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.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks fom Turkey Bowl in Boca- Happy Holiday!

To go or not to go, that was the question… So after waffling for a few days, I decide to enter the Turkey Bowl in Boca Raton. It’s as big a tournament as you’re going to find in Florida at this time of year, a money tournament for the young guys and gals in the Open draw, and good competition for the geezers like me.
Unfortunately for me, there’s no 50s division, and I’m not decrepit enough for the 55s, so I had to enter the 45s. I won that division back in 08, but the three years since then may as well be three decades as far as my readiness to really compete in the event is concerned.
Anyway, I tentatively enter the event, hoping I’ll be able to get through a round or two. Then I look at the draw last night and see that I’m going to have to play two rounds in one day…providing I get past Round 1! Really Steve, Keith (Tournament Directors)? Getting through one match will be challenge enough, I gotta play two? Just kidding guys. Glad to be in the draw at all. Thanks.
And what happens if I make it through those two matches? Well I play again the next day against tougher competition of course. Ha! May as well have gotten a wildcard into the US Open. I’ve got about as much chance of winning that event as I do this one (LOL). Honestly though, as much as I would like to win the tournament (unrealistic as that might be), this trip is more about the experience of sharing memorable moments with loved ones.
Hey it’s Thanksgiving! I’m allowed to get sappy for at least a moment on Thanksgiving, aren’t I? Shouldn’t I be grateful for the sparkling sunshine that greeted us this morning, the temperature hovering around 70 degrees, the slight breeze caressing our skin? Shouldn’t I be thankful that the old bod is hanging in there well enough for me to even give competition a shot? And every bit as important, shouldn’t I be extremely grateful that you have taken the time to share this moment? I would say immense gratitude is definitely in order!
Thanks Oliver, Fernando, Parker! If I do well you get the credit. If not, well that's all on me. Thanks to everyone (and there are so many) who have contributed so much to my world! I hope you, your family, and everyone who shares the sphere of your existence will enjoy this day of thanks, and that you find a few moments, in between bites of course, to reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for. Until soon, game, set, match….T A

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

League Tennis Report Thru 11/21/2011

I'm going to try to do a League Tennis Report every two weeks or so, covering Women's and Men's leagues in the area. I'm hoping to include USTA Leagues as well the other leagues in the area. If you know of a league that should be covered, drop me a note. If you have pics that you want included, send me those as well.  I'll start with (what I believe is) the "big kahuna" in town, the Lee County Women's Tennis League (LCWTL).

I haven't crunched any numbers, but I would be willing to bet a small fortume that The LCWTL produces the most court hours of any league in the area. In fact, they would probably rival all other leagues combined for the amount of matches played...but that's just speculation. One day I might actually crunch some numbers. For now, let's just say that lots of women play lots of tennis in the LCWTL. So how are things shaping up early in the season? Let's take a look. 

