Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Halftime for Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League

At the halfway point of the Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League, Commissioner Jim “Katman” Katterfield’s Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA) continues to hold the league lead that it snatched right out of the gate, despite garnering their lowest point total (5) thus far at Fiddlesticks on Friday, December 2. In addition to retaining the lead, BRA now has the only undefeated duo that has played all four dual matches in the League.
Boston Retirement Advisors vs. AutoDrive

On Court 1, Manuel Encalada &Tyler Owens of BRA hung on for a three-set victory to keep their unblemished record intact. They topped Denny Rager & Jared Kalpin of Auto Drive (AD) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Guess these two are the Green Bay Packers of our League. They will face Scott Harrington & Shawn Hedrick next at Heritage Palms on January 13.
In Second Doubles, Frank Fourgeau & Luke Andreae suffered their first loss at the hands of the hard hitting Elliott DeBolt & Kevin Kearns. Threatened with a first set bagel, down 0-5, Frank and Luke took seven of the next nine games, losing the first 1-6, and claiming the second 6-1. The match then went to a third-set super-tiebreak, with Elliott and Kevin squeaking out the 10-8 victory.

On Court 3, with the return of “Fast Freddie” Hindle to the fray, Commish Jim Katterfield returned to the winners circle, downing Alex Hermeto & John “JJ” Jerome, 6-1, 6-3. In all fairness, I’m told that JJ was nursing an injury and Alex hadn’t been in the weight room enough to carry him. Katman dropped his first match last time out, so was happy that Fast Freddie returned to carry him to victory. This duo remains undefeated as well; they just haven’t played all the matches.
Fourth Doubles was more in keeping with the type of drama we’re used to in this league. Rob Vinal & Larry Gagnon took two tiebreaks from Dave Dooley & Rick Calton to earn two points for AD. The good news for Double D and Rick is that they got 10 more games against Rob and Larry this time than last. Progress is good; no?

Jeff Timmer & Erica Cossairt faced a tough duo of subs in Belinda Dufrene & Tony Martin, and went down in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

Harborside Dental vs. Johnny Malloy's
At First Doubles, Mike Curran & Sergio Rebolledo brought their best for the first time this season, and were too much for Scott Harrington & Shawn Hedrick on that day. Blistering forehands was the theme of the day in this one, and Mike and Serg served up a bagel with no cream cheese in Set No.1 (6-0), before Scott and Shawn gave them a tussle in the 6-4 second.
Joel and I were no match for Jeff Diggs & Patrick Kangwa on this day. Jeff and Patrick barely broke a sweat in taking us down 6-3, 6-3 before Jeff’s home crowd. They served well, returned well, and outplayed us in all phases of the game. I played much heavier than my official weight, and my partner just couldn’t carry me through this one. It won’t be getting any easier next time out, so I’m hoping to rediscover my A-game before January 13.

After the two straight-setters on the first two courts, it’s no surprise that the next three matches went to third-set super-tiebreaks. On Court 3, Mike Lawver & Mark Drons lost another heartbreaker, this time to Jorge Magalhaes & Todd Wise, 4-6, 6-3, 8-10.
At Fourth Doubles, Anthony Hatori & Steve Shortridge took down Fran Coryell & Tony Halski 6-4, 4-6, 10-7. Steve seems to be making the super-tiebreak match a specialty. I think all but one of his matches may have gone to super-tiebreaks,  and I think he’s won just about all of them too.

At the Mixed Doubles slot, I think we had the match of the first half of the season. Christie Bradley & Dan Moenning finally overcame Kerry Kendrick & Armor Persons in the toughest match played in Pro League thus far this season.
The match was in progress when I arrived at Fiddlesticks that afternoon. After finishing my match and socializing a bit, I asked about match scores, only to find out that they were still playing! I stood there for another 10 minutes or so, watching as

Christie and Dan outlasted Kerry and Armor, 7-6, 6-7, 10-4. Wow! From what I observed, not only was the match a long one, but it was well-played. I’m betting Armor will disagree with me, but hey, I’m entitled to my opinion.

