Friday, March 30, 2012

USPTA National Clay Court Recap

Note: Photo recovery process underway. Sorry for inconvenience! 

The 2012 USPTA National Clay Court Championships made its transition from one splendid venue, Ibis Country Club in West Palm Beach, to another, BallenIsles in Palm Beach Gardens. As with most transitions, there were some challenges, but fortunately Trish Faulkner, Frank Swope, Diane Wilkinson and the rest of BallenIsles' staff met the challenge about as well as one could expect.  I suspect Trish might want to officially solicit Mike Baldwin's assistance for next year. Nice work team!

Diane Wilkinson, Trish Faulkner, Mike Baldwin
That said, players who have been patronizing the event (previously run by Chuck Gill at Ibis) for years couldn't help but experience the effects of the transition. Hopefully, most focused on the opportunity to participate in one of our organization's premiere events, on the marvelous facility, and on the gracious hosting BallenIsles provided. 

When all was said and done, it was a great event for some (your's truly included) and not quite as terrific for some others (Sorry about the elbow Greg). As with all competition, some competitors leave happier than others. Bottom line for me was that I had the opportunity to compete and interact with folks I see only a few times per year. See below for my overall recap, and click here for my take on the Men's 50 Singles.

Men’s Open Singles
Open Champ Paolo Barros
The Men’s Open Draw was the largest of the Championships with 19 participants. The usual cast of characters was on hand, but the results weren’t typical.

Julien Link
The first atypical result was Julien Link, seeded second, bowing out of the event in his first match. Unseeded Johannes Brink, in his second match, out-dueled the still dangerous Link. Link took the first set 6-2, and appeared to be on the brink (couldn’t resist that) of his customary march to the Final, but Brink threw a fly into that ointment and broke Julien’s link to past glory (couldn’t resist that either, LOL).  

Johannes Brink
Brink took the second set 7-5, and the third 6-1, then earned a semifinal date with third-seeded Paolo Barros, a perennial semifinalist and finalist in USPTA Men’s Opens, by downing Jeff Zenisek, 6-0, 6-1. Paolo had minimal trouble reaching the semis, losing just five games in two matches.

Tye Myers
At the top of the Open Draw, No.1 Seed, Tye Myers had overcome stiffer tests, but still posted a couple of straight-set wins (6-3, 6-4, and 6-2, 7-5) over some worthy opponents to earn his spot in the semis. Fifth-seeded Diego Brunicardi had notched a gritty 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over No.4 Seed Michael Birzon in the quarters to reach a semifinal matchup with Myers.

Paolo Barros
Both Myers and Barros had to go three to reach the final. Myers dropped the first set 2-6 to Brunicardi before he got rolling and took the final two sets 6-2, 6-1. Barros took the first set from Brink 6-3, and was up 4-2, 40-0, before Brink rallied and took the set 6-4. Really? Paolo himself didn’t have an explanation; however, he rallied in the third to take it 6-2.

Tye Myers
On paper it looked like we would have another three-set thriller on our hands. I only saw the end of the first set and first few games of the second, but Paolo reminded me a bit of David Ferrer in the Final. Myers threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Barros, but Paolo caught everything and threw it right back.

Paolo Barros
Frustration set it pretty early in the second, as Barros went up 3-0, and Myers wasn’t able to wrest control from the impenetrable Barros. Paolo took it 6-4, 6-2. In the locker room, Barros expressed his elation: “Finally, after seven years!” Nice to get past a nemesis, isn’t it Paolo? I suspect these two will do battle again before long.

Women’s Open Singles
Women's Open Champ Marina McCollom &
Finalist Marine Spiegel
No one could fault Marina McCollom for calling the Women’s Open Clay Court title her own, because she successfully defended her title for the fifth time! With only three women in the draw, it was like the good ole days when the Defending Champion just waited to see who would reach the Final. 

Her opponent in the Final, Marine Spiegel, made it there with a gut-check win over Ioana Paun in the semis. Paun edged Spiegel 7-4 in a first set tiebreak, but Spiegel rebounded to take the next two sets 6-3, 6-4.

In the Final, Spiegel fought gamely, but McCollom played much like Men’s Open Champ, Paolo Barros, taking everything Spiegel threw at her and responding with just a little more than Spiegel could handle. From what I saw, the 6-3, 6-2 score was not at all indicative of the tussle that McCollom withstood to defend her title.

