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At 41, Cy-Fair’s Sherry Hale has the No. 1 ranking in 4.0 tennis singles in Texas


Sherry at Wimbledon, pointing to her favorite tennis player, Andre Agassi. The two were born the same year.

Game, Set, Match — and State Champ!

By Melanie Saxton

As a wife, mother and busy court reporter, Sherry Hale still found time to fuel her passion for tennis. She began dabbling in 2000, playing in neighborhood tournaments. In 2004 when her son was 9 years old, she approached the sport seriously and started taking lessons. “I was always a huge Andre Agassi fan and wanted to play all my life, but my parents put me in girl stuff – dance, twirling, etc. In my early 30s I knew tennis was calling me and I wanted to get out and smell fresh air and exercise,” says Hale.

Hale started dating Tom Hale when she was 16. Now they have a 16-year-old son of their own, Theodore, who is very proud of his mom. They live in Lakewood Forest in Cy-Fair, and Hale works in Houston and the surrounding areas including Fort Bend, takes lessons in River Oaks Country Club, and is on The Woodlands North Country Tennis League.

Hale started racking up accomplishments as a child, earning perfect attendance from pre-K through her senior year in high school. She worked for Mattel and traveled all over Texas and Louisiana being “Barbie” from 1989-1994.

“I had to quit that job when I became pregnant with Theodore,” says Hale. “I’ve been a court reporter for 18 years. Because I’m a career mom, the attorneys I work for ask, ‘Sherry, how do you juggle it all?’ The answer: Dedication and timing. I’d grab any chance to take a private lesson and always had my racquet and tennis clothes in my car. If my job cancelled at the last minute or if it was a short deposition, I was on the phone seeing if they had an opening for a lesson.”

 

Small Goals, Big Results

Her mission early on was to join several leagues and play tennis on a consistent basis and filled her Monday mornings, Monday nights, Tuesday mornings, Tuesday nights, Thursday mornings and Friday mornings. Because of the nature of court reporting, Hale never knows what time of the day or night she’ll be working, and joined so many leagues just to have the opportunity to be able to play two to three times a week.

“Work is flexible, and I can take a daytime deposition and stay up in the wee hours working on it, which allows me time to practice in the morning or take a private lesson,” says Hale. “At the beginning of 2011, one of my tennis friends said, ‘Sherry, you are one of the best players in Houston. You need to compete in tournaments and see if you can crack the Top Ten in Texas.’ I thought that was pretty funny, but a sweet compliment.” Little did she know that she’d become No. 1 in the state at the age of 41. “I just wanted to crack the top 20, but after winning huge tournaments I knew I had to go for it.”

Her run became phenomenal as she won every tournament she entered from Labor Day through the end of 2011, overtaking the No. 1 ranked player who had been playing in tournaments the whole year. She also won the 45th Annual Lake Conroe Open, the Missouri City CTA Tournament, Austin’s 2011 Labor Day Open, the Texas Adult Sectionals in San Antonio, the 2011 Houston Fall Festival Tournament, and the recent Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas.

“The beginning of the year got away from me, but I played my first tournament in Houston in May and made it to the finals. I met up with the No. 35 player in the state and was nervous, but won 7-5, 7-5. I could not believe I was a tournament winner! Because of the points I won, I became ranked 62 in the State of Texas! I was thrilled and played in my second tournament a couple weeks later, losing 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round to Irina Reshetnikova… so much for being the best in Houston! Irina is a 23-year-old Russian who’s dad is a teaching tennis professional and she started playing when she was five. She was an awesome player!” says Hale.

“Even though I lost, this tournament thing was an adrenaline rush and it was exactly what I needed and wanted in my life. Ladies who give up their weekend to play tennis are serious and they are a different animal than the neighborhood tennis I was used to playing. Next I played in a Conroe tournament in July and another Houston tournament in August and won them both. By this time I was No. 44 in the state of Texas.”

Powering Her Way Up The Rankings

Around this time, her husband asked what she’d like to do for Labor Day Weekend. “I had a few hundred pages of a deposition I needed to complete by Monday. He wanted to go pig hunting at a friend’s ranch in Austin, and I remembered there was a 200-point tournament in Austin. Tournaments have different points attached to them. The other tournaments were 100-point tournaments. Points are what determines my ranking.

“For example, in professional tennis, the U.S. Open is worth 600 points, whereas the Sony Open is worth 200 points. It’s the same in USTA tennis for amateurs like myself. This Labor Day tournament had a lot of the Top Ten players in the State of Texas,” says Hale. “I knew I’d have to bring my ‘A’ game and played two matches on Saturday, one match on Sunday and won all three. I made it to the Finals on Labor Day and won! I was ecstatic to be No. 19. I brought my laptop and punched out several hundred pages of depositions in the car while my husband drove to and from Austin. This is a match made in heaven!”

Next, Hale registered for a 600-point tournament. More than 800 competitors from around the state entered, and Hale’s goal was to win one match. It was intimidating. “Some of the girls remembered me from Labor Day and clearly wanted to beat the ‘dark horse,’ as they called me. I won match after match and was shocked and excited! Before I knew it, I was playing in the finals. I won the largest tournament of the year. Wow! I am now No. 5. All my tennis friends called me “Number 5” at this point. I loved it!”

Hale received an invitation in the mail to a tournament named, “Simply The Best.” This is an invitational-only tournament where the Top 8 in Texas compete for the title of “State Champion,” the Texas Adult Masters Championship. “In professional tennis, they also have the Masters Championship at the end of the year. It is the same format. I thought, ‘This is too cool to pass up!’ and quickly learned this tournament was as close to being a professional tennis player as I will ever experience,” says Hale.

“They fed us, gave us sponsor gifts and entertained us (and our spouses) the entire weekend. It is a sponsored event to celebrate all of our hard work throughout the year. During my match, the chair umpire said the score after every game. It was music to my ears: ‘Hale leads 4-2!’ I felt pretty special. Unbelievably, I won this tournament and was at a loss for words. At the trophy presentation, I was announced as ‘The Singles Champion of the great State of Texas.’ I had tears in my eyes. I was the State Champion of Texas? Sherry Hale? Wow!”

Hale will continue working hard in court — both in the legal realm and in tennis. So 2012 should surely be another wonderful year for this 41-year-old tennis phenomenon.

Sherry receiving her trophy after winning the 2011 USTA Masters Tournament of Champions at the Polo Club in Austin.

Sherry and the “regulars” at the River Oaks tennis tournament.

Tom, Theodore and Sherry Hale during a trip to Pompeii.

Theodore, Sherry and the family dog, George, at the Museum of the Pacific in Fredericksburg, Texas.


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