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Spotlight on Mary Gambale
October 14, 2016
In recent years, several top professional tennis players have transitioned from the ATP tour to the APTA tour. Now the women’s game has Mary Gambale, a former #1 junior in the US and Federation Cup teammate of Venus Williams, working her way up the paddle ranks.
A native of Massachusetts, Gambale made her mark on American junior tennis, earning the #1 ranking in the 18 and Unders as a 14 year old, and winning the 18 and Under National Championships two years later, gaining entry into the main draw of the United States Open. Gambale spent five years traveling the world on the WTA tour, notching wins over well known players such as Melanie Oudin and Brenda Schultz-McCarthy along the way, and then settled back down in Massachusetts as a tennis professional. When one of her clients convinced her to try paddle about a year ago, it was, Gambale enthused, “love at first hit.”
After years of playing indoor tennis, Gambale enjoys getting outside in the freezing weather and working up a sweat playing paddle. She also loves the social component of the paddle scene. “It's a great way to socialize, network and meet new people. I always look forward to playing with my squad back home in Boston - my nationals and tournaments partner, Lindsey Herchel and my friends Sarah Driscoll and Nancy Walthall who are like our mother figures on the paddle court. After some great paddle, we always grab drinks and food in the hut along with a lot of the other Boston ladies!”
Hanging out over drinks is a far cry from what Gambale experienced on the WTA tour. “I feel like the atmosphere at paddle tournaments is more upbeat and lighthearted compared to when I played in the professional tennis tournaments on the WTA Tour. It's also a different world all together - when I was on tour, the feeling at the tournaments was more cut throat because your paycheck depended on whether you win or lose so that makes it hard to really relax and socialize after the matches”.
Now that she has the social aspect of the game down pat, Gambale wants to continue to improve her on court abilities. She and her partner have received some instruction from Johan du Randt, but for the most part, they are learning as they play. As a first year player, Gambale was good enough to make the Region 2 Presidents’ Cup team with Herchel, but she knows they still have a lot to learn. She and Herchel try to watch all the late round matches at the Grand Prix, NRT and Viking PCQ tournaments to try and pick up some tips.
When asked the most difficult transition to make between tennis and paddle, Gambale mentioned only having one serve and the volley but settled on screen play as by far the most difficult adjustment. After being soundly beaten by Cynthia Dardis and Amy Shay at the Patterson Open, Gambale was delighted by how complimentary the top seeds were of her play and noted that she and her partner learned a lot from their opponents’ court positioning and ball placement.
As her game improves, Mary Gambale hopes to climb the paddle rankings, but she isn’t focused on reaching the top. “Everyone that I have met so far in paddle has been very warm, welcoming and friendly. Even people that I just met have opened their arms and offered their homes for us (Lindsey and I) to stay at when we travel for paddle tournaments. The nicest thing about paddle is after the match, our opponents are interested in getting to know us and always up to grab the great drinks that all these amazing paddle tournaments provide!” Win or lose, she’s found a sport in which friendly competition and camaraderie are the main goals.