Men’s 35 Singles
Men's 35 Champ Kam Kuchta
The Men’s 35s marched true to form as No.1 Seed Andy Lake met No.2 Seed Kam Kuchta in the final. Both players had proved that they were the class of the field, Lake having lost just four games in his two previous matches, while Kuchta had lost two, posting three bagels in four sets. Nice work if you can get it…

Men's 35 Finalist Andy Lake
In any event, as is often the case in a Kam Kuchta match, there was some yelling, some controversy, etc… and of course, it was a grind. Lake took the first set in a breaker (7-4) and Kuchta returned the favor, winning the second with the identical score, 7-4 in the breaker.

Along with Open Winner Barros, Kuchta and Lake played perhaps the highest quality tennis I witnessed over the weekend. Although involved in the 50 Dubs Final across the aisle, I couldn’t help watching what was transpiring on their court. In the end, Kuchta prevailed 6-4 in the third, and earned a second consecutive USPTA National Championship (he won the Men's 40 Singles in 2011) the hard way.  

Men’s 45 Singles
Men's 45 Champ Horacio Rearte
I don’t suppose anyone would be surprised that No.1 Seed, Horacio Rearte won yet another clay court championship. However, garnering titles seems to be getting a bit tougher for the wily veteran.

Steve Bucar
Horacio had a slight test in the first set of his semifinal match against Steve Bucar (2011's Men's 50 National Clay Court Champ), winning that match 6-4, 6-1, but had cruised 0, 2 over Richard Waterfall in his first match.

Men's 45 Finalist Frank Vermeer
Third seed Frank Vermeer had posted relatively trouble–free wins in his first two matches, posting a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jack Steyn of Bradenton in the semis. Johann Saurbier of Naples did give Vermeer a good tussle in the first set of his first match, which Vermeer won 6-4, 6-1.

Horacio Rearte
As it was in the Men’s 35 Final, these two appeared evenly matched. Vermeer took the first set tiebreak 7-4, but Rearte posted a dominant 6-2 second set and edged the third 6-4 to notch his Men’s 45-belt one more time.

Women’s 45 Singles
Women's 45 Champ Julie Farina
I hope Julie Farina doesn’t mind, but I absolutely must give the Women’s 45 Champion a nickname. Tough to decide though: Sponge? Trampoline? Wall? Hmmm…How about Julie “Forever” Farina? I mean, from what I saw, you could hit balls at her forever and they would just keep coming back!

Caroline Franca
I watched, in absolute amazement, some of her semifinal match against Caroline Franca. Granted, Caroline wasn’t ripping balls, but she was certainly placing them nicely to the corners, attempting to vary spins, etc. “Forever Farina” seemed to effortlessly glide to wherever the ball was, returning it with grace and apparent ease. I think I want to go train with her!

Robin Keener & Julie Farina
Later, when I saw the score she posted against Robin Keener in the Final, I thought to myself in disbelief, “Robin Keener just doesn’t get beaten 0 and 1!” True, I haven’t seen Robin play in a while, but I know she has consistently been a quality player with numerous accolades, including USPTA Player of the Year numerous times, and multiple USTA National Championships. I can only guess that Julie did the same to Robin as she did to Caroline. Wish I could have seen it.

Men’s 55 Singles
Men's 55 Champ Craig Wittus
No.1 Seed Craig Wittus was dominant in his claiming of the Men’s 55 Singles. Wittus lost just four games in three matches, with all four coming in the Final against No.2 Seed Frank Swope. In the semis, Frank had posted a tough 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 win over Bill Frost in the semis, but Wittus proved too strong, taking the Final 6-2, 6-2. 
Men's 55 Finalist Frank Swope chats
with members before match

Men’s 60 Singles
Men's 60 Champ Gewan Maharaj
Men's 60 Finalist Joe Bouquin
The top two seeds, Joe Boquin (1) and Gewan Maharaj (2), met in the Men’s 60 Final, with both coming off comfortable wins in the semis. In the final, it was classic tennis at its very best with graceful strokes and strategic ploys employed by both. Again, I had a tough time focusing on my match as I watched these two ageless veterans battle next to me. In the end, Maharaj won 6-4, 6-2, but it certainly looked more difficult than the score indicates.

Men’s 65 Singles
The story was pretty much the same in the 65s, with the finalists cruising through semifinal matches and facing a stiff test in the Final. Coming into the Final, No.1 Seed Jimmy Parker had lost one game in the semis, and Geoffrey Moore had lost none. The match-up between these very fit and crafty veterans proved to be a good one, with Moore taking the Final 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

Women’s Open Doubles
There was one match in the Women’s Open Draw, and it was all that anyone could ask for! Once again, McCollom and Spiegel squared off, of course this time with partners. McCollom partnered with Julie Farina and Spiegel with Ioana Paun.