At the end of the day, the teams had just moved a little closer together, with just two points separating the second-through-fourth-place teams, and a total of five points separating first-through-fourth. The standings are: 1. Boston Retirement Advisors (26); 2. AutoDrive (23); 3. Harborside Dental (22); and 4. Johnny Malloy’s (21). When play resumes on January 13 at Heritage Palms, BRA will battle JM, and HD will face AD.
Before the season began, I predicted that we would have some really exciting match-ups this season, and I’m glad that our pros have had my back on that one. The straight-set victory has been the aberration in the League thus far, and down to the wire slugfests like we saw in the mixed doubles match described above has been the norm. When the action picks up again next month, I expect more of the same. Have a terrific holiday season and the Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League will be back with you in 2012! Game, set, match….T A

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fort Myers Senior Pro League

On Friday, December 9, new Director of Tennis, John Ramsey, and League Coordinator, Armor Persons, brought the Fort Myers Senior Pro League (SPL) to Kelly Greens. Given the cheers, banter, and gathering after the event, I believe the members were happy that they did.

The participants played one mixed doubles match and two men’s doubles matches, and one of the men's matches provided every bit as much drama and excitement as you would find in an open (as opposed to senior) Pro League event. Seriously, I’m not kidding.

The match pitting Terry See & Steve Shreiner against Armor Persons & Marius Espeleta extended well into the beer and pizza time. Lemme put it this way, when Oliver Stenger and I had finished our first two sets against John Ramsey and Mike Harley, those guys were asking if they should play a Coman tiebreak for the first set!

We had finished our third set and were into our second beer and third slice of pizza (Oliver was anyway) when those guys switched courts to play the third-set super-tiebreak! Terry and Steve ended up with the 7-6, 6-7, 11-9 win. Armor, aren’t you getting tired of these super-tiebreaks (wink)?

As promised, Marius got to every ball imaginable, crushed a multitude of forehands, and the other three displayed their well-over-a-century of experience and skill. I found myself watching their match more than the ball on our court! Oliver still carried me to a victory over John and Mike.

I don’t think John and Mike relaxed until the third set, because they lost the first two 6-2, 6-0. In 37 years of playing this game, I had never been in a match where the server double faulted four consecutive times to lose a game. I felt for Mike, but I was glad he broke my record of three doubles in a row (shared by one of my best buddies, right Dawg?) during a match in last year’s Pro League.   

Mike and John shook off those opening sets to manage a comeback from 1-3 in the third to go up 4-3. But Oliver was not to be denied on his birthday, and we claimed that set 6-4.

In other action, Kerry “Boom Boom” Kendrick really earned her nickname, and she and Fran Coryell dropped a 6-2, 6-4 bomb on Erica Cossairt and Rob Vinal. Everyone knows that Kerry hits it hard, and when she brings her A-game, life can be tough on the green stuff.

Truth be told, neither Erica nor Rob looked the least bit perturbed afterward, and I’m thinking that it had something to do with the old adage, “Alcohol heals all wounds.” Oh, it’s “Time” that heals all wounds you say? Uh, talk to Rob; he’ll straighten you out on that one.

Well, in case you didn’t get the drift, the bottom line is that the members and players had a good time at the most recent installation of the SPL, and you can do the same at the following opportunities:

January 20 at Pelican Preserve;
February 17 at Cape Coral Racquet;
March 16 at a yet to be determined site
Hope to see you out there! Game, set, match...T A

Toys for Tots @ Park Meadow & More

If only we could muster up the Christmas spirit all year round, who knows what our world would look like. Guess I should be grateful for it whenever we get it, and there was plenty to be grateful for at Park Meadow Tennis Center (PMTC) on Sunday. Gifts and food for the less than fortunate, food, drink, tennis and musical entertainment shared with friends were all present at PMTC.

