Lee Jussim’s Tennis Page
I am an avid tennis player and always looking for new partners. Male, female, young old, I could not care less. Being a professor, my schedule is fairly flexible — I might be able to play anytime anyday.
There are various ways to “measure” tennis skill — I am on the border of intermediate and advanced; I am a solid “B” player; I have a USTA rating of 4.0, but probably
at the low end of 4.0. I have been crushed by the worst player on the RU men’s team; but I have beaten people who have played on college teams for small schools. I have captained several USTA teams over the last few years.
If you would like to hit, best bet would be to send me an email message (email@example.com).
A Tennis Story of Rejection, Gentle Revenge and Vindication
My tennis history (and some stories).
1970 to 1982
I dabbled in tennis. My main sport was basketball, not that I was particularly good at it.
My first tennis lessons, through Univ. of Michigan’s (UM) recreation department.
(I am now almost 30!). I start playing a lot.
I play in my first tennis tournament. UM holds a lowlevel recreational doubles tournament.
I sign up with my wife, Lisa. All other teams are pairs of guys. Format is each match is a
single pro-set (first to 8 games wins, with a tiebreaker at 7 all). We get to 7 all, where
I promptly double fault away the tiebreaker. We lose, and start walking away.
The tournament director comes over to us, and asks “Why are you leaving?”
“We lost” we said. “This is double elimination” she said. So, we entered the
losers bracket, where we swept three straight matches and actually made it to the finals,
where we got whipped pretty soundly by a strong team. “Not bad” we thought, for a first
1984-1985 I play in a slew of local leagues, singles, mixed, men’s doubles,
win once, come in second a bunch of times, and come in near last in an
In 1985, we get to the finals of the Ypsilanti Mixed Doubles tournament, where we
get thrashed, 0 and 0, by a team comprised of a guy on the UM varsity men’s team,
and girl on the Ann Arbor H.S. varsity team. I take more lessons, start playing in local tourneys, singles, doubles, mixed, whatever.
I love the competition, and play well except for my serve, which I continue to double
fault too much. My partner always serves first in doubles. Especially my wife,
who has an excellent lefty slice serve. On average, I win a round, then lose
in the second.
High point in league play: In 1986, I tear the cartilege in my left knee playing tennis.
I recover enough to play in a mixed league later that year, though I am pretty immobile.
If I step wrong, I get a red streak of pain up my knee. Plus, during league play,
Lisa is 7-9 months pregnant. We win our first two matches.
We move to Highland Park, NJ in mid-August. The local paper announces
the Highland Park singles tournament at the end of August. I sign up.
I get a lucky draw, and get to the final, where I get trounced.
In the semi-final, I had a great match with Neil Weinstein, a famous
professor in my department at Rutgers, which I won 7-5, 7-5.
We went on to play together for 25 years, till he retired to parts
south and west.
I have an unbroken streak of at least one trophy in at least one
tournament each year for 9 years. (winner and runnerup usually
get a trophy, so not all of these are wins). These are usually small tournaments.
High Point: Lisa & I make it to the finals of the Franklin Township
Mixed Doubles Tournament (no longer being played) four consecutive
years, winning twice. But our best match in this period was a loss.
In one final, we played a team of a 4.5 guy and a 4.0 woman.
We had played them years earlier, and they had beaten us 6-1, 6-0.
I went in there with a goal of winning 4 games. We lost the first set
6-2, right on track. But then we started winning games. We actually
won the second set 6-1. Then the third was a brutal knock down
drag-em-out, which we lost 6-4. It was a loss but I do not think
we had ever played better together.
In the winter of 1991 I tear the cartilege in my other knee,
but the surgery is less extreme, and I recover quickly and resume
play full hog that summer.
This period was a high point. And, by 5 years later, it looked
like it would be THE high point of my tennis career.
My tennis dark ages.
1996, begin long battle with tennis elbow. Reduced play.
1997: Tennis elbow becomes so bad, it hurts to brush my teeth,
I stop play for 8 months, do cortisone, physical therapy, etc.
1998: I resume trying to play. This fails. Bad tennis elbow returns.
I stop play for another 6 months. Do one last cortisone shot and more physical therapy.
1999: I resume play gingerly. I now have two problems.
I still have tennis elbow, and I have to be careful to avoid a nasty
flareup. And my game sucks from lack of play.
2000-2002. I “manage” my tennis elbow by playing no more than 2-3x/week in the summer.
