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Daniel Island resident serving up wins

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Daniel Island resident serving up wins

Daniel Island resident and former College of Charleston tennis star Diane Barker teamed up with three California women to win the Maureen Connolly Cup competition.

Diane Gilruth was an amazing tennis player. She won a national collegiate singles title for the College of Charleston.

But Diane Barker at age 54 may be an even more amazing tennis player.

She is winning world championships.

Sure, the rallies may not be as fast paced. But to be No. 1 in the world at any age or in anything is a supreme accomplishment.

The former Diane Fishburne, in fact, has won five world singles titles, the latest one coming nine days ago in San Diego in 55-and-over.

Diane Gilruth, Diane Fishburne or Diane Barker? Of course, they're all the same person.

Does she still get excited about winning world titles? "Absolutely," she said.

"It gets to the point where you feel like it may be your last one. It's something you never get used to, because you don't know if you'll win another one.

"Back in college I didn't know I'd be playing senior tennis. I'm lucky to be playing injury free, which allows me to still be playing."

Senior tennis is vastly different from the college days. "It seems like a lifetime ago," Barker said.

"It was so competitive back then on a team. You were fighting for a position. I guess you mellow out as you get older, so I think I've changed. I know I enjoy team sports more now."

Winning another world singles title felt good to Barker, but to help the U.S. Maureen Connolly Cup team capture a world championship a week earlier also meant a great deal to her.

"We were the only U.S. team to win," she pointed out proudly about the team competition held in San Diego earlier this month for 10 different groups, five age groups each for men and women from 35-55.

Competing in her first major 55-and-over event at 54 (she will turn 55 in December), Barker demonstrated her ability and will to win, the same as she did more than three decades ago while winning an NAIA national singles title for the College of Charleston.

She was dominant in San Diego in both team and individual competition, yielding a total of 12 games in nine singles matches.

Barker realizes that as always she still has to play smart tennis and get off the court as quickly as possible -- if she wants to continue winning world titles, especially on hard courts such as the ones in San Diego.

"You just have to stay healty. The points are slower. It's like 10-and-under tennis," she said. "I can't play five-hour matches and expect to play the whole week. I have to take balls out of the air and finish points at the net. It's a little risky, but it's a good thing."

Jack and Diane Barker were married last summer and moved into a condo on Daniel Island late in the year. In the process, Diane couldn't miss seeing the old pictures she hadn't seen in years.

"You see all of the old pictures when you move -- the funny pictures -- the old rackets from the college days. Then you see how much tennis has changed. It was almost humorous seeing the old pictures," she said.

Jack is a retired executive for a mass transit parts company, who loves tennis about as much as his wife. He is the S.C. Special Olympics director for tennis. Diane serves as a pro under her son, Matt Hane, at the I'On Club.

The Barkers teamed up in San Diego in mixed doubles and upset the top-seeded team in the competition before being eliminated.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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