Monday, October 31, 2011

USTA Florida Adult State Closed Championships, Men’s 30s – 50s at Ibis Country Club, October 26 – 30.

Bob Milligan, USTA Tournament Referee
Chuck Gill and his tremendous staff at Ibis Country Club hosted USTA Florida’s Adult State Closed Championships, Men’s 30s – 50s, October 26 – 30. Given the facility and Chuck’s reputation, I was surprised at the number of entries (see below for my personal take). So who emerged as the Champions at this year’s State Closed? Let’s start with the age group that posted the largest number of participants, and work our way down numerically; shall we?
Men’s 50 Singles
It is pretty clear that, at least for 2011, Greg Neuhart of Loxahatchee is the cream of the Men’s 50 Singles crop in Florida. Neuhart won the 50s Division without dropping a set, including two 6-1, 6-0 matches, and ceding only seven games, each, in the semis and finals.

In his final match, Neuhart posted a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Joakim Berner of Delray Beach, a player who once ranked as high as 435 in singles and 250 in doubles on the ATP Tour. But then, Neuhart himself was ranked as highly as 263 in singles and 290 in doubles. Granted, cell phones and the Internet weren’t common in those days, but I’m just sayin’.

When you combine Neuhart’s State Closed victory with a quarter-final showing at the USTA National Men’s 50s Clay Court Championships, four USPTA Florida Fast-Dry & 10-S Supply Grand Prix Circuit titles (two in finals victories over the formerly dominant Greg Wheaton), there is little dispute about his dominance of the “AARP Newcomers” division. Kudos to Berner though; he earned my “Ironman” award, playing five matches, three of them going three sets, and then gave Neuhart a good match.

Men’s 45 Singles

Jeff Burnett of Jupiter lost a mere five games in the two matches he won to claim the 45s Division. Burnett cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 win against Arnold Wehrenberg of Port Saint Lucie in his first match before a slightly more difficult outing (6-3, 6-1) against former force, Ervin Mendel of Hollywood in the final. Mendel had to be feeling the effects of his match the day before, which must be considered the match of the entire event. Mendel got the victory over Jimmy Gatza of Clearwater the old-fashioned way: he earned it! What else can one say about a 7-6, 6-7, 7-6-win?
Men’s 40 Singles
Ok, now I might expect the following from my “old geezer” division, but surely not from the “fit as fiddles forties!” Three of the four semifinalists reached that position without having to finish a match! One didn’t play a single point, another didn’t finish one set, and the other didn’t play a second set. What is da deal people!

When the barely disturbed dust had cleared in this division, the second-seeded Kam Kuchta of Boynton Beach had claimed the title, winning five sets in his three scheduled matches, and losing a total of eight games! In the final, Kuchta defeated No.1 Seed, Todd Schlorf of Longboat Key, 6-4, 6-2. Schlorf had defeated Alberto E. Siblesz of Coral Gables in his one match played, by the same score to reach the final.

Congrats are in order for Kuchta, who, in addition to claiming the State Closed in this division, represented Florida extremely well at the USTA National Men's Open Clay Court Championships by taking out two top-ten seeds on his way to a quarterfinal showing at that event.

Men’s 35s
In another small draw (only five entries and four scheduled matches) there were two completed matches. Diego Brunicardi of Boca Raton defeated No.2 seed Mario Porcelli of Doral 6-4, 6-0 in the semis, before upending Brett Hall of Doral 7-5, 6-2 in the final (Can we call Brunicardi “The Doral Derailer?”). Hall had played only three games in his semifinal match, up 3-0 before No.1 seed Jordan Klingsberg retired.

Men’s 30s
The trend of retirements continued in the 30s, with another two withdrawals before completion in the five scheduled matches. Vitaliy Pereverzev of Hallandale Beach claimed the title by defeating top-seed Michael Halperin of Boca Raton 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the semis and Dan Stover of Duncanville, Texas 6-1, 6-0 in the final. His first match opponent retired, down 1-3.
A Little More Personal Take
Playing a USTA sanctioned singles event was the last thing on my mind, until I got a call from my buddy Eric Ernstrom (AKA Double E or Big E) asking me if I had seen the entries into the USTA Florida Adult State Closed Championships. With some time on my hands and not much sense in my head, after chatting with Double E, the internal conversation about whether to enter began.
To Play or not to Play? That is the question
The one side of me that acknowledges playing two singles matches in two years cannot be considered preparation for a State Closed event with a very solid group of participants, quipped, “Dude! What are you thinking?” The side of me that misses the adrenalin rush that only singles competition (or a golf tournament) can bring me, was like, “Why not?”