After the first set, it appeared as though Spiegel would get revenge for her singles loss against McCollom, as she and Paun took the set 6-4. But Spiegel and Paun were facing champions, and McCollom and Farina rallied to take the second set in a tiebreak (7-5). The third-set super-tiebreak also went McCollom and Farina’s way, giving each her second title of the Championships.

Men’s Open Doubles
Open Doubles Champs
Diego Brunicardi & Erik Turnquist
Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise for Paolo, but the top-seeded team of Paolo Barros and John Bougon, last year’s Finalists, lost a tough first-round match to eventual Champs, Diego Brunicardi and Erik Turnquist, 4-6, 7-6, 1-0 (10-4).  It was the toughest test of the event for Brunicardi and Turnquist, as they didn’t drop another set throughout. 

Men’s 40 Doubles
Horacio Rearte
Horacio Rearte and Kam Kuchta each picked up his second National Championship when Mark Palus and Mark Harrison chose not to play the Doubles Final. Rearte and Kuchta really earned the title in the battle they had in the semifinal, a match characterized by play and drama that was worthy of a final. 

Al Hernandez
In the semis, Rearte and Kuchta faced Al “Iron Man” Hernandez and Andy Lake. It was Hernandez’s third match of the day, having already played almost six hours of singles, and still Rearte and Kuchta had to struggle to put Lake and Hernandez away. The score of the match that went well into the night was 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (12-10). 

Men’s 50 Doubles
Paul Cole, Jim Katterfield, T. A. Niles, 
& Frank Swope
Walkovers best characterized the 50 Doubles, as No.1 Seed, Greg Neuhart and Mark Woldmoe withdrew before playing a match. That match would have been a semifinal match against Jim Katterfield and Paul Cole, who had won their previous round, 6-0, 6-3.

50 Dubs Finalists Jim Katterfield & Paul Cole
At least Katterfield and Cole had earned their way into the Final with one win. My partner, Frank Swope, and I, didn’t play a match, as our semifinal opponents, Joe Bouquin and Bob Grossman pulled out as well.

In the first set of the Final, it appeared as though Frank and I (mostly I) were ungrateful for the gift we received, and we dropped the set 1-6. It didn’t hurt their cause that Paul served and returned like he was auditioning for the Sony Ericsson, and Katman was volleying demon.

Paul Cole & Jim Katterfield
Yet, Frank and I battled and managed one break in the second set to take it 6-4. We got off to a great start in the third-set super-tiebreak, and hung on to win it 10-5. I owe Chuck Gill a note of thanks for lending me his partner, Frank Swope, and one to Jim Katterfield and Paul Cole for letting us back in that doubles match. It turned into a fun match once I stopped stinking up the least from my perspective.

Women’s 40 Doubles
Cindy LeProvost and Susie Brown claimed the Women's 40 Doubles title by edging past the game team of Elizabeth Burger and Kim Franklin.  LeProvost and Brown dropped the first set 4-6, before rebounding to take the second 6-3. The third-set super-tiebreak was dramatic, with LeProvost and Brown taking it 10-8.

Mixed 40 Doubles
Trish Faulkner & Frank Swope
BallenIsles own Trish Faulkner and Frank Swope teamed up in the Mixed 40 Doubles, and Frank tried to claim his second national title of the weekend. The two had a major hurdle to clear in first set of their first match, when Cindy LeProvost and Jason Gilbert took them to 7-5 in the first set tiebreak before succumbing. 

Frank and Trish didn't lose another game in the match, nor did they lose one in the first set of their following match. In the Final they faced Robin Keener and Mark Harrison, who had not given up a single game in their semifinal match-up with Susie Brown and Bob Grossman. I'll provide info on the Final when I have it. 

Mixed Open Doubles
I'm not sure whether one would consider this good fortune or not, but from one perspective, the tennis gods smiled on Andy Lake and Ioana Paun, who became Champions when 
Tye Myers and Marine Spiegel withdrew. Lake and Paun's semifinal opponents also withdrew, so without striking a ball, they claimed the Championship. I'm sure they will look forward to defending next year.

Linesman & Todd Ruedisili

Congratulations to all the champions and finalists, and thanks to the tournament staff, and officials for their efforts in making the 2012 USPTA National Clay Court Championships an experience to remember. And I think it's important to remember that event sponsors play as important a role as anyone in making the event what it is. In addition to BallenIsles Country Club, those sponsors include: USPTA, Courtside USA, Welch Tennis Courts, Fast-Dry Courts, 10-S Supply, Aer-flo, Stan Oley's Tennis Equipment, and Drs. Howard and Joanne Green.   