Martha on the mic while Anna sets up

Laura's girls handling check in
 Event organizers, Martha Lyons-Holden and Laura DeLuca asked for an unwrapped gift and a nonperishable food item (for Harry Chapin Food Bank) as an entry fee to the festivities at PMTC, and they got that and more. Approximately 50 players (from teens to seniors) joined the fray on the courts for a “FUN” round robin, but uh, some people just don’t get the idea when you say, “fun” round robin. Or...perhaps they do, and the only way they have fun is by winning at all cost…

Add caption
 In any event, the juniors banged the ball as hard as they could and we seniors did the best we could to get the balls back… The looks on some of the faces out there reminded of people Christmas shopping (which is why I don’t do it anymore), but I certainly had a good time and I think just about everybody else did too.

Laura giving direction

Gifts a-plenty
Karen Orlando comes bearing gifts
More important than the tennis, since that really was secondary on this occasion, were the approximately 150 toys and non-perishables given by those who participated. Can you just picture the smiling faces of those who receive those gifts? In Martha’s words, “It was a great day! Thanks to all who chose to give!

Anna Jordan setting up for the party
I think special thanks must go to Anna Jordan, who brought and set up her karaoke equipment, extending the festivities well into the afternoon. Quoting Martha again, “The after party was a hoot.” Say what you may, the People at Park Meadow know how to have a good time!

Also, let’s send a note of thanks to Elaine Capps of Park Meadow Tennis Shop, who donated coupons (which may be used in the shop until December 31) to all  participants. I guess sometimes, it’s about people, and not just about how pretty a place looks and how uniform the court surface is. Thanks Park Meadow!

Carpenter & Neese Get New Gigs

Carly Carpenter, formerly on staff at Colonial Country Club, has assumed the managerial role at Fort Myers Racquet Club. Carly, a talented player in her own right, comes from a solid tennis family, as dad Keith and brother Zach are both good players. The first event under Carly's watch is the Members Christmas Social on Saturday, December 17, with a round robin from 9am - 12pm, and a holiday luncheon buffet from 12 - 2pm.

I just learned of another new appointment. Eddie Neese, one of the top Open players in the area has taken the position as coach of Canterbury School's boys’ tennis team. According to Eddie, tryouts for the team will be January 23-26, with practices starting the following week.

Regarding the new position, Eddie said, "I'm pretty excited to start there. It'll be a new experience and hopefully I'll help the kids have a good season." If Eddie coaches as well as he plays, Canterbury should be claiming a tennis championship before too long.

Other Happenings
I’m a little late on this one, and I don't know if you checked out the BonEro Tennis League (the "happy little league for women's doubles in Bonita Springs and Estero"), but if you'd like to get acquainted with the league and its players, there will be a Holiday Round Robin at Grandezza on Tuesday, 12/13 at 1pm.
Click here to contact League Coordinator Deb Graziani if interested.

Rookie Tourney @ Gateway

Alex Hermeto, Director of Tennis at Gateway Golf & Country Club, is holding a non-sanctioned Holiday Season Junior Rookie Tournament December 17 & 18. Divisions to be played include Boys and Girls 11-under, 12-under, 14-under, and 16-under. All players are guaranteed two matches and must register by Friday, December 16, by 12pm. This is an entry level tournament for kids aspiring to play middle school and high school tennis in the Winter and Spring. For more info, please call 239-561-1422.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming League Report! Game, set, match...T A

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fort Myers Tennis This Weekend 12/9 - 12/11

