Tuesday, November 8, 2011

USPTA Grand Prix Masters at Williams Island- Inaugural Success!

Carlos Triana & staff handling Pro
Am awards
For some, the USPTA Grand Prix Masters event at Williams Island this past weekend (November 5 – 6) must have seemed like old home week, because the cast of characters remained pretty much the same as it has been year in, year out. Basically, the best players continue to be the best players, rising to the top of the USPTA Grand Prix standings, and thus qualifying for the year-end Masters.

The USPTA Grand Prix Masters & Circuit
Todd Ruedisili & Carlos Triana
running the show
If you aren’t familiar with the USPTA Fast Dry Courts and 10-S Tennis Supply Grand Prix Circuit, it consists of seven events played by male and female USPTA Professionals at a variety of Florida venues, with players earning points for victories they post in the events. After the seven events, the top four point earners in singles and the top four teams in doubles qualify, and are invited to participate in the year-end USPTA Grand Prix Masters…much the way men and women on the ATP and Sony Ericsson tours qualify for their year-end event.
Given the time of year the event is held, some of the top point earners are not able to make the event, so alternates (next in line in the point standings) are invited to participate. Fortunately I won the only doubles event I played this season (having Greg Neuhart as a partner didn’t hurt), and Mike Baldwin, the Event Coordinator, invited me to participate. At tourney’s end, I felt like a 7-9 NFL team that snuck in the back door and made it to the Super Bowl after consecutive road wins.
The Event Venue
When I got the email invitation, having had a terrific experience playing the Masters when it was held at Isleworth (of Tiger Woods fame), I was happy to accept the invitation. As you can imagine, the tennis facility at Isleworth is as luxurious as its prestigious name suggests. I had not previously been to Williams Island so I didn’t know what to expect at this year’s event.   
Jeneffer Soto, Lissette Roa & Juliet Bryan
I can only say that the inaugural hosting of the Master’s at Williams Island Tennis Club lived up to any expectations I, and any of the other USPTA professionals, may have had prior to the event. Carlos Triana and his staff (Kevin McKenna, Leandro Gutierrez, Juliet Bryan, Lissette Roa, Jeneffer Soto, Joanna Gasiorek) did a fantastic job of making it a relatively seamless transition from Isleworth, easily equaling the quality experience USPTA pros had become accustomed to at Isleworth.

Member Events 

Members & Pros gather for Pro Am
The Saturday morning clinic for Williams Island tennis members, and Sunday morning Pro Am tourney were well attended and superbly organized. Given the responses of the members, including their comments about hosting the event next year, they apparently relished the experience at least as much as the pros.

Irene Gitman & Steve Shortridge
My Pro Am partner, Mike Pardes, had me shaking my head. He revealed after the three matches we played that he was 70-years-old! If you look up the definition of “fit as a fiddle,” surely you will find Mike’s picture displayed. I am a little embarrassed to say it, but I’m not sure that I would have gotten to some of the balls Mike got to and put in play. Perhaps it was due to my amazement at some of those gets that I wasn’t ready to do my part when the ball came back (sorry Mike). In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed the Pro Am, and the fitness tips Mike offered me.
Event Sponsors 
Greg Wheaton with Sponsor's product 
In addition to the Grand Prix Tour sponsors (Fast Dry Courts, 10-S Tennis Supply, Welch Tennis Courts, USTA FL, and Stan Oley’s Tennis Equipment) Triana secured local sponsors to help underwrite tournament expenses. 

Vehicles by Pines Ford Lincoln
in tennis courtyard
Those sponsors included Pines Ford Lincoln, Wells Fargo Bank, Dyna Serv, and Park One (PK1). As noted by Triana, without the local sponsors and the members who participated, the event couldn’t have been the tremendous success that it was.

Tournament Results
Adrians Zguns, Men's Open Champion
Adrians Zguns claimed the Men’s Open division crown, posting a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Julien Link in the final. Zguns was impenetrable from the baseline and took advantage of any short-ball opportunity Link presented. Zguns victory was not surprising, considering he was ranked as high as No. 431in the ATP Tour rankings for singles as recently as December of 2009. Zguns then teamed with Diego Brunicardi to take home the Open Doubles, beating Paolo Barros and John Bougon, 6-4, 6-3.
Brunicardi was another of the two-event winners, as he took the Men’s 35 Singles with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sven Goth. Kam Kuchta also doubled up, claiming the Men’s 40 Singles with a 6-0, 5-0 (ret) victory over Dan Lepadatu, then partnering with Horacio Rearte to claim the Men’s 40 Doubles title as well, with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Bruce and Brett Kurtz.  
Rearte continued the trend of two-time winners with a hard fought victory in the Men’s 45 Singles over Jeff Cohen. Rearte outlasted the younger and always tough Cohen, 6-4, 7-5, saving at least one set point in the second set. The victory was a terrific win for Rearte, given Cohen’s dominance of the Men’s 40 Singles on the Grand Prix tour over the past few years.
Greg Neuhart, one of the most consistent performers on this year’s Grand Prix circuit, won the Men's 50 Singles after rival Greg Wheaton retired at 7-5, 0-1 in the second. Neuhart also was a finalist in the doubles, losing 2-6, 5-7 to Frank Swope and me, while playing with tournament host and director Carlos Triana.  Swope also posted a double victory, winning the Men’s 55 Singles over Steve Shortridge, 6-3, 6-2. 
In the final men’s age group played, Men’s 60 Singles and Doubles, Terry See claimed both titles, winning the Singles 7-5, 6-4 over Bob Grossman, and partnering with Bob Howell to win the longest match of the event over Bob Green and Bob Grossman, 6-2, 5-7, 10-6.

Six women participated in Women’s Grand Prix Masters. In singles, Marine Spiegel claimed the Women's Open Singles division with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Andrea Schutte, and Sandy Bell beat M. J. Pachl 6-2, 6-0 to win the Women's 35 Singles. In Women's Open Doubles (the only women’s doubles division), Spiegel and Schutte defeated Lindsey and Jeanne Schwartz 6-3, 6-0.
Chances are the event winners left with bigger smiles than those who didn’t win their divisions. However; it is probably safe to say that if anyone left Williams Island Tennis Club without a smile, it had nothing to do with the venue and the quality hosting offered by Triana and his staff.

In addition to the tennis staff hosting a well organized competitive event on well manicured courts, the Williams Island culinary and social staff threw a players' party, which I heard was as top-notched as the rest of the event (these old bones were to tired to make it). All in all, Williams Island Tennis Club's inaugural hosting of the USPTA Grand Prix Masters was a smash...in the corner of the alley, an untouchable winner, of course.

If I happen to make it into the elite group of USPTA professionals atop the point standings of the USPTA Fast Dry Courts and 10-S Tennis Supply Grand Prix Circuit next season, I will certainly look forward to making the trip across the alley again. Game, set, match….T. A.

Photos courtesy of T. A. Niles & Williams Island Tennis Staff

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