No tournaments, leagues, etc. My game begins to come back.
2003. I pulverize my elbow falling off my bike. I get emergency surgery
to try to put it back together, including two pins and a wire in and around
my elbow bones. I can’t use my arm at all for 2 months.
I do, however, start dabbling in playing lefty …
2004, I resume play. I cannot fully extend my right arm, so,
although I can hit a ground stroke and volley, I can’t serve.
I have the amazing fortune of advising a graduate student, Stacy Robustelli, who, in a prior life,
was a terrific tennis teaching pro. And she teaches me how to serve lefty.
I adopt an underhanded second serve. Soft, high, loping, with
a lot of topspin. Guys try to tee off on it. They occasionally
hit winners. Usually, they make errors.
2005. I start playing more and more. And well. I start first-serving
righty as well as lefty.
2006 – Present
2006. I play in my first tournaments in 10 years. I play a USTA singles
tournament, where I win my first round, and lose my second.
Lisa and I play in a small mixed doubles tournament, where
we win the first round, and then play another epic
final against a teaching pro and his wife, where we lose
6-3 in the third. We again played about as well as we could.
Is this a new trophy streak about to begin?
I also play on a men’s USTA team. The weaker players play
doubles, so I played doubles, but I win almost all of my matches.
This team wins its division and goes to playoffs, and loses
several heartbreaking matches and fails to advance further.
Still, it was a good season.
2007. Lisa and I win an early season mixed doubles tournament.
I get to the semi-finals of a competitive USTA 3.5 tournament early in the
season. I win my first singles tournament in over 10 years, the
Marco Mazzoncini 3.5 tournament in Hamilton NJ. The centerpiece
match for me was the semi-final. I lost the first set 6-3, and
was down 5-3, 30 love, in a match that became a war of
attrition. I stopped making errors. He did not make very
many either, though. I went on to win that game in a tiebreaker.
Format was instead of a 3rd set, we play a tiebreaker, and
I won that too. So, I won 3-6, 7-6, 1-0 in a match that took
almost 3 hours.
I also play on the same USTA men’s team. That team
does very well, but the Captain decides I can’t play.
A Tennis Story of Rejection, Gentle Revenge, and Vindication
for more details.
I always got tennis elbow mostly from serving, so I start getting
it in my left arm! So I start going back to mostly righty serves.
I try to go to a regular second serve, with mixed success.
2008. My tennis elbow begins to return to my right arm.
I finally bag it, and decide that, permanently, I would:
1. Rotate righty and left serves
2. Use an underhanded second serve.
I get crushed in the first two singles tournaments I play.
But then I win the toughest singles tournament I have ever
played in. See A Tennis Story of Rejection, Gentle Revenge, and Vindication.
Because of my bad experience on my 2007 men’s team, I leave that team
and form my own. We play in a different league altogether.
With two weeks left in the season, we are behind two teams.
First, we beat the second place team. The following week,
we beat the first place team. Here are the scores of those
three doubles matches:
First Doubles (Pete and I won): 7-6, 7-5
Second Doubles (Joe & Joe lost): 7-6, 6-7, 1-0.
Third Doubles (John & Laszlo won): 7-6, 6-5.
(6-5 is a valid score on an indoors, timed match).
6 our of 7 sets went to tiebreakers, and we won 4 of those six.
That was pretty damn amazing.
So we won our league championship.
(this title comes from making lemonade when life hands you a lemon…).
I now LOVE serving both hands and underhanded.
I do not usually hit too hard, but I get different spins on each side and it often throws
people off. I now also have several different underhanded serves
(high loper with slow pace, medium loper with medium pace,
low hard drive with topspin, soft with sidespin, dropshot).
Sometimes, guys have so much trouble with the underhanded that
I throw it in as a first serve. I have two different regular serves
with each arm, giving me a righty slice, a righty hard flat serve,
a lefty slice, and a lefty topspin serve. Usually, I can find
one that is giving a guy a hard time, or, sometimes, just keep em
off balance by rotating. Creep up on my slice? Here comes
the hard flat. Like a hard flat ball? Here comes the topspin
loper. Heh heh heh.
I was a USTA 3.5 my whole life, till this past year, where
I won that 3.5 tournament, and went 5-1 in my USTA
team matches. So, they bumped me to 4.0.
I had aspired to be a 4.0 tennis player for over 10 years.
Underhanded serve, lefty serve, and all…….. That’s because
the ratings are based on performance, not style.