Senior Pro League
The Fort Myers Senior Pro League will stop at the serene setting at Kelly Greens courtesy of new Director of Tennis John Ramsey and League Coordinator Armor Persons, on Friday December 9. The over-40 league of local tennis pros and top area players (among the “long-in-the-tooth set of course) debuted at Breckenridge last month and will stop at Pelican Preserve on January 20. With the Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League on hiatus until Friday January 13 at Heritage Palms, Pro league aficionados can get their final Pro League fix of 2011 tomorrow at Kelly Greens.
Matches will begin at 3pm with host Ramsey & Mike Harley taking on Oliver Stenger & I, playing the “feature” match. I don’t know if my eyesight is good enough to even see John’s big forehand, but Oliver is still young enough to carry me...even if he’s knocking on the door to 50 with his 49th birthday tomorrow. I’m thinking that John and Mike have to let us win as a birthday present to Oliver; right?
Armor & Marius Espeleta will have their hands full with cagey vets, Terry See & Steve Shreiner. I know from experience that Steve practically never misses a return and knows what he’s doing at net, and what can we say about Terry See that everyone doesn’t already know?  But Armor’s no slouch in the cagey department and Marius crushes forehands, and can get to anything on the court. Marius has added incentive, owing Terry and Steve for a loss in the final of the Hope Hospice Charity Challenge at the Sanctuary last month.
In a mixed doubles matchup that is sure to be entertaining, Fran Coryell teams with big-hitting Kerry Kendrick to face Rob “The Body” Vinal (still trying to figure out that nickname), and the dynamic Erica Cossairt. I couldn’t bet this one with your money! I’m hoping Oliver and I win our match quickly so that I can take a peek at this one.
USPTA Pro League
I’ll be posting a recap of the Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League event that was held at Fiddlesticks Country Club last Friday (12/2) in the next day or two. The crowd at Fiddlesticks may have been the largest of the season thus far. I’m guestimating that we had over 500 in attendance, and Jeff Diggs, Tyler Owens, and the rest of the Fiddlesticks staff did their usual tremendous job of hosting.  
Christmas Special
Ok, major shift here...I don’t do the Christmas thing, but just about everyone else does, so here are some Christmas tidbits for you. According to Shawn Hedrick, who coordinated the USPTA Pro League Toys for Tots drive, te Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League has raised over 1000 toys for children in need over the past three years. Said Shawn, “I’d like to thank the Fort Myers Pro League and everyone who supports Toys for Tots charity.”
Continuing the tennis community’s Christmas contribution to the less fortunate, Park Meadow Tennis Center and Park Meadow Tennis Shop are collaborating in their own Toys for Tots effort. This weekend, on Sunday December 11, from 11am until…Park Meadow will host a Christmas Toy Drive Round Robin. Anyone donating a toy will receive a $5 coupon off a minimum $50 purchase at the Park Meadow Tennis Shop.
Organizers are asking folks to bring an unwrapped toy, and if you are going to hang around for the festivities, and play in the round robin, to bring a snack, side dish or beverage to share. If you plan to play in the round robin, please RSVP so planners can coordinate some fun tennis. RSVP to Laura at or Martha at And since Park Meadow is like the Cheers of Fort Myers tennis, you can just drop in any time to make your toy donation (1895 Park Meadows Drive, between US 41 & Summerlin).
League Report
It is just about time for the various leagues to take a break for the holiday, so I’ll post a league report encompassing Lee County, USTA, Scat, BonEro, and Land Shark leagues once the break has begun.  If you have anything of interest regarding any of the leagues, please pass it on so I can do the same. Until soon, game, set, match…T A

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

USPTA Pro League & A Little More

The Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League goes to Fiddlesticks this coming Friday, Dec. 2, and the good news for me is that I get to play before it gets dark! I was thinking of getting a sub if I had to play under lights.

Matches will be staggered, with Mixed Doubles starting at 3pm, four other courts at 3:30pm, and the other final four at 5pm. The race is relatively close with Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA) leading the way with 21 points, Auto Drive (AD) in second with 17.5, Harborside Dental (HD) with 16, and Johnny Malloy’s (JM) bringing up the rear with 14.

Undefeated Records on the Line

BRA’s two undefeated teams (Manuel Encalada & Tyler Owens at No.1, and Luke Andreae & Frank Fourgeau at No.2) will put their unblemished records on the line against tough teams from AD, and HD will try to fend off JM’s attempt to rise from the cellar. Host Jeff Diggs & Patrick Kangwa will try to avenge one of their tough losses, playing against Joel Hampton and me at 3:30pm. As always, the action will be entertaining, and refreshments will be available for spectators.

Toys for TotsThis Friday’s event is the last opportunity for community members to contribute to the USPTA Pros’ Toys for Tots drive spearheaded by Shawn Hedrick. Fiddlesticks has always been very successful in collecting items for the drive and we hope this Friday will be no exception.

