European champ aged 85

An evergreen tennis player from Bexhill has won a continental title at the age of 85.

Friday, 26th June 2015, 7:00 am
Phyllis McEwan, European champion tennis player from Bexhill

Phyllis McEwan clinched the women’s over-85s doubles at the 58th European Senior Open for Super Seniors in Austria.

And if that wasn’t impressive enough, the Cooden Beach Sports & Social Club member also finished runner-up in the women’s over-85s singles on the clay courts of Poertschach.

She said: “I did surprise myself by how well I played. I’ve won trophies before, but this was the first time I’ve entered (the European Senior Open) and this to me was more of a challenge.”

Phyllis, who turned 85 this year, decided to have a crack at the event after her friend Betty Howard, who is a year older than her, played in it last year.

The two teamed up for the doubles and won both of their matches in the three-team competition, with completely contrasting degrees of comfort.

They edged out Marlies Jennis (Germany) and Erzsebet Szentirmay (Hungary) 7-6, 6-7, 10-4 (championship tie-break) despite surrendering a 5-2 lead in the second set, and whitewashed the German duo of Jutta Apel and Ursula Kasch 6-0, 6-0.

Phyllis won three of her four matches in the singles, losing only to the winner - and world champion - Szentirmay 3-6, 4-6.

She defeated her doubles partner, who was in the Great Britain team last year, 6-1, 6-3, whitewashed Kasch 6-0, 6-0 and saw off Jennis 6-1, 6-1.

Phyllis originates from Somerset and although she played tennis at school, wasn’t in the school team (even she was in several other sports).

After taking a secondment to Africa in 1959 via her job, which was in revenue, she played a lot of tennis in Kenya and Uganda, and in 1964, won the Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian singles titles.

Phyllis returned to the UK from Botswana in 1978 and moved from Somerset to Bexhill with her late husband, who she met while in Africa.

Although she joined Cooden Beach Sports & Social Club, Phyllis didn’t play a great deal until, at the age of 79, a lady at the club suggested she enter some veterans’ tournaments.

Phyllis signed up for an event in Eastbourne and although she didn’t win, she quickly developed a taste for competition and has played in as many tournaments as possible since then.

Despite her advancing years, Phyllis still plays for Cooden’s third team and has no intention of hanging up her racquet for a good while yet.

“I love it, I really enjoy it,” added Phyllis, who once won the club singles at Cooden and still does her own gardening. “It’s a challenge and I’m hoping I can go next year to defend my title. I would love to play in the World Championships as well.

“At 85 we’re all getting that much slower and have to use the little drop shots a little more, and make people run around a bit more if I can.”

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