LCWTL Report
Judy Schafft & Monica Robb of Gulf Harbour
Gulf Harbour is leading the 2.5 Division after three matches, four points ahead of the Landings. Given the huge gap between the top two and the rest of the division, it appears as though everyone else will be fighting for third place. Kudos to Gulf Harbour for their work thus far. Fielding a team was a major challenge for them, and now they are leading their division.
In the relatively small 3.0-Minus Division, Cross Creek Estates have opened up a nine-point lead on second place Landings, which is seven points ahead of third-place Heritage Palms. Only two matches have been played in this division, so it’s tough to get a handle on what’s likely to happen just yet. Winning seven of eight individual matches bodes well for Cross Creek though.
Frankie Ingram & Lois Piano of Gulf Harbour
After four matches, the Forest has pulled into the lead of the 3.0 Division by nine points over second-place Heritage Palms, but Gulf Harbour’s Double Trouble (3rd), Kelly Greens and Heron’s Glen TopSpinners (tied 4th) are nipping at their heels. This race is likely to heat up even more as the season progresses.
In the 3.5-Minus Division, the largest of the rated divisions with 17 teams, Kelly Greens has pulled ahead of the pack after four matches, losing just three of 16 individual matches, and posting a nine-point lead over second place Forest and Judd Park (tied 2nd). Right in the mix, however, are Gulf Harbour’s LoveLee Ladies (4th), Landings Gems (5th), and Paseo (6th), all within eight points of the second-place teams.
Sandi Hill & Lauri Watson of Gulf Harbour
With 16 teams, the 3.5 Division is one of the more competitive in the League. After four matches, Pelican Preserve has staked a solid claim on division dominance. Thus far, they’ve lost just two of the 16 individual matches played, but they have yet to play the teams in second-through-fourth place. 
Members of 2010-2011 Winning LCWTL 3.5-Minus Team
Heritage Palms, Rutenberg, and Del Tura, respectively, hold those positions, but trail the division leader by a considerable margin.
In the 4.0-Minus Division, Park Meadow (1st) and Heritage Palms (2nd) have created some separation from the pack after five matches. Those two are separated by just one point, with the third-place team, Dunes Toni’s Tigers, 15 points from the top spot. The race for third is heated, though, with Gateway, Dunes Dynamic Dames, and Gulf Harbour within five points of third place. It will be interesting to see if a team can emerge from the pack to join the two at the top. 
Michelle & Anna of Park Meadow
No division has fiercer competition and tighter standings than the 4.0 Division. After five matches, five of the 12 teams in the division are within six points of the lead, and two are tied for first by one point over the third-place team. Heritage Palms Poachers and Landings 4Love hold that slim lead, with Landings Legends one point behind, Park Meadow four points out of first, and Bonita Bay just six points away from the top spot. This one ought to be fun all the way to the wire!

In the final, and highest rated, division, the Dynamos, Paseo appears to be the clear-cut leader, ahead of second-place Gulf Harbour by nine points despite playing three matches to Gulf Harbour’s four. Just eight points behind Gulf Harbour, tied for third with only three matches under their belts, are two Park Meadow teams: Tennis Junkies, and GGs. It’s too early to call this division, but it appears that six of the seven teams in this division have a shot at being atop the standings at season’s end.
In the second largest of all the LCWTL divisions, the Bronze, the ladies of Heron’s Glen are flexing their tennis muscles, sweeping three of their first five matches, and posting an 18-2 individual match record after five matches. Holding onto second by six points, with two sweeps of their own, are the ladies from Pelican Landing. Heritage Palms and Breckenridge Overheads are the only teams currently within shouting distance, in third and fourth places respectively.
In the largest LCWTL Division, the Silver, division-leading Gulf Harbour Silver Strings came out of the blocks sprinting. The Silver Strings posted two sweeps to begin the season, and have a 20-4 individual match record after six matches. The Landings Lucky Ladies trail Silver Strings by 13 points, with Breckenridge, CCYC, and Lexington just a few points behind the second place team. With so many teams playing, it will be some time before we know what’s likely to happen in this tough division.
Inge Lorenz & Monde Breton of Gulf Harbour
In the very competitive Gold Division, The Dunes (1st), FMRC Tennis Sisters (2nd), and Pelican Preserve (3rd) have established a little separation from the rest of the pack after five matches, but not much. There is a group of seven teams within striking distance should the leaders falter. There’s a good chance that the Division Champion will come from among the teams currently sitting in the top ten, but it will take a few more matches to have an idea which of those ten have a realistic shot.
Kathy Lanzalotta & Janet Craycraft of Gulf Harbour
In the highest rated senior division, Platinum, Pelican Landing has opened a 10-point lead after four matches. Vasari (2nd) and Park Meadow Serves Aces (3rd) are just two points apart, with a nine-point gap between third place and the fourth-place Landings Buttshots. With only seven teams in the division, and having lost just three individual matches in the 16 played, Pelican Landing looks like a strong candidate for Division Champion honors. We will know more after they play the second and third-place teams. 