Nino at Eddie Herr

If you recall, in one of the blog posts last week I mentioned Philippe Nino, a 12-year-old from Naples who was competing this past weekend in the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships in Bradenton. You may recall that Orlando Ferrer Chacin’s Land Sharks Tennis was sponsoring Philippe’s participation in the event.

Well, just getting into the main draw at the Eddie Herr is a big deal, even if it is in the Boys 12s, and winning a round suggests that there is considerable potential. That is what Philippe did: He won his first round against Blaise Bicknell of Jamaica, 6-4, 6-1, before losing 1-6, 1-6 to Juan Ortegui of Argentina, a very tough player who lost 5-7, 4-6 to the No.1 Seed. Would be nice to see this youngster get the support he needs to take full advantage of his talent.

Blythe Battles Thru Finals

There was some local competitive tennis for juniors as well over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and unseeded Zack Blythe of Cape Coral was a finalist in the Boys 16s Division of the Lehigh Acres Local Thanksgiving Classic held at Myra Kessler Tennis Center. Not only did Zach reach the final as an unseededplayer, he also played a tiebreak in each of his four matches. He won tiebreaks to close out his first two matches (the 1st against the No.4 Seed) , and outlasted No.1 Seed Brandon Wortkotter of Fort Myers in a 10-8 super-tiebreak to win his semifinal match.

Unfortunately, the final was the same day, and Zach couldn’t quite pull off yet another super-tiebreak against No.2 Seed Chase Burton of Naples, who had had a much easier time getting to the final. Zach didn’t go down easily though, taking Burton to 10-6 in the super tiebreak. So Zach, need some conditioning there bud? Just teasing big guy.

I’m the one in need of conditioning. Looking for some Thanksgiving tennis, I figured if all I could get was turkey around here (no offense to playing partners Oliver, Fernando, Dave & Parker), I may as well travel. Click here to view an account of my Turkey Bowl tennis escapades in Boca.

League Tennis

Other than the above, I have been checking out Land Sharks Tennis League's competitive results, and I’m beginning to get an understanding as to why Naples puts a spanking on Fort Myers almost every time we play the Challenge. Uh folks, the people in Naples/Collier County actually play competitive tennis a lot! There are far too many league results to report here, but if you are interested in checking out their singles, doubles, and/or mixed leagues, click here.
And finally, new USTA Winter Leagues are around the corner.  I received the following notice from Jon McVety:

The following Winter Leagues
are now forming in Lee and Charlotte counties…
Commitment Deadline:         Thursday December 22, 2011 for all leagues.
Captain’s meeting:                 Monday, January 2, 2011 for all leagues
League play begins:              Week of January 9th 2012 for all leagues

Send request to captain a  team to Kevin Gaines, League Coordinator at
  • Ages 18+ The  NTRP levels of play are 2.5,3.0,3.5,4.0,4.5
  • Eight players are a minimum for a team except 2.5
  • Play will be with 3 doubles positions and 2 singles. Starting times are no earlier than 6:30 PM.
Send request to captain a Mixed Senior team to Jon McVety, League Coordinator at 
           Ages 50+ The combined levels of play are 6.0, 7.0, 8.0, and 9.0
  • The NTRP rating difference between partners may not exceed 1.0
  • Six players (3 men and 3 women) minimum for a team
  • Play will be with 3 mixed doubles positions. Playing times are on Saturday mornings.
Send requests to captain a doubles team to Jon McVety League Coordinator at

          Ages 50+
  • Levels of play from 3.0 to 4.5
  • Six players minimum for a team.
  • Play will be 3 doubles positions.
Send requests to captain a Super Senior team to Donna McVety, League Coordinator at
  • Ages 60+
  • Levels of play from 3.0 to 4.5
  • Six players minimum for a team.
  • Play will be 3 doubles positions.
Note: Requirement age  of 18 years for adults, 50 years for seniors, and 60 years for super seniors, may be reached any time during the calendar year in which the first match begins.

