Former tennis player excelling in back surgery after pickleball

Ken Yasui has played most of his life in tennis, but after three back surgeries and a broken ankle, he found a sport that is a little less stressful on the body.

Three years ago, at the age of 70, Yasui observed pickleball. Now 73, the Columbus resident is one of the nation’s top players in his age division.

“I couldn’t play tennis again after three back surgeries,” Yasui said. “Some friends come to me to pickleball, and I thought, ‘Pickleball, are you kidding me?’ I was just thinking, ‘That’s not going to be fun,’ and got playing, and they know the next thing you know, I was hooked. ”

Last month, Yasui won the Men’s Singles in the Bronze Medal 3.0 70+ at the 2022 USA Pickleball Southwest Diamond Regional in Mesa, Arizona. The next day, he teamed up with Bill Hutchison to win Bronze Men’s Doubles 3.0 70+.

Yasui bought his first pickleball paddle in late 2018, but couldn’t play because of the surgeries. He started playing in late 2019, but most of the tournaments in 2020 were canceled because of the COVID pandemic.

Last year, Yasui got more serious about pickleball. He entered the St. A gold medalist finish with the National Championships last May and qualified for the Louis Regional Championship.

“I had no idea (about advancing to nationals), but the reason why we decided to get it was that it was halfway between home here and Springfield, Missouri, where our daughter and son-in-law live,” Yasui said. . “We thought it would be a long trip. Lo and behold, I got lucky, and the next thing you know, I won singles in gold. ”

Yasui played at the national championships in December in Indian Wells, California. He plans to return to Indian Wells in November for 2022 nationals and has won three tournaments so far this year to try and qualify for next year’s national championships, which are in November 2023.

Pickleball, Yasui has found, is much easier on his back than tennis.

“Especially in singles because we don’t have that much ground to cover,” he said.

Yasui attended Southwest Missouri State and Kansai University in Japan. He moved to Columbus in 1989 and worked mostly as a consultant and independent contractor before retiring in 2017. He and his wife also owned Eluna Coffee House in Edinburgh from 2011-17.

Since he started playing in pickleball tournaments in February 2021, Yasui has won 12 medals.

“I started competing last May, and between last May and now, I’ve participated in several major tournaments,” Yasui said. “I found the pickleball players to be accommodating, friendly, and very helpful. I got to know a lot of people from all over the world playing pickleball. ”

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