TENNIS WOMEN'S NATIONAL 65-75 HARDCOURT CHAMPIONSHIPS : Aggressive Mason Defends Her Championship

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At first glance, Leisure World seemed to be an appropriate setting for the Women's National 65-75 Hardcourt Tennis Championships.

The action in Sunday's 65 singles final between Elaine Mason and June Gay, however, was anything but leisurely.

Mason, from Fresno, defended her championship with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gay of Piedmont, Calif., in a 75-minute match that featured contrasting styles and overheads hard enough to wedge balls into the fence.

Mason, who was top-seeded, and Gay, who was second-seeded, quickly established themselves as agile, active players. Mason's aggressive, attacking style was countered by Gay's placement and touch, including a variety of cut shots. On several occasions, Mason could only shake her head as Gay, 5 feet 9, used her height to get to balls that appeared to be clean winners.

"June turns your winners into her winners," said Mason, 66. "Those long legs of hers get her to so many shots that you don't think she has any chance at."

Eventually, however, Mason's consistently deep, hard approach shots limited Gay's opportunities to use her soft drop shots and offensive lobs. In the sixth game of the first set, Mason broke Gay's serve with a series of volleys for a 4-2 lead.

"I tried to hit the ball hard and keep it long, because I've seen what (Gay) can do when you let her set up and hit," Mason said. After holding serve twice to win the set, 6-3, Mason took a 2-1 lead to start the second set after another service break. At that point, it appeared as if Mason would cruise to the championship.

Gay regrouped, however, and countered Mason's frequent trips to the net with cross-court returns and chipped backhands. Gay broke back to tie at 2-2 and the players held serve through the eighth game.

In the ninth game, Gay's touch momentarily deserted her, and Mason took advantage of several short balls to drive winners and break Gay's serve for a 5-4 lead. Mason then held serve to win the championship for the second consecutive year.

It was a busy tennis weekend for Mason, who also competed with partner Phyllis Adler in the 65 doubles finals, two hours after the singles final. Mason and Adler were defeated, 6-3, 6-2, by Corky Murdock of Los Angeles and Carolyn Henry of Jackson, Miss.

Saturday, Mason teamed with Clair Hoke to win the mixed doubles championship.

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