Back in May, Matt Feinberg was sitting at a red light watching some break dancers on the side of the road. He started moving along with them in the seat of his car and — bam! — he was hit from behind by someone going 35 miles per hour.
The crash left him with a sprained back, sprained knees and sprained shoulders. At that point, his chances of competing in tennis at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland in August were pretty slim.
After many weeks of physical therapy and playing at two tennis tournaments in July, the Philadelphia Open and the Liberty Open in Flushing, N.Y., Feinberg decided to make the trek to Cleveland.
“I was not sure I would be match tough by August,” he says. “This past week I decided I was ready enough to compete in the Gay Games.”
Feinberg was 11 years old and growing up in Charleston, W.Va., when he watched on television as Jennifer Capriati won the gold medal in tennis at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
He immediately began hitting tennis balls on a daily basis against the garage door at his parents’ house. After breaking about 10 windows, his mother insisted that his tennis career should move to a brick wall with no windows.
“I was completely obsessed,” Feinberg says. “I created entire tournaments in my head and even had a ranking.”
He did end up playing in real tournaments in the National Junior Tennis League from ages 13-15. In high school he turned his attentions to competitive swimming and cross country running.
After graduating from the University of Virginia and moving to Boston, Baltimore and finally Washington in 2008, he Googled “gay tennis” and discovered the Capital Tennis Association.
Now 32 and happily committed to tennis again, Feinberg serves as the tournament director of the Association’s annual tournament, the Capital Classic. In Cleveland, he’ll compete in singles and doubles and his training leading up to the Games has consisted of tennis and Focus T25 Workouts.
Among the things that Feinberg loves about tennis are playing in the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance tournaments, traveling and meeting great friends.
“I am very competitive and just like with my work as a trial lawyer, I like to win,” he says. “I love being out on the court when it is just me and I am in the zone. There is nothing like the sound of a ball when it comes off the strings of my racquet. It’s like music to my ears.”
Though he has competed on the world stage in the Alliance Championships in Berlin, this will be Feinberg’s first Gay Games and he is happy for the opportunity.
“I am looking forward to competing in a tournament with people from all over the world,” he says. “And I am hoping to expand my circle of tennis acquaintances.”
Next week in Cleveland, he’ll definitely have his eyes on the ball instead of the local break dancers.