Perhaps it was the fact that the event was at Ibis Country Club, a truly topnotch facility, and it was being run by Chuck Gill, the consummate professional with an awesome staff, that swayed the debate, because I anted up and headed for West Palm Beach. Heck, I had been playing some mixed dubs lately, wasn’t too bad in my first Pro League match, and had hit the ball fairly well the day before with Fernando Carvallo, a pretty good hitting partner…how bad could it be?

Facing Reality

Ha! Let’s just say in my second match, the one in which I was soundly trounced by Steve Bucar (the 4th seed), the final two thirds of the match was pretty comedic. To be honest, it was more “tragicomic.” I found myself laughing an awful lot, but that’s probably because one either laughs or cries, and how would my crying on the tennis court look?

I got off to a good start in the event, winning my first match with relative ease over Phil White of Naples 6-2, 6-2 (sorry about the shoulder Phil). In my match with Steve I started off fairly well, all things considered; up a break and serving at 3-2. Well, that service game took a while, and obviously too much energy. I finally succumbed to the break. No problem, we’re just back on serve, right? WRONG! I don’t win another game until 0-4 in the second…hence the ironic laughter. Final score: 3-6, 1-6.

After that long service game, I’m not sure who inhabited my body, but I surely wasn’t in control of it. Steve picked up on that pretty quickly and proceeded to dismantle me. Good for him! If the shoe were on the other foot, I might not have been as generous as he was in giving me that one game. I had some cream cheese in my bag anyway, so a bagel would have been no problem.

A Soggy Departure
After that match, I was all wet in more ways than one. Fortunately for me, the drizzle that had accompanied the entire second set didn’t turn into a deluge until the very second I failed to save the fourth match point. Phew! Nope, I did not want to hang out on the east coast and come back the next day to finish the match. Interestingly, the last time I played a State Closed, we had to suspend my quarterfinal match and I came back to win it the next day. Double E won’t ever forget that one (wink).

Points of Interest
My tale of woe aside, two things piqued my interest: 1) The draws were very small; and 2) there seemed to be an inordinate amount of retirements (unfinished matches).
It has been a while since I played a state closed, but I seem to recall larger draws. In 2007, the last time I played a State Closed, I played the Men’s 45s and there were 22 players entered, one withdrawal and one retirement. In this year’s 45s, there were six players entered and one retirement in the five matches scheduled. In 2007, the 35s had 16 players and one retirement in 15 matches. This year there were five entrants, and two of the four scheduled matches ended in retirements. Anyone have a clue about what’s going on here?
This year, my cohort (Men’s 50s) posted the largest number of entries (20) and lowest retirement/withdrawal percentage (11%, 2/19) from scheduled matches. I don’t have comparisons for previous years in the other divisions played at this year’s event, but there were six entries in the 30s, and 10 in the 40s this time around. As for the retirements and withdrawals from scheduled matches, the younger age groups led the way. Forty percent (40%, 2/5) of the 30s; fifty percent (50%, 2/4) of the 35s; Forty-four percent (44%, 4/9) of the 40s; and twenty percent (20%, 1/5) of the 45s ended in retirement or withdrawal.

I wish I had an answer for what the above means, but I’m truly clueless. I’d have to do quite a bit for studying before I could come up with something that made sense. If you have ideas, don’t hesitate to share them in comments or email me. All in all, I’m glad I went. Thanks for the call Eric. Thanks for putting me up Aileen, Michael! Thanks for putting on another good event Chuck. Wish I could have gotten pictures, but the weather and timing didn’t cooperate. Looking forward to my next opportunity to rise from the ashes or humiliate myself :-). Until next, game, set, match…

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