Thursday, March 29, 2012

USPTA National Clay Court Men's 50 Singles

Note: Photo recovery process underway. Sorry for inconvenience! 
On paper, the big story in the Men’s 50 Division was my sweep of the Singles and Doubles events.  However, as you probably, it's often the "back story," or the "rest of the story" that’s of true interest. My favorite story of the Division is the iron man effort put out by Finalist Al Hernandez.

Al Hernandez
In his first match, a three-hour affair that ended when his opponent, Mark Woldmoe, retired due to cramps, Al won the first set 6-2, lost a second set breaker (4-7), and was at 2-3 when Woldmoe folded. I was showering after my second match, when I saw Al’s second opponent , Tomas Ollestad, in the locker room. Assuming the match was over, I asked Tomas how it had gone. He informed me that they were just about to get the third set started. Ouch!

Al Hernandez
Al had lost the first-set breaker (5-7) and had taken the second set 6-1. He kept rolling in the final set, taking it 6-2. Sounds like plenty enough tennis for somebody playing in the 50s, no? Uh-uh. I returned to the locker room to shower after hanging at the pool for a while. There was Al, getting ready for his men’s doubles match…in the Men’s 40 Division! Dude, that’s hardcore! 

I was having dinner later that evening (after 9pm) when I got a call from Frank Swope, my doubles partner. He let me know that the tournament director wanted to move my singles match against Al to 9am instead of 10:30am. I said I would be okay with it if Al was okay with it, but I doubted that Al would be okay with it, since Frank had also informed me that Al had just finished the first set of his doubles match. I guess Al was okay with it because he showed up to play his match the next morning. Hardcore!

No.1 Seed Greg Neuhart
The other big story in the Men’s 50s, was the fall of No.1 Seed, Greg Neuhart, Florida’s “Giant,” literally and metaphorically, in Men’s 50 Singles. The 6’ 9” Neuhart had dominated the Division in Florida’s 2011 USPTA Fast-Dry 10S Supply Grand Prix Circuit, and came in seeded No.1 as one would expect.

Unfortunately for Greg, and fortunately for me, “The Giant” came in wounded. Even with a bum elbow that prevented him from serving to 40 percent of his capacity, Greg took down Edwin Donoso 6-2, 6-2. Meanwhile, despite winning my first round match, I had to laugh and shake my head at some of the things I was doing on the court.

Arup Dutta
I used to be able to play this game once upon a time, but sometimes during my first match with Arup Dutta it didn’t appear that way. The 6-3, 6-2 score wasn’t as easy as it might seem to someone who wasn’t there…at least up through 1-2 in the second set.

It had been a pleasant match to that point, with Arup and I exchanging “good shot” and fist bumps throughout. Then I’m serving at 1-2, 15-30 in the second, and I figure I’m not interested in going down a break. Ace down the middle: 30-30; ace out wide: 40-30; ace out wide: game…uh not so fast buddy. The call is “out.” Out!”???

What part of flush on the line didn’t you get dude? “You wanna check that mark? It wasn’t even that close.” Long story short, we disagree about the call; I concede because it's his call, and I finish off the match without dropping another game.   

In any event, I meet Neuhart later that afternoon on Stadium Court, a beautiful venue. The entire facility, complete with $28m make-over, is beautiful, and the Stadium Court setting is one in which anyone would relish playing. The surface was a bit slick, and we both hit the deck, but other than that, it was all good.

Now, Greg had told me earlier in the day that he was hurting, but I didn’t know just how badly he was hurting. Heck, I’ve been hurting for the past three years! Once the match started, I realized that he was REALLY hurting, because his serve was more of a push-it-over-the-net-to-get-the-point-started kinda thing; definitely not Greg Neuhart’s norm.

Greg: It hurts to serve!
Even with that handicap, my feeble return game and Greg’s still powerful ground game gave him the first set, 6-1. Oh yeah, I had broken him the first game of the set too…I held to open the second, and joked that I had gotten my obligatory gift of one game per set. But then I broke and held for 3-0, and Greg’s frustration was growing in proportion to his size, and commensurate with the pain I imagine he was feeling.

We both held serve to 4-2, then Greg broke me and served at 3-4. Ordinarily, he’d be feeling pretty good being back on serve, but “oh da pain!” I broke back and held for a 6-3 second set. The frustrated giant roared, and I completely understood.