I hope you get as much tennis in as possible this coming year. Can you believe it's almost 2012!  I'm looking forward to it. Have a good a holiday tennis season. Game, set, match...T A

T. A.'s Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl Tennis

Steve Sheer gives T A Championship Cup in '08
So I crossed “The Alley” for a Turkey Day tourney this past weekend. Off to Boca the day before Thanksgiving for the 26th Annual Turkey Bowl, an event in which I won the Men’s 45s back in ’08 when I was playing a little. In ’08, I came to play tennis, was the No.1 Seed, and played three matches, losing just five games total!

This time around, I waffled right up to the last minute about whether or not I should play, went for personal enhancement first, tennis second, and had to play a full 32-draw’s worth 
Steve Sheer mans Turkey Bowl tourney desk in '11

of matches! I looked at the draw and thought, “You cannot be SERIOUS!” Can you believe I played dubs with one of the tournament's co-directors? Thanks guys!
Beach preparation
 I mean, really. I had just played Oliver at Park Meadow the day before I left for Boca, and had barely lasted two sets. How was I going to play two matches a day in a competitive environment? Let’s just say I was so confident that I didn’t pack enough outfits for five matches. And, you wanna know how I prepared? Spent Thanksgiving on the beach in Delray jumping waves with a little guy who makes the Eveready Bunny look slothful (uh, that’s lazy Oli- wink). Late dinner, late night, no problem. Match wasn’t till 10am the next day anyway…
John Soderberg & T A

No.4 Seed Scott Wolff
The first match, I felt good and my opponent wasn’t nearly as strong as the guys (Oliver, Fernando, Parker, David) who helped me get as ready as I could. A nice
easy 1, 2 match. Just what the tennis doc ordered. Next up was the No.4 Seed, Scott Wolff, who had the best forehand dropshot I’ve ever faced, and pretty sound strategy. Scott (who won the consolation draw) had me a little concerned, but I pulled that one out 3, 4. Phew! Winning two main-draw matches in one day? Hadn’t done that successfully in about two decades or so.

No.6 Seed David Burns
 Up next was No.6 seed, David Burns, a really nice guy from Colorado, whom I had played in the final back in ’08, and who hadn’t yet acclimated to the dirt we play on down here. Worked for me; that one went 2, 4. Good thing I was able to close that thing out before David acclimated to the clay and heavy air.

Ok, so after three matches in less than 36 hours, I’m supposed to play the No.2 Seed, Jimmy Gatza, who is tentatively ranked No.7 in USTA Florida’s Men’s 45s? Riiiiiight! Did I mention that I am an old guy who hasn’t played a ton of tennis over the past couple years? In any event, I hung in the first set despite being as emotionally flat as the proverbial pancake, but went down 3-6.

Ok, gotta regroup here. One point at a time and all that jazz, right? Well Whadda ya know, I get an early break, and after a few tough games I find myself up a couple breaks, and Jimmy’s conserving energy for the third. I claim the second set 6-1.

The third set proceeds as though neither of us wants the thing, or we both want it too much. It develops into a back-and-forth affair with many game points and break points earned and squandered. Just about 5pm I asked for the lights to be turned on, and I wasn’t liking my chances. Night tennis to me is like drinking castor oil on the rocks, with a sauerkraut smoothie chaser.

Ah, but perhaps it was the inspiration on the sidelines, or maybe it was because Jimmy had played a three-setter earlier in the day, or…whatever the reasons, I made it through that match and into the final with a 7-5 third set. Sheesh! Can’t remember the last time I had one of those types of battles.

It’s Saturday night and I’m feeling pretty good about myself, despite a shoulder that’s saying, “DUDE, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!” Good food, good rub down with pain-relieving ointment, decent night’s sleep, heck I just might be able to pull this off!

Ervin Mendel- Men's 45 Champion
Uh, right. Up next was Ervin Mendel of Hollywood, Florida, who is tentatively ranked No.4 in USTA Florida’s Men’s 45s. I had played Ervin twice before, losing to him in the final of the State Closed Championship in ’07, 7-5 in the third; and beating him 6-2 in the third in the semis of an event in ’08. Ervin had been in three finals in the four events he had played this year, and had reached the Round of 16 at the National Clay Courts in April.

