By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
RICHMOND– After she swept all three titles in the Davenport City Tennis Championships in 1993, Rachel Gale dedicated the tournament to the memory of her father, Les, who had passed away that year in Brockport, N.Y.
Gale wore her father’s wedding ring during the matches and continued to wear it for the next 13 years when she won five more city singles crowns and finished runner-up twice.
Gale also claimed numerous doubles titles with Leslie Butterworth and Joe Cappillino.
Gale said her father was her number one fan.
Gale went on to capture the state hardcourt championship once (finishing second on four occasions), the state clay courts twice and the state indoor two times.
For all of her accomplishments during a 14-year run, Gale will be inducted into the Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame during a gala celebration and dinner Oct. 28 at the Westwood Club. Tickets are now on sale at richmondtennis.org.
Gale arrived in Richmond in 1990, transferring from Fairleigh Dickinson to Virginia Commonwealth University, where she played No. 1 singles and doubles for coach Eva Bard and was an assistant coach her final year.
Gale said she wanted a bigger challenge at VCU.
“I had done everything I could at Fairleigh Dickinson,” said Gale. “I had won the ECAC Metro Conference championship in singles and doubles. I had been most valuable two years in a row as the No. 1 player.
“I knew I wanted to teach tennis, so I wanted to be where it was warmer, and I was looking down south when I found VCU.”
Gale’s first foray into the city tournament didn’t result in a title but she finished runner-up to Valerie Farmer in 1992.
Gale said she remembered seeing her face in the paper.
“Even though I lost, I got my picture on the front [sports] page of the paper that said the agony of defeat,” recalled Gale, 48, who is now a teaching pro at Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville.
The following year, Gale defeated VCU teammate Ivi Moorlat in the final.
Gale said winning the 1993 title was a big deal to her.
“She was younger than I was,” said Gale. “She was better than me.”
Gale is notorious for her serve and volley style of play.
“I was a soccer goalie,” said Gale. “So I really enjoyed the ball coming at me.”
Joe Cappillino, one of Gale’s doubles partners, said her game style was effective.
“She was one of the few women who served and volleyed pretty much all the time,” said Cappellino. “Her volleys were so good. Her serve, being a lefty, was so tough to return”
After back-to-back titles in ’97 and ’98 over Kirsten Elim, Gale finished runner-up to Bridget Bruner (now Reichert) in 2001. She returned to the winner’s circle in 2003, and again in 2005 and 2006.
Gale finished one short of the all-time tournament record for women’s singles titles (seven) held by Margaret Anderson.
Her final championship came when she was 37, including the women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles that year.
Gale beat former touring pro Kim Shaefer in the 1997 state hardcourts title at Raintree Swim and Racquet Club, before finishing runner-up the next three years.
Gale continues to play in the National 35s and 40s Grass Courts with long-time doubles partner Julie Ogborne. The duo finished runner-up in each division this year.
In 2009, Gale captained the United States’ 40s team to a bronze medal in the World Games, beating Spain in Mallorca, Spain.
Gale said she was honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Looking back at my life, there is nothing else I could really want,” said Gale “This is just icing on the cake.”