In the most courageous (in my opinion) of all divisions, the 60-Plus, another two-team race is shaping up early. Heritage Palms (89 pts) and CCRHC (84 pts) have pulled away from the pack, with Heritage Palms losing just two of their 16 individual matches played, and CCRHC losing just three of their 16. No other team is within 20 points of the top two, and unless reinforcements are on the way for the other teams, or injuries come into play, it looks like the current top two will be battling for the title at the end.
One of the area's small but vibrant leagues is the Suncoast "A" Tennis League (AKA SCAT League). Many probably don't know that this league has been around for nearly three decades, providing a competitive home for many of the women who play in the more advanced divisions of the LCWTL and USTA leagues. 
SCAT was created in 1984, initially because there was no place for advanced women to play. Currently SCAT is home to six teams which field three doubles teams per match. Each match one counts for one point. Current Standings are as follows:
Park Meadow- Diane= 8
Naples Bay Resort= 7
Heritage Bay= 7
Plantation Country Club= 5
Fort Myers Racquet Club= 5
Park Meadow- Regina= 4
As you can see, the race to the title is a close one. For more info on SCAT click here.
I promised to bring you a bit more info on the BonEro Tennis league, so here I am. The league is home to 12 teams of women age 50 and over, with ratings between 3-5 and 4.0. Teams field three courts per match, and they play on Tuesday afternoons at 2pm. The teams hail from Bonita and Estero, but I suspect teams from Fort Myers and perhaps further afield might be welcome.
The League offers a non-competitive season in the fall and a competitive season from January through March, and all matches are played on "soft-surface" courts. With twelve teams, BonEro sounds like an up-and-coming league that should generate some interest. I look forward to covering their progress in the spring. Click here for more on BonEro
Men's Leagues
We can't leave the men out, can we? Unfortunately, teams in the Lee County Men’s 50-Plus League have played just one match, and the Men’s 70-Plus League has yet to begin play. Keep an eye out for updates on these leagues once they have played a few matches. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! Game, set, match... T A

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League @ Pelican Landings

Perhaps it's because we are in the heart of season, but whatever the reason is, the Fort Myers Pro League is playing to record crowds. An estimated 500 strong attended this past event at Pelican Landing in Bonita Springs this past Friday, and the tennis was as hotly contested as ever.

Harborside Dental (HD) vs. Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA)

Suiting up for HD, Mike “Da Dawg” Curran & Sergio Rebolledo crossed swords with Manuel Encalada & Tyler Owens of BRA, the only team yet to experience a loss at the No.1 Doubles spot. For a while there it seemed as though Da Dawg and Serg were going to live up to their immense potential. They downed Manuel and TO 6-4 in the first, and even after losing the second 4-6, they had match point at 9-7 in the super-tiebreak. With Serg serving, I’m going to the bank on that one. Uh, I woulda been making a withdrawal…Manuel and TO pulled it out 11-9.

The BRA train chugged on at the No. 2 Doubles slot, as Joel and I dropped our first match to the still undefeated Frank Fourgeau & Luke Andreae. We lost a tough first set, 5-7, then posted a 6-1 second set to even the match, and all seemed right with the tennis world.

Before ya could say, “Love-40” we’re down 1-4 in the third, and it didn’t get any better. With some stellar play from “Double F,” and crunch time heroics from Luke we bit the dust 1-6. I must admit it was the sweetest 1-6 I’ve ever tasted. That was the most enjoyable Pro League match I’ve played, bar none. Thanks guys! We’ll get em next time Joel.

On Court 3, finally the big moment we’ve all been waiting for… well
everyone on our HD team anyway…Mike Lawver & Mark Drons took down the previously undefeated Jim "Katman Katterfield" with Tom Fisher subbing for Fred Hindle (guess we now know why Katman was undefeated- wink). But Katman and Fish didn’t go quietly into that good night at Pelican Landing. They took the first set 7-5, lost the second 4-6, then succumbed to Lawver and Dronsy’s desperation effort (no way they're losing three in a row!), surrendering the super-tiebreak 7-10.

On Court 4, Toni Halski & Fran Coryell continued their trademark of battling valiantly each time out, but they came up a bit short for the third consecutive time, losing to Dave Dooley & Rick Calton 4-6, 4-6. I have watched some of their matches, and it sure isn’t for lack of trying that they haven’t yet posted a “W.” I suspect one is coming soon, and when it does, I’m betting the wins will just keep on coming. Hang tough guys!

