Above: Jennifer Dawson of Carlsbad recently won a USTA National Women’s Senior Hard Court title, and she’s added pickleball to her repertoire. Courtesy photo
Jennifer Dawson was in a pickle, but not one she couldn’t overcome.
“I had been playing a lot of Pickleball so I only had about a week to practice,” Dawson said. “But Pickleball also helps your tennis game a little bit.”
A little went a long way for Dawson. The Carlsbad resident recently won the United States Tennis Association National Women’s Senior Hard Court title in the 50s category.
Dawson also claimed the doubles crown with partner Jenny Keller to make for a memorable run at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.
“A week of practice is about all she needs,” Keller said. “Because she is so focused.”
Dawson’s drive has been on display in these parts for years.
She was a CIF champion when playing for Poway High before going on to be among the most decorated women players ever at the University of San Diego. She was the Toreros’ top player for four years and was voted the best collegiate player on the West Coast by NCAA coaches.
“I love the competition, the exercise and just being able to run around,” Dawson said.
She’s in constant motion at the Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle in Cardiff, but not only on the courts. Along with her husband, Steve, the couple manage the facility and the legacy of Riggs, the late tennis player and promoter who lived in Leucadia and gained fame for squaring off against Billie Jean King in the “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973
Riggs’ Sugar Daddy outfit he wore that night at the Houston Astrodome is proudly on display, along with his numerous awards from being among the world’s top players in the 1930 and ‘40s.
Dawson, 52, could have a trophy case brimming with her hardware as well.
She’s won national titles in the 35, 40, 45 and now 50 age-groups and shows no signs of slowing down. When watching six women in the 90s division playing, Dawson said she envisions playing at that age, too.
“I hope so,” she said. “Knock on wood.”
Dawson was bit by the tennis bug when she was 7, after her dad noticed his neighbor’s tennis court being in disrepair and getting little use. He resurrected the hard court and since then tennis has been a big part of Dawson’s being.
“It’s something you can do your whole life,” Dawson said.
Now her days include Pickleball as well, the sport which uses a smaller court than tennis but many of the same strokes.
On that front, guess who’s a reigning champion? Yep, Dawson.
She became the first person to win the triple crown (singles, doubles, mixed) in the senior division in 2017 and she’s added to those titles since.
“It’s crazy how popular Pickleball has become,” Dawson said, and the club’s courts packed with players proves it. “It is really growing.”
Some of the nation’s top Pickleball players will be at Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle on June 21-23 for the SoCal Classic.
“Large companies are starting to get involved and that is bringing funding into the sport,” Dawson said. “If you do well you can make some good money.”
One can bank on Dawson being among those going deep into the tournament.
“She’s so mentally composed that nothing bothers her,” Keller said.
Not even a lack of practice time.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports