Ken Tereso, 36, of Ludlow, Mass., has been playing USTA League tennis for three years and has spent one year as the co-captain of a 3.5 men’s team after missing part of the league season last year as he battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He underwent six months of intense chemotherapy but kept playing tennis whenever he had the energy and was thrilled to be able to get back on the court once his treatment ended. Tereso is now in remission and while he still takes pills each day and has a few treatments a year, he helped lead his 3.5 men’s team to the district championships this August. Tereso plans to teach his four-year-old daughter Madison to play tennis – she already has a racquet – and his wife Laura has talked about taking lessons to make tennis a complete family affair.
Tereso has been named the USTA League June Captain of the Month.
USTA.com: How much time did you have to take off from tennis while undergoing treatment? What kind of treatment did you undergo and for how long?
Ken Tereso: In January 2010 I was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is an aggressive type of cancer. For six months I had to go through eight rounds of intense chemotherapy. I did play some tennis in between hospital rounds - I wanted to get on the court. I was on a mission and I didn’t want to get too rusty. I had no energy, I was bald, I lost weight, I couldn’t do much but just being out there helped me cope with the effects of treatment. From January until July, I was pretty much out of commission. A week here and there I would feel pretty good so I got on the court about four or five times.
I missed half of the league season; I was playing for a 3.5 team. From January on I didn’t play any matches. I had no energy. I am still on treatment for another year and a half, more maintenance treatment. Once a year I have two intense treatment rounds but I am still able to captain and play. I take chemotherapy pills three times a day now. I take a lot of stuff but everything is on the right track. I am in remission but I have to take remission treatment for 30 months. It can be challenging playing because my energy level is not always the same but there is nowhere else I would rather be than on the tennis court. It has been adventure; I try to take it day by day. But I can live a normal life.
USTA.com: How good did it feel to get back on the court and play knowing you were cancer-free? Was tennis something you really looked forward to getting back into?
Ken Tereso: It felt great to get back out there. I had to join a new team because I got bumped up to 3.5 so I was not going to become captain and I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the guys. But my goal was to get my old 3.0 team back together and it felt great that that all worked out like it has. It felt great to help form my current team because we were pretty successful as a 3.0 team and had been to district championships. It was good it all worked out. Now my goal is to have everyone move up to 4.0 eventually. Once my energy level is stable, I should be able to move up. That is my goal.
USTA.com: What teams do you/.have you captained? How did you first decide to become a captain?
Ken Tereso: I am co-captain of a 3.5 men’s team, called The Firm, out of western Massachusetts. Our team made districts this year, which gets underway in August and I am really looking forward to it. I had been very involved in helping our captain, Bert Terrinca, before, recruiting guys and setting up practices and everything and he asked me to help him out this year. The only reason I hadn’t done it before was I moved up from 3.0 to 3.5. Bert deserves a lot of credit. Everyone got moved up to 3.5 from our former 3.0 team.. I had been playing for another 3.5 team and when I found out all my former teammates were moving up, I went back to join them. It was a tough decision. I liked my new team but I was more familiar with my old teammates But I was always trying to look after players and I recruited probably half the team even before I was captain.
USTA.com: Why do you enjoy being a captain?
Ken Tereso: I enjoy the competitiveness and the group of guys being on a team, working for a common goal while having fun at the same time. It is not just about winning but everything that comes with like sportsmanship. I am a former hockey player so I really enjoy the team concept. I like having input on who plays and trying to do our best to win it all. This year, there were three teams that all had the same record and it was really competitive the whole way through. We had a 10-2 record, you think it should be automatic to win your division but it wasn’t, it came down right to the end but luckily we won. It was exciting and nerve-wracking.
USTA.com: How long have you been playing tennis and how did you start? Why do you love playing?
Ken Tereso: I played while I was growing up from middle school on, including on the varsity team for all four years of high school. I graduated in 1992 and then I was having some issues with tendinitis in my wrist so I took a break. I am 36 now, 15 years went by and I didn’t pick up a racquet and just three years I got back into it. I played while I was growing up, from middle school on. Then I found out about the USTA Leagues and I thought it was great, you can play all different players and there are a variety skill levels and it is neat how organized it all is.
I found out my friend Bert played on a USTA League team. I used to play hockey with him. I started thinking about it, because hockey is not as good as a sport to grow old with and I know tennis is something you can play forever, as long as you can walk pretty much. I thought it would be a good transition at that point in my life and there is a club in my town. The local club found me a match every week and the first time I hit, it was so enjoyable and it felt like I hadn’t taken 15 years off. It didn’t take long to get back in the groove. I was gung-ho about it. I try to play minimum twice a week now and have met a lot of friends through tennis already; it has been wonderful. I hope I can do it for a long time. I did the tri-level thing recently as well, we lost in a tiebreaker, otherwise we would have gone to Nationals, this year. Next year we are shooting for that.
USTA.com: Did you know you were nominated for Captain of the Month? How did you feel when you found out you won?
Ken Tereso: I was just very surprised and shocked. We had a great year and a great season.
USTA.com: What is the best aspect of playing USTA League tennis?
Ken Tereso: Just the organization and the competitiveness of it. I like playing different competition and having it count for something. I like to play for fun as well so it is a good mix. I have always had a competitive drive and you just feel like you want it to count for something. There are not many recreational sports that are as well organized as USTA Leagues. I played in hockey leagues and they were ok, but this seems like a bigger deal and it is a nationwide.
USTA.com: Who is your favorite tennis player?
Ken Tereso: Andre Agassi.
USTA.com: What is your favorite surface to play on?
Ken Tereso: Clay.
USTA.com: What kind of racquet do you use?
Ken Tereso: Babolat Pure Storm Team.
USTA.com: What is your favorite tennis tournament and why?
Ken Tereso: The US Open because it is the only Grand Slam held in the U.S.
USTA.com: What is the best part of your tennis game?
Ken Tereso: My lefty two-handed backhand, although I'm right handed and serve right handed. Unorthodox I know but always have played two hands both sides and my left hand is the bottom hand.
USTA.com: If you could choose any doubles partner, who would it be?
Ken Tereso: Toss up between Darryl Berenson and Mike Bryan.