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
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
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
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
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.
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 www.ThanksUSA.org.