On the Mixed Doubles court, Christie Bradley & Dan Moenning slipped in a straight-setter over Erica Cossairt & Jeff Timmer (6-4, 6-4). Ya know, both Christie and Dan are such soft-spoken nice people off the court that it’s amazing to watch the transformation etched all over their faces during competition. Oh, they’re still very polite and pleasant…until the point gets started, and then it’s Nightmare on Elm Street meets Transformers. Love the “W” guys! We needed it!

Johnny Malloy’s (JM) vs. AutoDrive (AD)

On Court 1, Shawn Hedrick & Scotty Harrington of JM must have breathed a sigh of relief after taking down Denny Rager & Jared Kalpin of AD in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. Shawn and Scotty had yet to get a win, and Denny and Jared had straight-setted the Dawg and Serg the previous match. 

So somebody tell me how Denny and Jared went down in straights, to give Shawn & Scotty their first “W?” Go figure. Guess you could call that parity…With the exception of Manuel and TO, first court results seem like a crap shoot.

On Court 2, Elliott DeBolt & Jim Harris (sub) for AD took down Patrick Kangwa & Jeff Diggs of JM in two tiebreak sets. This is the third tough loss in a row for Patrick and Jeff. Their two previous losses ended in tiebreaks as well. G
uess the key for Patrick and Jeff is to avoid those tiebreaks! Uh oh, those boys are due for a win and they play Joel and I at Fiddlesticks, Jeff’s home court, next. Hmmm, that doesn’t bode well. Joel my friend, bring your A-game cuz you know Fiddlesticks and I don’t get along.

On Court 3, John Jerome & Alex Hermeto playing for AD gutted out a tough victory over JM's Jorge Magalhaes & Todd Wise.  John and Alex took the first set 6-3, dropped the second 4-6, before closing out the super-tiebreak 10-7.

In No. 4 Doubles, Steve Shortridge & Anthony Hatori of JM did the unthinkable, coming back from a 1-6 first-set loss to beat Larry “The Legend” Gagnon and Rob “The Body” Vinal of AD 7-5 in the second and 10-5 in the third-set super-tiebreak. Shortridge reminds me of one of those college

quarterbacks who they say will never make it in the pros, then all he does is win; just a Tim Tebow kinda guy.

In Mixed Doubles, Terry See & Carolyn Lawver of AD pulled
out a squeaker, edging Armor Persons & Kerry Kendrick of JM 6-2, 4-6, and 10-7 in the super-tiebreak. I wish I had a dollar for every super-tiebreak Terry and Carolyn have played, and .50 for every one they’ve won. John Wayne may have starred in the original True Grit, but this duo epitomizes that concept on the tennis court.

Match totals for the event at Pelican Landing and overall (in parentheses) are as follows:
1. Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA)= 7 (21)
2. AutoDrive (AD)= 6 (17.5)
3. Harborside Dental (HD)= 6 (16)
4. Johnny Malloy’s (JM)= 6 (14)

The terrific crowd in attendance at the Pelican Landing stop, made it three great turnouts in a row. As alluded to above, the next Pro League will be held at
Fiddlesticks Country Club on December 2, with some matches starting at 4pm and others at 5:30pm. We expect another great spectator showing as Fiddlesticks always provides terrific concessions and nice viewing for spectators. We look forward to seeing you there! Game, set, match, T A....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Naples-Fort Myers Challenge: The Rest of The Story (almost)

I wish I had better news for those of you who may not be happy about the sheer dominance Naples has demonstrated over the past 31 years of the Naples-Fort Myers Challenge. But I don’t. Our Fort Myers team began last Saturday afternoon as though we were “mad as heck, and weren’t gonna take it anymore (frown)”…

Holly Chomyn & Paula Scheb deliver straight-set win
The first three matches were straight-set victories for Fort Myers, and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. After six matches had been completed, Fort Myers was still faring well, with a 4-2 lead.  By the time the other 13 matches had been completed, we had won just two more matches, and Naples had dropped a 13-6 drubbing on us. Ouch!

Some awesome volunteers!
 Before going any further, I think it really appropriate, especially since Thanksgiving is around the corner, to express HUGE thanks to Paula Scheb and her extremely competent staff; the Challenge’s Executive Committee; the multitude of very helpful, pleasant volunteers; the team captains; and all the sponsors for staging a really terrific event (Thanks for all the info Nancy!).

