Hubert Karrasch had to wait almost two decades, but he has found his small niche at the top of the world. Turn back the pages of time and Karrasch's name pops out of Toronto newspaper archives as a minor tennis protege with big dreams. He was a national under-18 champion. He had hopes. What he didn't have was money.
"Playing on the pro circuit means you're on the road 25 to 30 weeks a year," Karrasch said. "Each of those weeks cost about $1,000. That's $30,000 a year and if you're travelling with a coach you can double that.
"It was a problem for my family."
But through 4 1/2 years on a tennis scholarship in the United States, and for more than a decade as a tennis coach at the Richmond Hill Country Club, Karrasch kept his dream alive.
Finally, this week, it all paid off in Antalya, Turkey, as Karrasch and his partner, Pete Peterson of Boise, Idaho, beat the No. 1-ranked British team of Chris Hearn and Dan Aln to win the International Tennis Federation world over-35 doubles championship.
"It's an inspirational story," said Ted Chan, whose son, Aaron, a nationally ranked junior himself, takes lessons from Karrasch.
"(Karrasch) never got a chance to pursue his dream when he was young. A lot of coaches just decide to quit playing and teach but not Hubert ... it's wonderful that kids can see that if you persist it is possible to accomplish goals."
At the same tournament, Karrasch was second in singles, losing 6-4, 6-4 to Sander Groen of Holland. Karrasch realized he was living the improbable dream when he finished high school. "There didn't seem to be a way to turn pro. If you don't have private funding or corporate sponsorship forget it. In this country if you tell someone you're a pro tennis player they ask what else can you do? Tennis isn't big like it is in countries like Germany. You have to be in a country where the sport is popular or it's difficult to find backing."
The headiest height of his ATP career came in 1986 when he played against John McEnroe -- as a practice partner before an exhibition at Maple Leaf Gardens.
"He was a big hero of mine at the time," Karrasch said. "He plays left-handed, as I do, so I always tried to copy him back then. I didn't know whether to call him John or Mr. McEnroe. I still have the program from that night."
Fate, and his bank book, decreed that instead of hooking up with Jimmy Connors & Co., he would set off on a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin.
"The thing about Division 1 is that you see some of the best players from all over the world," Karrasch said. "That's why you see so many players from Canada go down there now. If you don't have the money to turn pro, or you're not sure if you can make it as a pro the best thing to do is go to college and see how they fare against the best players down there."
Karrasch fared rather well. In fact, Karrasch says, his game, and life, turned around at age 21, when he met coaches David Anderson, at a tennis academy in Longview, Tex., and Steve Smith, in Tyler, Tex.
"Everyone, if they want to be the best, needs to have those kind of people to learn from," Karrasch said. "Since then I've found that the best players don't get that coaching at 21; they get it when they're six. That grassroots coach is so important in tennis."
Ironically, he became one of those grassroots coaches. "But I kept playing in prize money tournaments.
"Once I turned 35 it opened a whole new arena for me," Karrasch said of the ITF Vets Championships. "Not everyone can play on the ATP but this is one way to compete against the guys I couldn't when I was young."
So, with one dream fulfilled, he is embarking on another -- to be the kind of coach he found in David Anderson; to be the mentor he found in Steve Smith. Maybe then, some day, the Aaron Chans can look back, remember, and draw strength from a man who would not let his dream die.