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The Development of the Lithuanian Medical Tennis Society

The constituent assembly of Lithuanian Medical Tennis Society (LMTS) took place on the 15th March 2008 in Vilnius. There, Dr Algirdas Juozas Gailius (Mazeikiai), Dr Jonas Girskis (Vilnius), Dr Sigutė Mickevičiūtė (Kaunas) and Dr Jonas Špūras (Vilnius) adopted the regulations of the association and elected Dr. Jonas Girskis, the neurologist, a president of the newly formed Lithuanian Physicians Tennis Association.

The idea to unite all the doctors into an association first came to Dr. Jonas Girskis after he attended the World Tennis Championship in San Diego, USA, in September of 2007. There, Dr. Jonas Girskis was deeply impressed by the atmosphere and touched by the warmth and benevolence of relationship between the participants both at the tennis court and beyond. At that time, Dr. Lon Olsen, the then-president of the World Medical Tennis Society, expressed his regret that such a small number of Lithuanian tennis playing physicians took part at the tournament. He also expressed his wish to welcome more players from Lithuania in the future. This experience encouraged Dr. Jonas Girskis to establish the physicians’ tennis association, which could relevantly represent Lithuania in the coming tournaments. A strong delegation composed of five members represented Lithuania the following year, at World Tennis Championship 2008, which took place in Croatia, and moreover – one of the delegates – Tadas Tarasevicius, a vascular surgeon, won in the 45+ age group category.

The collaboration between Lithuania and World Medical Tennis Society began in 1998. This year, Dr Birutė Sližytė-Adomavičienė together with Dr Gintaras Papečkys participated in the first tennis tournament in the capital of Hungary, Budapest. Unfortunately, it was not until 2007 that the Lithuanian flag was raised during these tournaments.

As tennis is extremely popular among Lithuanian physicians, we regret that it took us until 2008 to officially establish the LMTS.

Indeed, in the post-war period, several famous professors who left a deep footprint in the Lithuanian medicine history, such as Dr Aleksandras Venckauskas, Dr Liubomiras Laucevičius of Vilnius University and the long-term dean of the Faculty of Medicine Dr Salezijus Pavilonis enjoyed playing tennis very much. They later shared their passion with their students – Elona Kalvelytė-Pugačiauskienė and the presently famous psychiatrists Prof. Dr Dainius Pūras and Assoc. prof. Emilis Subata .The former is continuing his career by actively participating in tennis tournaments.

In Soviet times, tennis was very popular among the students of the Kaunas Medical Institute. Experienced and knowledgeable coaches Milda Sližytė and R. Liubartas were Lithuanian champions multiple times.

Today, tennis is very popular at the university, not only among the students but also among the academic elite.

We have ten professors and 20 medical doctors who actively play tennis and participate in tournaments.

Tennis is an extremely attractive and persuasive example to follow, and therefore it is good that students can discover their leaders being both passionate researchers and physicians both being genuinely attentive to their physical needs.

As a result, in 2006, the professor and rector of Lithuanian University of Health Sciences and a passionate tennis fan Prof. Remigijus Žaliūnas united all tennis-playing professors and specialists in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy in the University Hospital and established an annual tennis tournament called “The Rector’s Cup”. The rector himself participated in every tournament, but only as a guest of honour. Thus, despite his many victories, he has never claimed the winner’s title.

In 2012 Prof. Remigijus Žaliūnas was elected as the President of the LMTS. As a consequence, “The Rector’s Cup” has become an annual tennis tournament organised by the Lithuanian Physicians Tennis Association.

On a side note, professors of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences have been participating in the “Professorial Cup” since 2007 – an event which was set up in the summer of 1995 by Vytautas Kaminskas, a professor of Vytautas Magnus University. This event takes place annually and is attended by professors from all universities. The LMTS can be proud of its winners in this prestigious tournament. Professor R. Žaliūnas has won the cup four times, in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2017. Professor Mindaugas Kiudelis won the championship in 2014.

