Bill Thompson, 48, of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. has been playing tennis and captaining USTA League teams for eight years and is currently the captain of a USTA League 4.5 men’s tri-level team and a new 7.0 mixed doubles team. He took his 4.5 men’s tri-level team to the National Championships in the team’s first year, where they placed third and this year brought together a group of friends and competitors to form the new 7.0 team, with team members from across the Hudson Valley. He first started forming teams and became a captain when tennis began expanding in the Hudson Valley and his very first team, a 3.0 men’s team, won its league in its inaugural year. Because of his dedication to USTA Leagues and expanding the game, Thompson has been named the USTA League Captain of the Month for March 2012.
USTA.com: How are your teams looking for this year?
Bill Thompson: This is the first year I am captaining a new 7.0 mixed doubles team. Every player on the team was my competitor. I met them all through regionals, sectional and nationals and we became friends. The ratings fell the right way and we are on the same team now. I have players an hour north of Albany and I have players in Westchester. We don’t practice but we have weather captains, in case the weather gets bad up north. When it is raining in Westchester, it is sleet by me and snow in Albany so we have to coordinate a little bit. That has been the most fun since I have been playing tennis. Everyone is so mellow, cool and there is no stress. We are hoping to have more teams of sharing talents in the Hudson Valley.
I also captain a 4.5 tri-level men’s team, the Net Bangers. We almost did not have a 4.5 tri but we were able to get another team. No one gave us a chance but we just played tennis and went on a nice run and we went to Nationals in our first year together and finished third. It was an amazing experience to go to Nationals and to place third from the Hudson Valley was just amazing. Hawaii and SoCal finished ahead of us, but we are a small community and all our players come from three towns so it is pretty cool for us to be third in the country.
This past year we got hit with a lot of injuries but came in second in our league, so we did not get to go to Nationals again. Everyone is the same personality off the court too so it is a lot of fun and we are pretty intense about this team.
USTA.com: How do you find the time to captain multiple teams?
Bill Thompson: I am a partner in a dry cleaning business. It is a small operation in a small town. It is stressful but it is a lot of fun.
I captained a lot of softball teams when I was in my 20s. I had a different softball team for every day of the week. You always make time for things that are fun. For tennis, we always try to get people that we like as friends as much as tennis players. We try not to get too many headaches and leave egos for other teams. We may not have the best tennis players but we usually have a lot of intangibles to help us win matches, it is why we go to regionals and sectionals a lot.
It is busy. I have a lot of support, what makes things difficult are headaches, but we don’t have any. It has been peaceful. The last eight years of captaining USTA tennis, teammates have been fun. We are already looking forward to the summer to play tennis. Every day we talk about tennis.
USTA.com: How did you start playing tennis? What do you love most about it?
Bill Thompson: Eight years ago I started playing tennis. I always followed the sport as a kid but just never had the means to play it. I played baseball, football, track, stuff like that. For my 40th birthday I took lessons and it came along pretty quickly and just fit because tennis in the Hudson Valley was expanding. There was a 3.0 league, a 3.5, 6.0 mixed, etc and it was really easy to organize because everyone was all of a sudden starting to play tennis. We just went around to anyone who looked athletic and said we could form a 3.0 men’s team and now we have so many teams in the area. And it is always fun playing co-ed. The co-ed part of USTA tennis is my favorite.
USTA.com: How did you first start playing in USTA leagues?
Bill Thompson: I thought it was cool to compete and go to other clubs. I had an old friend who showed me the ropes; the way the competition was, the way the mixed doubles was. The Tennislink system I thought then was great but now it is even better. Our first year we won our 3.0 men’s league, and then we played against New Jersey and Westchester teams. I’m glad I did it when I did it. I thought, you play tennis, you play USTA. That is all I knew.
We won our league the first year. I didn’t know what the ratings meant but I knew I was a beginner. It was fair competition, we started winning and then I found out about postseason play. We said, ‘We are 3-0, it is a seven match season, we have to win.’ We met so many friends from that first season, we are still buddies, we are joking now who is 4.0 and who is 4.5. We went to Westchester, beat them, then lost to the New Jersey team, so they ended up advancing. But we came in second out of three teams the first year. On that team, we had three guys in their 70s playing, I was 40, and we had guys in their 20s. It was really great.
USTA.com: What do you love most about playing?
Bill Thompson: It is just a lot of fun, I’m glad I am able to do it. It is really about the team. There is no air about us. The 4.5 guys talk to the 3.0 guys. There are no separate tables. I am really excited about the 7.0 team. I think it is cool all these people took a chance and wanted to play. It all happened because of the USTA League postseason, just meeting these people, competing against them, having sportsmanship come out so strong. Saying ‘Man, we would be great teammates.’ That is the fun and hopefully we can keep doing it.
USTA.com: Who is your favorite tennis player?
Bill Thompson: Andy Roddick.
USTA.com: What is your favorite surface to play on?
Bill Thompson: Hard Court is the best - then icing my knees :).
USTA.com: What kind of racquet do you use?
Bill Thompson: Head Liquid Metal 4. It works for me.
USTA.com: What is your favorite tennis tournament and why?
Bill Thompson: The US Open and Indian Wells. We went to 4.5 Tri Level Nationals last year at Indian Wells. The grounds were magnificent and we were so close to the pros. My teammate actually played a match right next to Novak Djokovic. The US Open is awesome. So much energy and the night sessions are great.
USTA.com: What is your favorite professional sports team, if any?
Bill Thompson: The NY Football Giants.
USTA.com: What is the best part of your tennis game?
Bill Thompson: The best part of my tennis game are my intangibles. I have played team sports my whole life with great coaches and I can find my opponent's weakness. Sometimes it's easier to exploit their mental game rather then their strokes. Just never give up and always support your partner!
USTA.com: If you could choose any doubles partner, who would it be?
Bill Thompson: Rafael Nadal. Watched him play doubles against Federer at Indian wells last year. Awesome stuff!
USTA.com: Why do you enjoy being a captain?
Bill Thompson: It is so much social fun being a USTA Captain. I have gained so many new friends. It's fun putting together new teams not just with local players but with my competitors as well. Plus we look for players who understand the team concept. The best server or best forehand sometimes is not the best team mate. Plus it's never boring being a USTA Captain!
USTA.com: What is the best aspect of playing USTA League tennis?
Bill Thompson: The competition. For two hours we want to be the best team on the court. We have been fortunate over the years with winning league titles and going to regionals and sections. Last year was 4.5 Tri Nationals. It all starts with local league play and having a great bunch of teammates.
USTA.com: If you could attend one Grand Slam tournament, what would it be and why?
Bill Thompson: Living in New York it's easy to go to the US Open and a lot of fun. But I would love to go to the Australian Open. The fans are crazy and the country looks awesome. Just might not come home!