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.

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