For the past couple of years, I haven’t been able to do what I used to do on court because of a variety of nagging injuries. That state of being is extremely frustrating for a competitor. I felt for him, but I was out there to post a “W” regardless. The final set was 6-2, and I hoped that Greg would forget about doubles and take care of that arm. He did forget about the doubles, and we both benefited from that (see 50 Dubs in recap)!

Keeping things in perspective, I have quite a ways to go before I'm close to happy with my game, but I will certainly enjoy holding the title of USPTA Men's 50 National Clay Court Champion for the next year. Who knows? Maybe the tennis gods will smile on me again next year. Game, set, match...T A

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This Week's Tennis Scene

Park Meadow Tennis Shop Sweepstakes
Tomorrow is your last chance to claim your Sony Ericsson box seats and VIP parking from Park Meadow Tennis Shop. Drop in and pick up a few sale items before 5pm Wednesday the 28th and you might be sitting courtside for the Women’s Final and the Men’s Doubles Final this coming Saturday. Visit the new Park Meadow Tennis Shop website for more details.

Ultimate Tennis Heating Up
Also tomorrow, at 5:30pm at Park Meadow, I get to take on Jarrod Goare, the player sitting one spot ahead of me in the Ultimate Tennis 5.5 standings. Jarrod sits in second, having lost once to Division Leader Alex Blagojevic in a tough three-setter. 

I imagine it will be a tough time out there for me tomorrow, because Jarrod gave a good account of himself in the final of the Edison Classic against Champion Parker Cuevas-Woodall. I can't catch up to Parker's serve, and I haven't found an answer for his forehand either. It'll be interesting to see how I do with the young guys.

Sony Ericsson
I don’t suppose I have to tell you that the Sony Ericsson will be coming to a close this weekend. Unlike my buddy Alex Blagojevic, who just informed me that he will be in Tsonga’s box on Thursday, I’ll be getting my dose of the big boys and girls tours via the Tennis Channel on the telly.

Most of the top men and big name women are still in the draw as of this writing. Kim Clijsters and Sam Stosur, both Grand Slam Champions, are gone, but Azarenka, the Williams sisters, Sharapova, etc. are still in it. If you aren’t busy some night this week, settle in with a cold beverage and some snacks and check out some great tennis.

Pro League Playoffs
The final edition of the Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League is happening this Friday the 30th at Legends. Matches will begin at 4pm. The match to see will be the First Doubles battle between Manuel Encalada and Tyler Owens of Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA) versus Denny Rager and Jared Kalpin of AutoDrive (AD). Not only is the tennis likely to be entertaining, but Manny and TO are trying to remain unbeaten this season.

BRA, the regular season champions, will take on second-place finishers, AD, in the championship match at 4pm. At 5:30pm, Johnny Malloy’s, the third-place team, will try to ensure that my team, Harborside Dental, remains in the cellar when it’s all over.  

FGCU Men’s Tennis Eagles Return Home
Coach C. J. Weber’s boys in green and blue are coming off their roughest road trip thus far this season, winning just one individual match in two dual matches on the road in South Carolina and Tennessee.  Their return to home courts won’t be too comfy as they face No.50-ranked North Florida at home this Thursday night, at 7pm. The Eagles will need as much support as the local tennis community can muster, as North Florida has the best overall record in the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASC).

After facing North Florida, the Eagles will take on Jacksonville on Saturday morning at 10am. Jacksonville has lost nine of its last ten dual matches, which would seem to bode well for the Eagles. However, J’Ville’s lone win was a 5-2 beating of USC Upstate, a team which took all but one point from the Eagles last week. In any event, our only local college team could use your support this week. Hope to see you out there!

Madisen’s Match
One of the biggest events on the Fort Myers tennis schedule is Madisen’s Match, coming this Saturday the 31st at The Landings. There are a number of activities planned for the annual charity event, which I’ve detailed elsewhere (click here). You can get additional info and sign up to participate by visiting the Madisen’s Match website. All proceeds will benefit local efforts to fight youth and adult cancer. J’jjjj

Park Meadow Club Championship Climax
The final event of the season for Park Meadow Tennis Center, the Club Championship Doubles, is this Saturday. If things go as well as they did with the Mixed Doubles last weekend it should be a fun day. I’ll be counting on my partner Mike Duke to carry me to the 9.0 Championship! 

Okay, I better get this out. Have a great rest of the tennis week! Game, set, match...T 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Recent Tennis Happenings

Note: Photo recovery process underway. Sorry for inconvenience! 
Fort Myers is Home to USPTA National Champ
The tennis gods had to be on my side this past weekend, because just about everything lined up just right for me to leave the USPTA National Clay Court Championships at BallenIsle Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens with both Singles and Doubles titles in the Men’s 50 Division.

