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Tennis Marathon Breaks Guinness World Record and Supports ThanksUSA

<i>Vona's record-breaking match was against Jamie Peterson, USPTA Mid-Atlantic President
Vona's record-breaking match was against Jamie Peterson, USPTA Mid-Atlantic President
August 2016 -- As morning broke on Saturday of the Fourth of July weekend, I was completing my 38th tennis match, in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record (GWR) for Most Consecutive Opponents in Tennis Singles. I was motivated by our military families and by the opportunity to bring attention to ThanksUSA, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to military dependents.

The journey started early in 2016 when ThanksUSA and the Montgomery TennisPlex team of Jack Schore, Vicki Datlow and Elliott Datlow were brainstorming on an event to bring attention to the wonderful sport of tennis. They offered their beautiful facility in Boyds, Maryland, as the site. Tying a charity to the event and adding an attempt at a world record began to generate interest. After reviewing several GWR events, the idea of most consecutive matches was born. An application was made to GWR; once approved, there was no turning back.

The tennis marathon doesn’t happen without a huge support system. From ThanksUSA personnel, Montgomery TennisPlex coaches and staff, Life University’s Dr. Mark Kovaks, tennis students, friends and family, it was a team effort. They helped me prepare for the rigorous effort and supported me during the event.

GWR requirements are extremely strict. I was not allowed to play the same opponent twice. Two record keepers were required at all times and were not permitted to work longer than a 4-hour time slot. Ball boys, medical personnel, and personal sideline assistants were needed throughout.

I was delighted and honored to play my daughter, First Lieutenant Briar Hughes, as the inaugural match. I also competed against ThanksUSA CEO Bob Okun, ThanksUSA President and former Marine Kevin Schmiegel, NCAA Champion and Wimbledon Quarterfinalist Danny Goldie, Mid-Atlantic Top Juniors Jason and Ryan Kros and Lexi Merrill, and multiple students and staff from Montgomery TennisPlex.

Each new opponent was an inspiration. Their constant encouragement helped me push forward in spite of any tiredness.

Unlike typical tennis matches, GRW requirements do not allow for rest periods at the changeovers. I was allowed to grab a quick drink and bite to eat as I passed the net. But I could not impede the match. My son-in-law Jack Hughes, also an Army Lieutenant, was by my side all night long, fixing drinks like beet, pickle or tomato juice; handing me Fig Newtons, chicken, and peanut butter sandwiches; and supplying fresh bottles of water. Dear friends (and tennis moms) Rachel Kros and Karen Merrill (who is M.S, AT.C, LMT Masters in Exercise/Sport Medicine, Athletic Trainer and Massage Therapist) rescued me from hunger, cramps and sore feet. My daughter and other volunteers shared news on social media throughout the night.

It was an amazing experience. Besides breaking the record, I am most proud of the fact that during the 38 matches, I only double-faulted four times, thanks to the conditioning regimen provided by Dr. Kovacs!

Finally, I need to thank our military men and women. Although my attempt was covered by multiple media sources, it was a paltry effort compared to what they go through day in and day out, in the worst of conditions. No one is there to hand them drinks or massage their legs. They are the greatest inspiration of all, and they deserve all of the recognition.

We broke the GRW in less than 26 hours, and I was ready for more! So we have already started planning for our next challenge in this great sport of tennis, supporting our military families.

About ThanksUSA

ThanksUSA is a non-partisan, charitable effort to mobilize Americans of all ages to "thank" the men and women of the United States Armed Forces by providing college, technical and vocational school scholarships for their children and spouses. For more information, visit



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