T A all done
 In other words, I know Ervin has game and I would need to bring some game to win the thing. Interestingly enough, I felt pretty good physically, but made far too many mental errors against a quality opponent to win. Bottom line is that Ervin made the shots he had to make to win and I didn’t. Ervin might beg to differ, but I think the 6-3, 6-2 score was a bit deceiving. It felt tougher than that to me. Sure hope it felt that way to him.

Tam Neal of AbsoluTBalance works on T A
 On the tennis record that match goes down as a loss, but on the life record, this Thanksgiving weekend was a major win! Thanks Steve, Keith for hosting an awesome event yet again! Thanks Tam for working out the kinks and getting this old bod ready to play. Thanks to my two adventure companions, and to Oliver, Fernando, Parker & Dave for reminding me what it’s like to play singles again. And you know I have to save the best for last: Thank you for sharing in the moments with me! Game, set, match….T A

Monday, November 28, 2011

Annual Turkey Bowl Stuffs it Again!

It’s called the Turkey Bowl, but there are very few turkeys playing this annual holiday tourney…at least in the Open draw…Not sure that I can say that for the “Old Dudes” draw, cuz I sure felt like gobblin’ my last two matches.
When you really think about it, the Turkey Bowl, in its 26th year, is a pretty special event. When most folks were stuffing themselves with a bird that itself is stuffed, enjoying special moments with family and friends, a select group of tennis devotees were slipping and sliding, and gutturally grunting on the 26 courts at the Swim & Racquet Center in Boca Raton, Florida.
Greg Wheaton & son make it a family affair
For the players and families who return year after year (this is my 3rd or 4th), the tennis competition is almost as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey is to others. This time around, 164 players in six events (5 singles, 1 doubles) chose tennis first and turkey second.

Turkey Bowl Results
It’s no surprise that the Open draws were the meat on this Annual Turkey Day tennis table, given the green ($$) and glory the winners garner. Eighty men and 23 women from I couldn’t guess how many countries fought for the Turkey Bowl top prize in the Open draws.

Liz Jeukeng Women's Open Winner
 When the last morsel of green fuzz had been devoured on Sunday, a 15-year-old phenom, Liz Jeukeng of Kansas City, Missouri, had claimed the women’s prize, and a Frenchman, Alexandre LaCroix of Gainesville, Florida, a former University of Florida Gator standout, had bagged the men’s.

Finalist Federica Grazioso & Champion Liz Jeukeng

Jeukung, the No.1 Seed, dropped just seven games in her first three matches, before a slow start in the final against No.2 Seed Federica Grazioso of Boca Raton. Jeukeng overcame the slow start to win the Women’s Championship in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3.

Tennis Recruiting Network has Jeukeng as the No.7 ranked sophomore recruit in the country, and her best result thus far on tour is a win this past April over the 158th–ranked player in the world. Not bad for 15!
Alexandre LaCroix Men's Open Winner
 The 23-year-old, No.3-seeded LaCroix, who recently reached his highest ATP Tour ranking of No.729 in the world, had lost no more than four games through the quarters, before a slight stumble in the semis against Jonathan Pearlman of New York, NY. LaCroix dropped the first set 1-6 to Pearlman, before rebounding for a 6-0, 6-4 win to advance to the final. He then topped No.5 Seed Eric Hechtman 6-2, 6-4 to claim the Men's Turkey Bowl title.

The Men’s 35 Winner was No.1 Seed Mario Porcelli of Doral, Florida, who beat unseeded Anthony Cottone of Delray Beach, Florida 6-4, 6-4. Porcelli didn’t lose a set en route to his tournament victory.

Ervin Mendel Men's 45s Winner
 In the second largest draw of the Bowl (23 players), the Men’s 45s, No.1 Seed Ervin Mendel of Hollywood, Florida struggled in his semi-final match against No.3 Seed Eric Hoecker of North Pam Beach, Florida. Mendel ceded the first set to Hoecker, 1-6, before taking the second 6-4, and holding on to win the third-set tiebreak. Mendel then dispatched the unseeded former 45s Champion (’08), T. A. Niles of Fort Myers, 6-3, 6-2 in the final to earn his first Turkey Bowl crown.