Isabel Munoz holds fort for LCCTA
I have played many events over the past three decades, and not many events are as professionally run, and cater to the players as the Naples-Fort Myers Challenge did.  I mean, how many events have you played where they organizers publish programs with players’ names, photos, and bios?

How many events provide complementary food (deliciously served up by Carrabba’s Italian Grill) and drinks (including beer and wine) to the players and guests? Real-time scores were being posted as matches were being played! Wow! Hard to imagine that this event keeps getting better, but it is. I considered it an honor to represent Fort Myers…even if we continue to be Naples’ stepchildren.
Fort Myers winners included:
Holly & Paula doing work
 Paula Scheb & Holly Chomyn in Women’s 45 Doubles (This was really a good backyard scrap, and these two make a great team. Holly didn’t miss a single shot--and I’m not kidding-- in the 20 minutes I watched the match, and Paula was all over the net like flies on shugar! I can spell it however I want thank you- wink)

John Jerome & Tom Fisher in Men’s 45 Doubles (This one was a routine straight-set victory for us);
Larry Gagnon & Jim Katterfield in Men’s 55 Doubles (I don’t even know why they bothered to play this one with Larry “The Legend” on the court);

Dave Vaughan Peter Redpath and Brad Nash
celebrate after victory
 David Vaughan & Peter Redpath in Men’s 50 Doubles (David’s getting a little heavy so Peter struggled a bit to carry him, but Dave came through at crunch time and they took the third-set super-tiebreak 10-6);

Larry Albritton & Paul Veltman in Men’s 65 Doubles (our super seniors were really super, taking this one without too much of a struggle, posting a 6-2, 6-2 win);

T A stepping into it
I didn’t get Larry Turville, but I did get a win to post a winning record in the Challenge thus far (2 singles, 1 doubles win against 2 singles losses to Larry T)... Maybe I’ll quit while I’m ahead. Nahhhhh. Bob Baker brought a pretty good strategy to the table, but on this particular day, I was able to meet the challenge.

Oliver Stenger & Carl Winslow in a tough one
While many of our losses didn’t look good on the scoreboard, some of them could have gone either way, such as Shawn Hedrick & James Harris’ third-set super-tiebreak loss in Men’s 35 Doubles. Others who lost tiebreaks included Oliver Stenger & Carl Winslow in Men’s 40 Doubles, Karen Orlando & Mary Lou Rouch in Women’s 55 Doubles, and Mark Davis in Men’s 45 Singles.

If those tiebreaks had gone the other way, perhaps…oh well, can’t really go there; can we? Honestly, the bottom line is that it was a terrific experience despite the team’s loss, and I really am grateful to have had the opportunity to represent Fort Myers in the 31st Naples-Fort Myers Challenge.
Sponsors, without whom the event couldn’t be what it is, included:
Carrabba’s Italian Grill- Does “Carrabba’s” mean “delicious” in Italian? If not, it should!
Ritzman Tennis Courts- Tony Ritzman sponsors just about everything tennis in town, and just about every tennis court has his mark on it;
Page & Tuttle- Designing, manufacturing and marketing golf apparel since the 1800s!
ASG Software Solutions- Providing more business software solutions than I can list here; and
Bonita Bay Club- Amenities, amenities, and more amenities. Doesn’t get much better than the BBC…no not the broadcasting network (chuckle).
in any event, if you were at the Challenge and didn't have a good time, it had to be because you didn't want to...or had a headache, bad cold, or something. The weather was as good as it gets, the crowd was responsive, and there isn't a thing wrong with free food and drink...especially when the food is good and the drink is alcoholic; right? Hold on a sec, lemme get my tongue outta my cheek here...

The crowd enjoyed the action
 Ok, all I'm trying to say is that there was plenty to be grateful for last Saturday, and most faces I saw had smiles on them. If you get a chance to play or watch next year's event, there are worse tickets in town that you actually pay for! 

Thanks again to Captain Timmer for the call and everyone at Bonita Bay Club for doing a superb job! Happy Thanksgiving!