In tennis, ‘love’ means the player has no points. But Michelle and Wayne Graham, both scored when they met on Court 8 at the Courtyard Tennis Club in West Austin and married a few years later.
It was May of 2010 and the Grahams — who are both now 50 — were randomly assigned to be mixed doubles partners. Michelle had just recently picked up the racquet for the first time in her life, hoping tennis would get her to exercise more and hopefully lose some weight. Wayne had played a lot of tennis while growing up in Midland and needed something to stave off middle-age boredom. He considered taking guitar lessons, but opted to join a tennis league instead. Michelle jokes that the guitar is still on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.
“We were matched up together and met when we got on the court,” Michelle says. “He was much better than me and I could tell he was really good.”
The Grahams were tennis partners for about four months before they started dating. Four years later, they married and spent their honeymoon at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club near San Diego. Michelle’s dream that one day they will return to compete in the resort’s annual tennis tournament and the two of them will win the mixed doubles division.
In the meantime, they do a weekly ‘date night’ of tennis lessons at the UT Club in Steiner Ranch.
“It isn’t really exercise for me,” Michelle says. “It is so much fun. I love the competition, the camaraderie and the strategy.”
When she thinks back on their early dating, it was not only Wayne’s strong game that impressed her, but also his smile and personality.
“Wayne is a great guy,” Michelle says. “He’s thoughtful, compassionate and generous. He is one of the nice guys, and I never went for those types in the past. He is truly the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Courtyard Tennis Club manager Sharon Coudert, who has worked at the club for 19 years, has seen her fair share of tennis love stories. She remembers watching two members take their wedding pictures at the club last year. The bride wore her tennis visor over her veil and her husband jumped over the net.
That couple, Cathy Miller and Steve Werbeck, were among 350 participants competing in the annual Polar Brrr Tennis Tournament in January 2012, when they met.
Miller had just completed her match in her tennis skirt and commented to a friend that she was cold. As luck would have it, Werbeck overheard this and remembered he had an extra pair of workout pants with him, which he offered to Miller. Miller borrowed his pants and the rest is history. They were married in April 2017.
“Cathy is fun-loving, has high energy and is super cute,” Werbeck says of his wife. “She is so easy to hang out with and we have several mutual interests. Tennis, though, was our common thread.”
Having grown up on Long Island, Werbeck played paddleball in New York. When he moved to Austin, he switched to tennis and played in leagues a few time s a week. He admits to being competitive and plays to win.
Miller says she turned to tennis when she needed a hobby with two young children at home. She has now been playing tennis for 15 years.
“Steve and I are older and have both been married before,” Miller says. “We became friends and realized we both enjoyed tennis, biking and being active. We had a similar lifestyle.”
The couple now run a business together on South Lamar — Caleesi Designs Jewelers — and bring their yellow lab puppy, Chili, with them to work. Along with tennis and owning a business, the pair also keeps busy volunteering with Austin Humane Society and Austin Pets Alive!
The couple focuses on their top three priorities of marriage, business and fitness. They make time for tennis and when time doesn’t permit, they work out in their home gym.
“As long as our bodies will let us, we will play,” Miller says. “We have great friends from tennis, and when we are on the court, the time just flies. Tennis has enriched our lives and our relationship.”
During a trip together to the Indian Wells Masters in California, Werbeck was able to watch his favorite professional player, Roger Federer, who also coincidentally, met his wife, Olympian Mirka Federer, through tennis.
Any single folks looking for love this Valentine’s Day, consider grabbing a racquet and signing up for a mixed doubles tournament. That tennis partner might turn into marriage partner for life.