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John Chatlak Wins West Virginia Open Match in Sixth Decade

Has Played in W.Va. Open Since 1979

Photo by Cody Nespor Wheeling resident John Chatlak plays in a doubles match at the West Virginia Open Friday.

WHEELING — In 1979, 19-year-old John Chatlak competed in his first West Virginia Open at Oglebay Park. On Friday, 42 years later, Chatlak was back at Oglebay park, competing again.

With a pair of victories Friday, Chatlak has now won a match at the WV Open in six straight decades, dating back to the 1970s.

“I started in 1978 and played the junior tournament at 18,” Chatlak said. “They invited me back for the West Virginia Open and I’ve been playing ever since. I’ve missed just a few years. Won singles once, won doubles twice. So this makes 43 years since I started.”

Chatlak taught himself how to play tennis as a teenager after suffering an injury playing baseball. He says he got a late start playing, but he has certainly made up for it since,

“I didn’t start playing tournaments until I was 16-17,” Chatlak said. “I played baseball and I got a bad elbow when I was about 12 and took it up after baseball.”

It was going to the WV Open as a youngster that showed Chatlak how much better he could get and hooked him for life.

“The one thing I was always impressed with when I came here was the fact that I saw older players and how good they were,” Chatlak said. “It told me that even though I wasn’t that good back then, I could still get better and it’s a sport where you can continue getting better.”

He began teaching tennis in his 20s and moved to Wheeling in his 30s, where he has been ever since. As he got older and kept playing, Chatlak said he really had to change what kind of tennis player he is.

“I’m constantly reinventing myself,” Chatlak said. “There’s more variety. Sometimes it’s all just one thing but I try a lot of variety in the way that I play and teach.”

At 61 years old, Chatlak thinks right now he is as good, or better, than he has ever been.

“I like to think (I’m at my best) right now but that’s a little hard to believe for some people,” he said. “In some ways it is right now, but I’ve maybe lost a step. Other than that, I’m still at a high level I think.”

One of the biggest positives in Chatlak’s career has been his ability to avoid major injuries. That has been a major key for Chatlak, especially now as an older competitor. He has recently moved to teaching just part-time.

“I’ve had the opportunity to rest more (recently) and that’s probably the biggest thing,” Chatlak said. “I used to teach a lot and, getting older, it’s hard to teach and play at the same time.”

As for winning a match in a seventh decade, Chatlak said he is not planning that far ahead just yet.

“I was thinking if I play in 2028, that would be 50 years,” he said. “If I play in 2030, that’ll be seven decades. We’ll see, I’ve got no long term plans.”

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