In the Men’s 55s, No.2 Seed Joaquim “Joe” Rasgado of Hollywood, Florida maintained his undefeated 2011 record, dispatching unseeded Jeffrey Prudden of Pam Beach 6-2, 6-3. One would think that Rasgado might have had a little more difficulty, given that Prudden had taken out No.1 Seed Jared Chase in the semis. Not! Joe has won the three USTA Florida-sanctioned tournaments he has played in 2011, winning nine matches without dropping a set. Pretty impressive I’d say.

Crowley & Guevara Men's Doubles Winners

The way "real" doubles is played

While the singles action was compelling, if you like blistering groundstrokes, lightening hands, and action that never stops, then you would have thoroughly enjoyed the Men’s Open Doubles. When the spectators has just about slipped off the end of their seats, No.2 Seeds Keith-Patrick Crowley & Christian Guevara had downed No.5 Seeds Malcolm Harrison & Mark Oljaca, 6-4; 6-2.
The score really was no indication of the fierceness of the competition. At times these boys moved faster than the eyes could follow, and keeping track of the ball was out of the question on some points. According to co-tournament director, Steve Sheer, The doubles action was high-paced and high-powered. Scary! It just blows my mind how hard they are hitting ... I feel I need to start poaching now to get across if I were playing tomorrow.”

Sponsors & Vendors
Yes, the Turkey Bowl dished up delicious tennis fare this Thanksgiving, and if it were just the tennis that we had to be thankful for, that would be just fine…but there was more! All major events have sponsors, and if it’s a really special event, you will have vendors and merchants with goodies to sample. No exception at the Turkey Bowl.
In the true spirit of the holiday, we must thank the sponsors and vendors for their roles in making the event something for which all who participated could be grateful. They included:
Abe Glickman Insurance- 90 years of combined experience brokering long term care insurance,

Bennett Auto Supply- Supplying quality auto parts to Floridians since 1954;
Genesis Strings- A company created by tour level players, which seeks to engineer and introduce the highest grade strings and make them available at an affordable price;

Janey Ellis of Come On!

Come On!- Official Clothing of the Ball Kids 2012 ATP Delray Beach International Championships…half the fun of this sport is looking good while you are playing it!!!” Janey Ellis-Owner;
Digestive Care (Dr. Alan Banks)- Seeking to improve healthcare for their patients and the communities in which they live and work through high-quality, efficient and accessible gastroenterology care;

Logo Products Unlimited- Offering a multitude of items to help you promote your company, product and/or services, from candy to scratch n sniff DVDs; and
Swim and Racquet Center of Boca Raton- Offering a 25-yard long, 6-lane wide pool that is heated during the winter months and cooled during the summer months; and hosts an  average of 300 patrons each day on 26 clay courts.

Hausman Tennis Services- Brian Thomas & Karen Hausman providing tennis management services.

Strings I will demo
The Genesis reps I chatted with seemed to be knowledgeable, suggesting strings comparable to the Kirschbaum strings I have been using for the past three years. I’ll give them a try and report back. Janey Ellis of Come On! was a pleasure, and pros from her club displayed her apparel during their semifinal doubles match.

Ah, getting help from Tam Neal

One vendor onsite, Tam Neal of AbsoluTbalance Sports Performance Training, was someone a number of other players and I were really thankful for this past weekend. Several of us took advantage of the stretching and pressure point work Tam offered prior to and after matches. I’m not sure this old bod could have made it through five matches in three days without her!

Elisa, Alan, & Arielle of Altimate

I wish I had spoken to the folks from Altimate Health Products on Day 1. They offered samples of their OASIS electrolyte energy drink that I would like to have tried throughout the event. If the numbers on their promotional material are factual, the product is ideal for competitive tennis players. I can’t validate the numbers, but I’m willing to give the product a try. I’ll report back on this one as well.
All in all it was time really well spent in Boca over the Thanksgiving weekend. If everyone had as good a time as I did, then there was plenty of enough gratitude to go around. If the fates allow, I’ll be back for more turkey tennis next year! Game, set, match…T. A.