I put three new things to the test this weekend, and I’m not sure how much each factored in my first national event title ever and my first tourney victory and a couple of years. But I have to assume that my new workout regimen with B Fit 4 Tennis with Lee Whigham in Naples, the new Kirschbaum PX string (the newest member of the Pro Line family) I have been testing, and the Oasis Electrolyte Energy Drink I used this weekend all contributed something to the victories.

I owe Orlando Ferrer-Chacin of Land Sharks Tennis a big thank you for introducing me to Lee Whigham of Be Fit 4 Tennis through his website, and muchas gracias to Eduardo Jimenez of Kirschbaum USA for always being extremely responsive to my requests to try new Kirschbaum strings.

I have a long way to go as far as my fitness goes (click here for workout sample), and I’ve only been playing with the new strings for a few weeks (review to come), but I’m looking forward to being competitive again. I plan to keep up the workouts, and to playing as many events as feasible. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that these nagging aches and pains don’t get any worse…and the tennis gods stay on my side.

Park Meadow Club Championships
Twenty-three mixed doubles teams in three divisions (7.0, 8.0, 9.0) participated this past Saturday in the first leg of Park Meadow’s Club Championships. According to Oliver Stenger, Owner, “We had some really good teams and some quality play. Everyone had a good time.”

The 7.0 Division fielded 11 teams, and Cindy Cheslosky and Mark Shears took home the Division Championship, despite finishing second in their flight. Cindy and Mark finished second to Anna and Jeff in Flight 2, but beat Flight 3 Winners, Laura and Tyler Delucca 8-6 in the semis.

Anna and Jeff Jordan also won 8-6 in the semis over Flight 1 Winners, Nicole LeFebvre and Michel Bergevin, and were probably feeling pretty confident going into the final, considering their 8-4 win over Cindy and Mark during flight play. However, with the title on the line, Cindy and Mark emerged with the 8-5 victory.

In the 8.0 Division, two flights of four teams vied for the honors. Michelle Rygiel and Charlie Bisbee took Flight 1, while Kaye and Dave Warner claimed Flight 2. When the two teams faced off in the Final, Kaye and Dave went down 2-5, but clawed back to win the Championship 8-6.

The 9.0 Division featured the cream of the Park Meadow crop, With Sandy Miller and Oliver meeting Edita and Steve Hedrick in the Final. Proving false the old adage that husband and wife shouldn’t play together, Edita and Steve took the title match 8-5.

FGCU Suffers Road Rash Last Week
It was a tough road trip for the Eagles this past week as they traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina and Johnson City, Tennessee, and suffered Conference losses toUniversity of South Carolina Upstate (USC Upstate) and East Tennessee StateUniversity (ETSU).  The Eagles were coming off a nice home stretch where they had posted a 5-1 record.

On Friday the 23rd, the boys in green and blue posted one point when they took two of three doubles matches. Jackson Moore and Tianyu Bao continued to struggle in the No.1 Doubles position falling 2-8, but the No.2 team of Matt Rock and Lance Lvovsky continued their string of victories, and Dean Tsamas and Mike Beiler gutted out a 9-7 win at No.3 dubs. The Eagles struggled mightily in singles, losing all six matches, with Lance being the only player to take a set from the Spartans.   

The Eagles’ struggles continued during Saturday’s match against ETSU, as Mother Nature wasn’t kind to them and forced them indoors due to inclement weather. The potent ETSU attack (they’re 4-0 in Conference play) and unfamiliar environment resulted in the first shutout loss of the season for the Eagles.

The boys in green and blue won’t have long to lick their wounds, as they face No.50-ranked North Florida at home this Thursday night, at 7pm. The Eagles will need as much support as the local tennis community can muster, as North Florida boasts the best overall record in the ASC, despite losing 3-4 to ETSU.

 Coach C. J. Weber is hoping that his boys will show some resilience now that they are back at home, and will bounce back from the tough road losses. I plan to be there Thursday night and I’m looking forward to seeing some of you tennis aficionados out there are well. If you can’t make it out to Thursday’s match, the Eagles take on Jacksonville at home on Saturday morning at 10:30.

USTA League Captains Win Trip to Sony Ericsson
Joy Dickie & Debbie Rathje
So it pays to attend a USTA League Team Captains’ Meeting…well at least it does for lucky raffle winners. The latest winners in the “Captains’ Meeting Sweepstakes” are Joy Dickey of Fort Myers Racquet Club and Debbie Rathje of Fiddlesticks Country Club. Each won a pair of day and evening tickets for this past Sunday’s matches at the Sony Ericsson in Miami.

