photo | Courtesy of the Cathars
Fairhope’s Tomas and Claudia Catar finished fifth in a national grass tennis tournament
It’s always nice when a father and daughter can spend time together sharing common interests.
While some families prepare meals or plant gardens, Tomas and Claudia Catar have found another pastime they can pursue together: winning a national tennis championship.
The Fairhope family recently finished fifth at the National Grass Court Father / Daughter Championships. The tournament took place at the Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, near Boston.
ARRIVING IN AMERICA
Tomas is the tennis manager of the city of Fairhope. However, it was a long and winding road to reach the eastern shore.
Born in Bratislava, Slovakia, he was very successful playing in Europe and was ranked No. 1 of the junior circuit of the International Tennis Federation. He won a junior European championship title, was a junior semifinalist at the 1995 French Open and competed for his nation in the Team World Cup in 1999.
“I was on tour and I got hurt,” Tomas told Lagniappe. “Scott Novak [now with the Mobile Tennis Center] was the coach of the University of South Alabama and came to Slovakia to recruit several players. He contacted one of my friends and Scott is why I’m in the US. “
Tomas would only play a year in the US, but in the end he stayed. While playing both singles and doubles, he said the Jaguars made it to the NCAA tournament.
“Then I had to make a decision whether to go back on tour or start coaching,” said Tomas. “I took the safest route.”
He would serve as an assistant coach with the United States women’s team. After a year, she received an offer to board Interstate 65 and train with Auburn University in Montgomery. After earning his degree with the Warhawks, Tomas began working in numerous tennis centers across the state.
“I was in Dothan and then locally in Mirror Lake, Heron Lakes and Gulf Shores,” said Tomas. “I have been in Fairhope for six years and I hope to be here for some time. I really enjoyed every minute ”.
He is the only coach in Alabama to have received the Master of Tennis (Performance Coaching) title from the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). Tomas said this certification equates to the highest coaching certification of the International Tennis Federation.
His other hits include 2016 Alabama PTR Tennis Professional of the Year; national tester and workshop doctor for national PTR coaching certification workshops; member of the Alabama Junior Competition Committee of the US Tennis Association (USTA); founder and director of the Gulf Coast Tennis Association; 2018 USTA Southern Tennis Professional of the Year; USTA Alabama Tennis Professional of the Year 2018; and 2021 Alabama PTR Tennis Professional of the Year.
Tomas said he really found a new home.
“I’m 45 and have spent the last 25 in Alabama,” he said. “I’ve been here more than the time I’ve spent in Europe”.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Another perk of coming to Alabama was that Tomas met his wife, Natalie, in Mobile. Together they produced the other part of this story, their daughter, Claudia.
“I started playing tennis when I was 3,” said Claudia. “I had tried dance and gymnastics, but I wanted to quit and play my father’s game.
“I participated in my first tournament when I was 8 years old. After my first game, I asked my dad to teach me how to win. Since then I have been traveling and competing in tournaments ”.
The 16-year-old from Fairhope High School competes in both singles and doubles at USTA events. She is ranked in the top 10 across all groups in Alabama and in the top 100 Southern players.
Claudia won the Alabama Junior Hard Court Singles Championship. She was runner-up at the National Teen Championships in Arizona. Claudia was selected to represent Alabama at the Ozaki Cup in Rome, Georgia earlier this month.
He was part of the Fairhope High team from seventh grade through first year. When he was in his second year, he decided to focus more on USTA tournaments.
“I have won sections every year that I have played for my school,” he said. “I’m not sure I’m playing this year. I’ll see how the cards fall. “
GOING TO THE NATIONALS
The Catar family was aware of the existence of national father-daughter tournaments. Then they learned about the grass event in Massachusetts.
“This was the first time I played on a grass pitch. It was really great, “said Claudia.” My dad has played them in England many times. “
That experience came in handy.
“The difference between hard courts and grass courts is like indoor volleyball and beach volleyball,” said Tomas. “There are several movements. On grass, the ball bounces 40 percent lower and much faster. There are many more irregular rebounds ”.
This was a plus for Claudia.
“She is a very aggressive player,” said Tomas. “There is a lot of serve and volley. I knew it would do really well on this surface. “
The Longwood Cricket Club is one of the oldest structures in America. Tomas said all-time greats like Rod Laver and Arthur Ashe played there, as did the Davis Cup Finals.
“Each game we played three sets,” said Tomas. “In the end we lost in the quarter-finals. We were up 10-9 and one point away, but we lost the 12-10 tiebreak. We were very close to the final ”.
“They were all really good teams,” said Claudia. “We actually beat the team that won the previous year.”
It was also a special moment for Tomas. Two years ago he broke his right wrist. At the time, he wasn’t sure he could play competitively again.
“I’ve only been out using my left arm for six months,” he said. “So this was already a win, without even placing in the tournament.”
The next opportunity for the family will be at the end of October. They entered the USTA Family Clay Court Championships in Wellington, Florida.
While they are satisfied with their recent performance, they are not satisfied.
“When you win a sanctioned national title, you get a golden ball,” he said. “It’s something to aim for.”