Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vicky Rogers McEvoy, Still at the Top of Her Game

    At the dawn of the open tennis era in 1968, teenager Vicky Rogers walked onto Wimbledon’s fabled No. 1 Court with her partner Roy Barth for their match against defending mixed doubles champions, Billy Jean King and Owen Davidson. Although she lost that day, you can still hear the youthful pride as she recalls  “actually playing really well, and being relieved at not being embarrassed.”

    At Bournemouth that summer, she took a set from future Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade (1977). And, in singles at Wimbledon she got to the Third Round where she lost to Shirley Brasher, which she describes as “disappointing, since I had beaten her a couple of weeks before, and I had such a good draw.”

    Once ranked as high as third nationally, and a finalist in the 1967 Under 18 Nationals on grass at Philadelphia Cricket Club, Vicky will be inducted into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame at Beach Point Club in Mamaroneck April 24.

    She grew up in Rye; her father, Frederick, was a lawyer and mother, Janet, became one of Rye’s first women City Council members. In summers, she and her three siblings spent their days at Manursing Island Club. At age 9, Rogers McEvoy played in a tennis clinic led by John Vinton, who coaxed his young players with free Cokes from the snack bar if their shots hit his target. She won a lot of free Cokes.

    Her parents supported the rapid development of their daughter’s tennis. After ninth grade, she left her family and Rye Country Day to attend The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, California. There, she took full advantage of the endless summers and continued to improve, playing in the fiercely competitive California junior tennis circuit. Along the way, she met her great friend and fellow-player Val Zeigenfuss and many others. La Jolla native, Karen Hantze Susman, who won the Wimbledon singles title in 1962, became her hero.

    At that 1968 Wimbledon, she recalls getting paid a whopping £50 stipend, since she was still an amateur, and exchanging her player’s tickets for a flat in London, a far cry from today's rich professional payouts.

    While she was fulfilling her tennis dreams, another dream developed. Returning home, arguably at the top of her game and poised for more court success, she left it all behind, confidently telling her parents that she’d decided to become a doctor.

    When asked about her decision, Vicky said, “I found myself as a player being an entertainer; it was one-dimensional, and I wanted to do more with my life; it wasn’t the way I wanted to go.”

    A self-described “all-or-nothing person” and armed with the discipline and problem-solving skills cultivated through her tennis career, she became a pre-med student at Hofstra University.

    In 1971, she married a hometown boy, Earl McEvoy and moved to Cambridge to attend Harvard Medical School. The couple have four children and two grandchildren. Dr. McEvoy is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Pediatrics at Mass General West Medical Group. She is also an author; one of her titles, “Taming Your Child’s Temper Tantrums”, might have been helpful to the parents of another local New York left-hander, who became a Wimbledon champion.

    As a pediatrician, she recognizes the perilous position of kids today who get into the sport at such a young age. “I worry about children going exclusively into one sport. With tennis, you must commit so early; academics can suffer too.”

    She cautions players against overuse of certain muscles, which can lead to chronic injury. The risk ofoveruse has been exacerbated by tennis’s evolution into a sport where topspin, which can cause problems particularly with wrists and elbows, is dominant and players are continually trying to “brutalize” the ball.
Vicky picked up a racket again in her 30s and still enjoys

playing on grass at Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline. She

recalls learning for the first time how to really “enjoy” tennis as

a social player. Eventually, she began playing USTA senior events. Today’s young players, she believes, could take a lesson from the seniors who are able to remain social and leave the competition on the court. She urges today’s players to "really enjoy the journey; it's a fun game. Work hard, but have fun."

    Her dedication to her game and profession catapulted her to success in both, an impressive combination that that sets an example for young athletes today looking for a purpose beyond the courts and playing fields.

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