Manitoba tennis hall of famer Ray Daumler picked up his racquet six months ago after a 10-year hiatus, and if his performance two weekends ago at the senior national indoor championships in Calgary is any indication, the multiple Manitoba champion hasn't missed a beat.
Playing in the men's 45-plus singles, Daumler laid a 6-2, 6-0 beating on Gene Kelly, a three-time member of the Canadian seniors world tennis team.
In the men's 35-plus doubles, Daumler and Geoff Kirbyson lost in the final to Alex Policarpo and Dan Luijkx of Alberta 6-3, 6-1.
In his first major tournament since making a comeback, Daumler made the final of the Eastern Canadian senior tournament in Toronto, but lost to Gary Meanchos of Ontario 6-3, 6-3.
Daumler wasn't the only Manitoba story in Calgary. Terry Langan and Klaus Wrogemann won the 65-plus men's doubles by beating Pat Dowling and Rod Green of Alberta 6-4, 6-0, and Peter Otto and Kirbyson defended their 40-plus doubles crown by beating Tibor Ribi and Gyula Toth of Alberta 6-0, 6-0.
His 10 years away from the game were hard, but Daumler doesn't regret it. "My kids were, at the time, seven and eight. Tennis took a lot of time away from them. When you are doing 16-18 hours a week training, on top of your work and all that, it takes a lot of time away from your family," he said.
"I have never told anyone, but for at least three or four years I couldn't even look at the tennis court (after retiring), or come close to a tennis tournament. I knew it was something I had to do, but it was a heartbreaker.
"So to come back, and have another motivation, showing an older Ray Daumler, and what he can do, is very exciting.
"In early fall I began playing again, with the goal being senior tennis. I am going into my 45th year and so thought I'd give it a try. I have always kept working out hard."
Son Bradley is now 19 and his daughter Alexa-Rae is 16, so now he feels he can get back to the game.
"My personality is that I have always been hard on myself. I believe in my abilities and I expect a lot of myself. I am trying to have more fun in it, but I still have that same competitive nature that I played with for 28 years prior to retiring. I won about 150 events spread out across Canada, as well as the north-central United States. You don't just flush that out of the system so easily. The competitive nature is still there."
Daumler says that he intends to compete on the Manitoba circuit this year. "I will be playing in the open events. I am not back just to play seniors. I am not saying I will win anything, but I'll show that a 44-year-old can play at a high level of tennis. I'll always do my best to win."