Friday, April 6, 2012

USPTA Pro League Playoff Recap

Note: Photo recovery process underway. Sorry for inconvenience! 

The final edition of the 2011 - 2012 Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League  season was played before another standing-room only crowd at Legends Golf & Country Club on Friday March 30th. Spectators, numbering in the neighborhood of 500, filled the stands and lined the courts…both inside and outside the fences. 
Todd Wise, director of tennis, made sure everything was running smoothly, then got on the court to play himself. While he played, General Manager Ranae Frazier cruised the grounds greeting guests and making sure that all in attendance had their needs met. It was just one of the several extra touches that made the playoff venue and experience topnotch.

Those extra touches included: multiple volunteers waiting at the gate to direct traffic and handout specially printed Pro League passes; a parking area reserved for players; multiple bartenders and other foodservice personnel on hand; and access to the pool for a special little six-year old. And those were just the tangibles.  

On the court at Legends, THE story of the final day, perhaps the entire season, was the undefeated finish of Manuel Encalada of Cascades and Tyler Owens of Fiddlesticks, who teamed at First Doubles for Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA) against some quality opponents. 

This past season was only my fourth or fifth in the Fort Myers USPTA Pro League, but I do not recall any team going the entire season undefeated, and definitely not at the top position. Kudos to Manuel and TO for the “perhaps” unprecedented feat!

FYI, the way the system worked this year was that the money in the pot was distributed so that the team finishing atop the point standings would earn the most and the fourth-place team would earn the least. You know I was not happy being on the bottom-feeding team! Oh well...

So what was at stake at Legends in this climax of the Pro League season? Well, in this final contest, individual match results would determine what portion of the remaining  prize money players would reap. If you won, you got more money than if you lost. Sorry, can't provide numbers as it is a matter of national security...or at least league security.

So let's take a look at who dipped deeper into the pot, shall we?

1st-place Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA) 


2nd-place Auto Drive (AD) 

Court 1
Manuel and Tyler (BRA) took on Denny Rager and Jared Kalpin, and as you already know, they got the victory. When I heard the score I couldn’t believe it, because I think it was the longest match of the 4pm session. The score was 6-3, 6-3, but Denny and Jared made it feel like 7-6, 6-7, 7-6. They battled the unbeatables, but couldn’t bring them down.

Court 2 

As they have done all season, Frank Fourgeau (Gulf Harbour) and Luke Andreae (Punta Gorda Club) of BRA dropped their first set 3-6 against Elliott DeBolt (The Vines) and Kevin Kearns, before coming back to take the final two sets 6-1, 6-2. Frank and Luke were one of the more successful duos this season; although they went to a third set of third-set super-tiebreak almost every match. 

Court 3

BRA Captain Jim Katterfield (Shadow Wood) and Fred Hindle (Three Oaks Park) had been one of the dominant teams early in the season, but didn’t finish as strongly as they would have liked. In their habitual fashion, they went to a third-set super-tiebreak. They won the first set 6-2 against Alex Hermeto (Gateway) and John Jerome (Wildcat Run), lost the second 5-7, and fell 10-6 in the super-tiebreak.

Court 4  
Rob Vinal (Dunes) of AutoDrive got a little payback for the last time he Faced Rick Calton (Bonita Bay). This time he partnered with Larry “The Legend” Gagnon (Plantation) against Rick and Mark Owens (sub), and won 6-4, 7-5. The last time he played with Alex Hermeto and Rick played with Dave Dooley (Shadow Wood) and lost 5-7, 6-4. Guess they are all square now. 

Mixed Doubles
Terry See (Cypress Lake) and Belinda Dufrene (sub), representing AD, took on Jeff Timmer (Colonial) and Erica Cossairt (Cape Coral Racquet). The last time Terry met Jeff and Erica the score was probably the worst he had posted in Pro League. 

 This time around, it didn’t start well for Terry either when he and Belinda lost the first set 4-6. But Jeff and Erica couldn’t finish them off, and Terry and Belinda too the second 7-6. The third-set super-tiebreak went to 10-7, with Terry and Belinda claiming the victory. Now that’s more like a Terry See score!

3rd-place Johnny Malloy’s (JM) 


4th-place Harborside Dental (HD) 

Court 1
HD Captain Mike “Curr Dawg” Curran (Gulf Harbour) and Sergio Rebolledo (Gulf Harbour) played tough against JM's Co-Captains Scott “Slap it Hard” Harrington (Landings) and Shawn Hedrick (Strand). Despite Harrington’s five aces in a row (has to be another Pro League record), Mike and Serg took the match 6-4, 6-2. 

I know Da Dawg is happy to get the W and put this season behind him. Finishing last in the standings is something he nor anyone else on our team is used to nor expected. We’ll utter the famous losers’ cry, “Next Year!”

Court 2 

Jeremy Orme and I got the jump on Patrick Kangwa and Jeff Diggs (Fiddlesticks), taking the first set 6-2. However, as I told Jeremy, it was not time to celebrate. The match was far from over. 

The second set went much the way I imagined it would with Patrick and Jeff serving and returning much better than they had in the first set. Just one break of serve decided the second, and we took it 7-5. Nice to close with consecutive wins.

Court 3

Mike Lawver (Heritage Palms) and Mark Drons (Vasari) of HD had lost a tough super-tiebreak match to Todd Wise (Legends) and Jorge Magalhaes (Lighthouse Bay), and the battle was no less fierce this time around.

Todd and Jorge won the first 6-4, but back came Lawver & Dronsy with a 6-4-set of their own. The super-tiebreak went 10-6 in Todd and Jorge’s favor last time. This time it was in Lawver and Dronsy’s favor. 

Court 4
Anthony Hatori (Pelican Sound) and Steve Shortridge (Colonial) of JM had been breaking hearts all season, and they ended the season that way as well. They took on Toni Halski (Beachview) and Fran Coryell (South Seas), both experiencing their toughest Pro League seasons.

As was the case from Day 1, Fran and Tony left it all out on the court, but when it was all said and done, it was Anthony and Steve who walked away with the 6-1, 3-6, 12-10 (ST) win! At least it’s over huh Fran, Toni?   

Mixed Doubles

I don’t suppose anyone would be surprised to find out that Christie Bradley (Sanctuary) and Dan Moenning (Punta Gorda Club) played yet another super-tiebreak match, would it? Didn’t think so. Well, Christie and Dan, playing for HD, took on Kerry Kendrick (Casa Ybel) and Armor Persons.

Although the first set doesn’t really matter when these folks get together (super tiebreaks every time), Christie and Dan took the first set 6-4. Who knows what happened, but it appears Kerry and Armor turned up the volume, but Christie and Dan weren’t listening. The second set went 6-1 and the not-so-super-tiebreak was 10-3 in Kerry and Armor’s favor.

Final Chapter of 2011 - 2012
Although my team finished at the bottom of the heap, I had a great time as usual at Pro League. Some of the regular spectators who come to match after match, season after season are like old friends that you get to see every couple of weeks. For those of us who like to compete, we know we have that competitive camaraderie every two weeks.

The venues usually are terrific and most of them were this season as well. Thanks to the host clubs, the club members and other fans who come out; thanks to Commissioner Katterfield and the team captains who make it happen every fortnight; and HUGE THANKS to the sponsors, especially our title sponsor Ritzman Tennis, who pay the bills. We hope to see every single one of you out there next year! Game, set, match...T A

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