 10 seconds,’” Flater said. “It’s a great rush when you first win.”
“It never gets old,” Flater added.
Davis and Kauder would get a small measure of revenge as they teamed up to win the doubles championship, defeating Flater and partner Jack Graham, 6-3, 6-3. Graham, the second-ranked player from California, is a new partner for Flater.
Flater now has 14 trophy tennis balls from the U.S. Tennis.
So what now?
Flater continues to play and teach anywhere he’s asked to. He practices at the Evergreen Sports Center and enjoys teaching younger players down at Washington Park in Denver.
His real passion, however, is representing the U.S. in international competitions. Flater will play in the world championships in Perth, Australia in December.
“I’ll keep playing until I drop,” Flater laughed. “Or until I can’t make it any more. I’m not just playing to win; I’m playing because I love tennis.”