According to Jon McVety, USTA Florida’s Local League Coordinator for or local 50+ Senior Doubles, Senior Combo & Senior Mixed Leagues, the giveaways happen at every Captains’ Meeting. I’m guessing the usual gifts aren’t as, shall we say, “rich” as Sony tickets? Congrats ladies. Hope you had a great time!

Park Meadow Tennis Shop Announces New Website
Seems like the Sony is the hottest thing going right now. Just in case you don’t already know, Park Meadow Tennis Shop has announced its new website and it just so happens that Elaine (the Owner) is offering TWO box seats for the Sony Women's Singles Finals and the Men's Doubles Finals on Saturday, March 31, AND a VIP parking pass. That’s BOX SEATS, AND VIP PARKING? Sweet!

How can you be in the running for such a terrific prize? I could tell you, but that would defeat the purpose. The whole thing about the prize is to get you to go check out the new website. So if you would like to be in those box seats after taking advantage of your VIP parking, I suggest you click this link or the one above.

LCCTA Awarded $100k
Speaking of things people are getting and may get, the Lee CountyCommunity Tennis Association (LCCTA) was awarded $100, 000 ($50k from USTA FL & $50k from USTA Nat’l). According to the USTA’s press release, “The amount will be distributed over a three-year period to build new and adapt current tennis courts to accommodate 10 and Under Tennis, as well as support new programs.”

If you haven’t heard about the USTA’s relatively new 10 and under initiative, you probably haven’t been paying much attention. I can’t remember any initiative being more publicized. If you would like to know more about the 10 and Under push, click here to visit the USTA’s page on the topic, or here for the LCCTA’s website.

I'm looking forward to this coming weekend as there is plenty more on tap for tennis lovers. Stay tuned. Game, set, match...T A

Monday, March 19, 2012

USPTA Adds Divisions to Clay Court Championships

Have you ever belonged to an organization and wondered, “Why am I paying memberships dues again?” I know I have belonged to such organizations. I have found myself wondering why organizations are often so nonresponsive to the membership, without which, there would be no organization.

Well this particular post is about an organization that has been responsive to its membership…at least in this particular case. The organization is the United States Professional Tennis Association, “the oldest and largest association of tennis-teaching professionals” (

Here’s the story: A couple of weeks ago, my friend Eric Ernstrom called me and notified me that the USPTA National Clay Court Championships were coming up at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens this month. With a little more time on my hands than I have had for a few years, and with the body feeling less than horrible, I began thinking about it.

Soon thereafter, I received “official” notice from the USPTA, and went to the site suggested to register for the event. Well, I’m looking down the list of events, and thinking, “This must be a typo. There’s no Men’s 50s!” There were Men’s 45s, and Men’s 55s, but no 50s.

Well, it wasn’t a typo, and I really wasn’t planning on shelling out a hefty entry fee, booking a hotel room, and hiking across the State to play in the 45s, because regardless of how well I did (and I wouldn’t expect to do too well), I wouldn’t get any points for my age group. It just seemed odd to me, given that the 50s Division at USPTA Florida Fast-Dry Courts and 10s Tennis Supply Grand Prix Circuit events is usually a relatively well-populated division.

So I emailed Trish Faulkner, Tournament Director, and Mike Baldwin, USPTA Florida Grand Prix Chairman, and asked why we didn’t have a 50s Division. I was just seeking an explanation, and didn’t for a moment expect anything to be done. Not too long after I sent the email, Mike Baldwin called me, and we chat about why there might not have been a 50s Division. He said he would check into it and get back to me.

The next day Mike called me again and reported that he had spoken with Trish and had spoken with the National USPTA office and the upshot was that Men’s 50s and 60s Singles and Women’s 50s Doubles events had been added to the USPTA Clay Court Championships.

Great! I had already registered to play Mixed Doubles at my local Club this weekend, and would now have to make a difficult call. Difficult call aside, however, the crux of the matter is that the USPTA responded to feedback from its membership, and acted in a manner conducive to member satisfaction.

The USPTA functioned as an organization should, at both the local and national levels. Having listened to feedback from Florida USPTA professionals, Mike Baldwin and Trish Faulkner served as local liaisons to the National office, and National, most likely Gary Trost (Vice President) and Rich Fanning (Director of Operations), responded as one would hope the upper echelon of a national organization would. 

