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A Competitive Drive

A Competitive DriveThe mathematics department's Marjorie Hahn is chosen as one of four members of the International Tennis Federation's Alice Marble Cup Team.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.12.09] Marjorie Hahn is not one to shy away from a challenge. So, at the age of 12, when Hahn-a serious swimmer-was teased by her brother that she would never master his preferred sport of tennis, she eagerly took the bait.

Now, nearly five decades later, the 60-year-old mathematics professor continues to make her presence known on the court as a member of the U.S. Alice Marble Cup Team, the International Tennis Federation's 60-plus women's team. The team is named for the famous tennis player who won 18 Grand Slam championships from 1936 through 1940.

"I'm a mathematician, so I am good with angles," she says of her penchant for keeping her opponents guessing where her slice will land.

Aging this year into the 60 plus women's bracket, Hahn was chosen for the four-woman team that traveled to Antalya, Turkey in October. Her performance in prior national tournaments as well as her doubles record-one of the strongest in the country-earned her a spot.

"The atmosphere was like the Olympics," Hahn recalls."The teams all arrived a few days earlier to this five-star resort on the Mediterranean, which was completely taken over by this event."

International play proved to be very different for Hahn, with many variations on how the game is played overseas, including the weight of the balls and the hard clay playing surfaces, but she and her doubles partner still managed to come away from the tournament with a silver medal.

"It was a great experience," Hahn says. "All the players were really good so there was a lot of great competition."

The Agony of Defeat

Despite her winning performance in Turkey, Hahn can remember a time when success was more difficult to achieve. In her first tournament at the age of 14, Hahn says she was taken aback after losing 6-0.

"I had never been beaten that badly before," Hahn says. "I was so used to winning, because in swimming it came so easily to me. The challenge interested me."

The next summer, Hahn says she came back to beat her opponent from the year before, and her skills continued to evolve. She later played tennis as an undergraduate at Stanford, before going to MIT for graduate studies in the 70s and taking on a different role in the sport.

"I didn't really play much when I was at MIT, but they had a women's club team there made up of people from all different departments, and they had approached me to be their coach," Hahn says. "They were looking for someone to help them go from club to varsity status."

With the help of Hahn and a fellow tennis player from the math department, the team not only made varsity status but also achieved the longest winning streak of any team in MIT history at the time.

Since taking up tennis, her only break from the sport has been to give birth to her son. Playing mostly recreationally, Hahn began performing in national tournaments as she approached the senior level.

An Enlightening Experience

After being approached to play on the Alice Marble Cup Team, Hahn says she came close to not being able to compete because of a heel injury she sustained a few months before the tournament. What started as a deep heel bruise evolved into plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammatory condition of the foot.

"For most people this is something that can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to heal," Hahn says. "I thought there was no way I was going to be able to play, but somehow, 10 days with a physical therapist and the plantar fasciitis was gone."

Hahn is thankful for that, since she would not have wanted to miss the opportunity to play on the international circuit.

"Playing in Turkey really has given me the desire to work on some things," Hahn says. "The pros hit a very heavy ball, and I like to slice the ball, so if I could incorporate that heaviness, that would be great.

"The Europeans are also very good at disguise," she adds. "I am pretty good at hitting a drop shot without people seeing it coming, but they are definitely better."

Though tennis has always been a big part of her life, Hahn says she has never really thought about going professional with the sport.

"I enjoy playing tennis too much. I don't want it to become my occupation because then it will just be work," Hahn says.

Currently on sabbatical from Tufts, Hahn continues on the national circuit, with games planned across the country. She hopes to play in the international tournament next year in Australia.

As far as her playing days go, Hahn doesn't foresee giving up the sport anytime soon.

"I already have a friend who has said to me, 'I'm going to be your partner in the 85s,'" Hahn says with a laugh. "If you can stay in shape, tennis is truly a game for a lifetime."

Profile By Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications.

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