David Tober and Mary Prebil never play together in mixed doubles as members of the Fairfax Racquet Club, but late partner scratches enabled the two to join forces and eventually capture the Ford National Mixed Doubles championship earlier this year in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Both Tober and Prebil work in the insurance business and fill their free time with tennis. They teamed up for the first time when both had their partners cancelled a few days before the local qualifying tournament.
The new doubles team defeated Mark Hoegemann and Carol Schwab from St. Louis, 7-5, 6-2, in the finals of the national event. The tournament had 36 teams and the winners had to win five matches for the title.
"They match up very well," said Chuck Desenberg, director of the local mixed competition. "Tober is consistent and quick. He's a strategic player. He lobs well and has a good return of serve.
"Prebil is a hard hitter. She's always been a good player, but she's really been on a roll since December. She's confident and she's just hitting the ball very, very well," Desenberg said.
Tober, of Arlington, began playing tennis as a sophomore at Yorktown High School. He played on the club team at Virginia Commonwealth University and then taught tennis for a year.
"Tennis gives me a release -- a way to run around, vent all my energy, get out my frustrations. I've always been a better doubles player. I'm not very big. Doubles is more a game of finesse and strategy," Tober said.
Prebil, of McLean, was encouraged by her four brothers to take up tennis at the age of 10. She went on to play in the No. 2 slot on the University of Maryland's team.
"I really enjoy sports. Tennis is the most fun I can have. It's really challenging. I have a real feel for it -- even more than for other sports," said Prebil, 25. "I like doubles because it's fast paced and requires quick hands and reflexes."
Prebil said her style on the court is quiet and focused. Tober, meanwhile, is much more vocal and energetic.
"Different things work for different people. But our games really complement each other. We both think the same way in doubles play," Prebil said. "We both know how to move in doubles. We're both competitive. Our styles are compatible."
Tober, 31, is a firm believer in the effect positive thinking can work on his tennis game. Before a match, Tober telephones his family around the country and asks them to send him their "positive energy" to help him play well.
"I'm not saying that's what wins the games, but tennis is a game of mind control. It's getting yourself into the right frame of mind, so that you can get the shots," he said.
Tober's brother Allan is the inspiration behind his tennis game. In 1982, Allan Tober nearly died in a motorcycle accident.
"He (Allan) used to be a good athlete himself," said Tober. "He lives a fairly normal life now, but one arm is paralyzed, his legs are messed up, and he has partial brain damage. He's lucky to be alive. I utilize myself to the fullest because he can't."
Tober and Prebil dedicated the finals match to Allan.