 According to Baldwin, the National office assured our Florida liaisons that, “Our hands weren’t tied as far as the divisions were concerned.” Baldwin also noted that Chuck Gill, Director of Tennis at Ibis Country Club, which had hosted the National Clay courts for the past several years, had been a valuable informational resource and source of guidance in the matter.

Because of the efforts by Mike Baldwin and Trish Faulkner, I will trek across the State this weekend, and I will give it my best shot in the Men’s 50s. Regardless of the outcome, when it is all over, I will have gladly represented the USPTA, both local and national. Game, set, match…T A 

Tennis Cranks up as Season Winds Down

Catching up to all that’s happening in tennis is like catching up to a Stenger drop shot! Things are still hopping around here.

Just this past Thursday, the FGCU Men’s Tennis team pulled off a really nice come-from-behind-win against Mercer (click here for recap) to go 2-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASC). The Eagles have another important match against a conference opponent on Friday, when they take on University of South Carolina, Upstate.

Julia gets the "W!"
On Friday, Park Meadow Tennis Center hosted the season’s final edition of the Masters Pro League (click here for recap), and on Sunday morning, a new tennis star was born: Julia Curran won her very first tournament at Three Oaks Park. In response to the win, her dad Mike said, “At least one Curran can still win.”

Julia played in the Lee County CTA Rookie Hard Court, winning her first two matches in straight sets. She knocked off the No.2 Seed in the semis, and faced the No.1 Seed, Nikki Perrino of Naples in the final. Julia lost the first set 3-6, but dug in and took the second set, 6-4.

Nothing like playing a super-tiebreak first time out the blocks, huh? In about as momentous a struggle as one can experience in a 12-and-under event, Julia battled her way to an 11-9 victory to claim her first (of many I predict) tournament title.

Lynn Bruner, the tournament director seemed to be about as pleased with the event as the Currans. She noted, “The CTA [Lee County Community TennisAssociation (LCCTA)] has been running rookie tournaments for about five years now, and this is the most players we’ve had in a rookie tournament.” Way to go LCCTA, way to go Julia!

Other local winners include Sangee Prieto in Girls’ 10, Gianna Drayer in Girls’ 14, Adrian Vera of Fort Myers in the Boys’ 12, Dylan Whiteside of Fort Myers in Boys’ 14, and Joshua Galang in Boys’ 16. There just may be some future stars in this group as well.

While the newcomers were playing the Rookie tourney, the big-hitters were playing a Super Series event in Naples at Cambier Park. The draws haven’t been updated, but John Carlin of Fort Myers had reached the quarterfinal in the Boys’ 14 Singles, then teamed with Philippe Niño of Naples to win the Boys’ 14 Doubles.

Brandon Wortkotter of Fort Myers, seeded fourth in the Boys’ 16s, was also at play in Naples. He reached the quarters before falling to No.7 Seed Sean Chi of Weston. Chi was the only players to take a set from eventual winner, sixth-seeded Oscar Janglin of Sarasota.

Shani Idlette of Fort Myers was the No.8 Seed in the Girls’ 12, and she made it to the quarters before losing to No.1 Seed Jenna Dean.  Fifth-seeded Viva Laas of Bonita Springs reached the quarters as well, but had to withdraw due to illness.  

Ja’Cara Gillis of Fort Myers was seeded first in the Girls’ 14, but fell to eventual winner, Victoria Emma of Naples in the semis. Emma fed the finalist a double bagel, so she obviously brought considerable to the table.

In the Girls’ 16, Rebecca Morse of Fort Myers came in as the No.1 Seed and did all she could to maintain that seeding. Her very first match was a tough one, winning 6-1, 4-6, 10-5 in the super-tiebreak. She played two close sets in the semis, winning 7-5, 6-4, then had a fierce battle with eventual winner, third-seeded Maria Breast of Pembroke Pines in the final.

After dropping the first set 2-6, Rebecca clawed her way back to win the second 7-5. A tooth-and-nail scrape ensued in the third-set-super-tiebreak, with Maria claiming a 13-11 victory. Not to be denied a title, Rebecca partnered with Thandiwe Kangwa to win the Girls’ 16 Doubles, getting the best of Maria and Natalie Amortegui of Weston 8-6 in the Final.

I’m sure there has been much more happening, particularly with teams and leagues, and I’m working on getting something out on those. There’s good stuff on the horizon too. Park Meadow is continuing its fast and furious finish to the season with Club Championships the next two weekends, and Madisen’s match is coming up as well on the 31st. Shoot me an email if you want to get the word out. Until next, game, set, match…T A