It’s as if time has stood still for Bud Vredeveld at the Charleston Public Courts tennis tournament.
The 52-year-old finds himself in yet another final at the 55th annual event, using his trademark precision ground strokes to get past J.J. Casto in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 Wednesday evening in the men’s 45 singles semifinals at Schoenbaum Courts.
Vredeveld, whose last name is synonymous with the summertime gathering in Kanawha City, hasn’t competed in Public Courts in more than a decade.
“I haven’t played tournaments in probably 11 or 12 years,’’ said the tennis director at Glade Springs Resort in Daniels.
“I started going to the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati and watching the best in the world. I just got the bug again. It’s hard to watch [Roger] Federer and all those guys and not want to get out there. I started trying to get into shape and playing a few tournaments here and there.’’
Vredeveld, who lives in Beckley, said the Public Courts schedule is convenient.
“It’s easier for me [playing Public Courts] and being at Glade Springs,’’ he said. “I don’t have to play every day. Plus, I just missed everybody and wanted to come see people I haven’t seen in years.’’
Vredeveld’s father and mother, Don and Mary Esther, are fixtures in the Charleston tennis community, directing and competing in Public Courts for a number of years. Dana Eddy, this year’s Public Courts tournament director, recalled getting his first lesson from Bud Vredeveld.
Vredeveld captured the open men’s doubles title 12 times with partner Brad Kelly and won the open singles championship once. He also had several runner-up finishes.
“Heck, we’ve never lost playing with each other,’’ Vredeveld recalled of teaming with Kelly. “In any tournament.’’
Vredeveld said it’s been an adjustment playing tournament tennis again.
“It’s different,’’ he smiled. “I’m used to doing lessons and hitting it to everybody. It doesn’t work out here. I’ve got to learn to play and focus again. I remember what it used to be like. It used to be easy. It’s coming back quick.’’
Vredeveld said he also entered the men’s open singles to test himself.
“Just to see what would happen,’’ chuckled Vredeveld, who won his men’s open singles opening match. “Just to see if I could still play with a big ball. See if that would help make the other draws easier. If you’re used to that, [the men’s 45 singles] seems a little slower. The 45s can be just as tough. The guys in the 45s can play with [James] Kent and those guys. It’s not easy just because they’re older.’’
Vredeveld said his men’s open singles match against Chris Pratt the other day was an eye-opener.
“I’ve never seen anybody hit so many balls back,’’ said Vredeveld, who lost. “I was hitting the ball great and moving him around. Just everything came back. I’m not used to that.’’
Vredeveld is reconnecting with the Charleston tennis scene, playing on the Charleston Tennis Center’s United States Tennis Association team.
“I miss it and it feels good,’’ he said of returning to the courts where it all started. “I’m not trying to win tournaments. I just missed it. I miss all my old tennis buddies.’’
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.