Lithuanian dentists also have their tennis history. In summer 2002, four tennis enthusiasts, assoc. prof. Juozas Jonaitis, Žygintas Jonaitis, Alfonsas Vadapolas and Antanas Černikis, organised the first, unofficial, dental tennis tournament in Nida. This competition soon became a tradition and was held annually until 2012 when the tennis community of dentists joined the competitions organised by the Lithuanian Physicians Tennis Federation.

During the 45th World Tennis Championship, held in 2015 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, professor Remigijus Žaliūnas, president of the LMTS, suggested that Lithuanian dentists should join the doctors’ team for 46th World Doctor’s championship held the following year in the Czech Republic. The proposal was submitted to the Organizing Committee and was swiftly accepted. This date is a historic one for our Physicians’ Union because the Lithuanian delegation was entrusted with an important mission: to host the 49th World Tennis Championship and the Medical Congress in 2019.

The last five years in LMTS tournaments, traditionally held twice a year, the number of participants is increasing. The last LMTS doubles tournament was attended by 120 participants. In the 46th WMTS Championship, LMTS has brought together a large and extremely strong national team: for the first time in the history of the tournament, our women defeated US tennis players and won the Transitional National Cup with the name of Lithuania.

Dear members of the Lithuanian Medical Tennis Society,

Our organisation has developed tremendously since the first tennis victories of our senior colleagues. These early victories, however, have left a deep footprint in our Physicians’ Union, and that is why we must remember our colleagues and honour them.

Tennis, this extraordinary game, penetrated the spirit of some doctors so profoundly that they did not abandon it despite their honourable age. Apolonija Abromavičiūtė-Purelienė, a lively tennis enthusiast of more than ninety years old, still taught children the alphabets of tennis. Doctor Regimantas Kijauskas, who currently lives in Israel, has a team of amateurs which he teaches the secrets of tennis. His first tennis coach was R. Liubartas at the Kaunas Medical Institute. The psychiatrist Dr Leonas Šternas, who currently lives in the United States, is a very active tennis enthusiast and participates in nearly all of the senior’s tournaments. Milda Sližytė, a recurrent Lithuanian champion, taught him all the tennis tricks while he was still studying at the Kaunas Medical Institute.

Virgis Vaičiulionis, and associate professor Juozas Stanaitis are still demonstrating an intense passion on the tennis court.

We must also not forget the older generation of tennis-playing doctors, of whom many are sadly no longer with us. Among them were numerous Lithuanian tennis champions and prize-winners:

Tamara Tizenhauzen-Vabalienė is a multiple singles, females’ doubles and mixed doubles national champion. In post-war Lithuania, she received nominal invitations to participate in the Latvian and Estonian tennis championships.

Erika Levinienė – a multiple singles, females’ doubles and mixed doubles champion.

Ylė Godliauskaitė-Matulaitienė – females’ doubles national champion.

Elona Kalvelytė-Pugačiauskienė – a multiple females’ doubles and mixed doubles Republic champion.

Vytautas Tamulaitis – a multiple the prize-winner of the National Championships.

Roman Bagdonas – participated in the national Tennis Championships multiple times.

Birutė Sližytė-Adomavičienė – a multiple singles, females’ doubles and mixed doubles Republic champion.

Oncologist-surgeon Pranas Naujokaitis (1932–2015) won during several decades the Lithuanian tennis senior’s tournaments. In 2007, he set up an annual men’s doubles tournament in Molėtai, on Apple Island. After he passed away, this tennis event was dedicated to his memory. This great man and great tennis player can truly be called the Godfather of tennis players in Molėtai as he helped many beginners reveal the secrets of this beautiful game. Pranas Naujokaitis was also an incredibly gifted athlete. He won the Lithuanian Volleyball championship six times and, from 1951 to 1970, and he trained and represented the “Mediko” volleyball team in Kaunas.

The Patriarch of Sports Physicians Karolis Dineika is considered the pioneer of outdoor tennis in Alytus and Druskininkai, where he installed the first ever tennis court. He was seen and felt everywhere, both in the treatment of patients and in the dissemination of knowledge about physical education. His philosophical doctrine of health is well known even nowadays in contemporary medicine.

We, the members of the LMTS, are incredibly proud to have so many inspirational personalities and stories to look up to!