The moment we have waited for is here! It is Finals Saturday in the Ultimate Tennis League. Everyone playing at the Longwood Athletic Club in Sarasota on Saturday will have earned the right to be there, having expended an abundance of energy and sweat on the tennis courts. I’m also willing to bet that everyone there also will have done considerable work on their games over the past couple of months.
As usual, the coverage in this blog is pretty much limited to players who call the Greater Fort Myers area home, so the following is about those in the area who made it to the Finals. So what’s in store on Saturday?
In the Men’s 5.5 Final, I will be facing No.6 Seed (LOL, forgive me!) Damir Sejdic of Sarasota at 12:30pm. In my semifinal match, Jarrod Goare didn’t make it easy for me by any means. He had taken me down in straight sets when we played in the regular season, and if his serve had been on this past Monday, I probably would have gone down in straight sets then as well…but aren’t there always some “ifs” anytime there is a contest?
The bottom line is that I hung in there, worked as hard as I have in a match in a very, very long time, and was rewarded with the “W.” The final score: 6-4 (after being down 2-4), 3-6 (after being up 2-0, and Jarrod serving at 15-40), 11-9 in the super tiebreak (after being up 8-5, then down 8-9 with Jarrod serving). Chalk one up for the AARP crowd! I hope I don’t have another 30-year-old in the Final…unless I win of course.
Speaking of the Final, I can’t figure out how my opponent is seeded sixth! Let’s see…Sejdic has won two of the last three 5.5 UTL Leagues and was a finalist in the third. He will be going for the “three-peat” when we play. Sixth seed? I suspect I am in for one heck of a match.
Anybody with the smarts to figure out how to work the system well enough to be two-time Defending Champion and yet earn just a sixth seed, is going to be very tough. And, perhaps he has figured that losing or winning three-setters in tiebreaks is the way to go. Sejdic played eight tiebreaks this past season, including playoffs, winning six of them. I wouldn’t be surprised to play one or more in the Final.
No.2 Seed Miguel Scheel, of Bella Terra in Estero, fell short in last summer’s UTL 4.5 Division Final, but is in the Final of the 5.0 Division in his first effort in that division. Scheel posted an undefeated record this season, defeating No.3 Seed Matthew Roszkowski 7-6, 6-4 in the Semis for his ninth consecutive win. Scheel will battle No.4 Seed Michael Gough of Sarasota, an 11-season, UTL veteran who upset No.1 Seed Tom Buzas 7-6, 6-4 in the Semis. They play at 12:30pm.
No.1 Seed Monroe Smith of Paseo had a tad more trouble dispatching No. 4 Seed Jack Karkis, also of Paseo, in their semifinal match than he did in their regular season meeting. Smith defeated Karkis 6-4, 6-4, after having beaten him 6-2, 6-4 in Week 3 of the regular season.
Smith will take on first-time UTL player and No.15 Seed Frank Joseph of Palmetto, who defeated Denis Rey of Sarasota 7-5, 6-4 in the other semifinal match. Joseph won a tough one in the Quarters over No.2 Seed Ron Greene (4-6, 7-5, 7-6) before winning his next two matches in straight sets, so Smith has a battle on his hands. They play at 10am.
Timothy Kenaga of Jim Jeffers Park in Cape Coral, will face Alberto del Valle of Three Oaks Park in Fort Myers in the Men’s 3.0 Final. It will be a rematch of the straight-set victory Kenaga posted over del Valle during the regular season. They play at 12:30pm.
Neither of the Gateway Country Club semifinalists reached the Final this time around, as Sandy Mooney of Osprey got past Mary Beth Brunner in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) in one Semifinal, and Susan Adrian of Ave Maria ground out a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Lisa Gottesman in the other. The two will meet at 10am for bragging rights.
Renee Bailin, playing out of Cape Coral Racquet Club, will meet Sue Anderson of Venice in the Final of the Women’s 3.5 Division at 10am. Renee is in her debut UTL season, so reaching the Final is quite an accomplishment. Seeded fourth, Renee downed No.1 Seed Cynthia Dietz in the Semis, 6-2, 4-6, retired. An injury forced Cynthia to pull out of what should have been one heck of a third set.
Renee will have her work cut out for her in the Final against Anderson, who has won four consecutive three-set matches, three in these Playoffs! In her semifinal match, Anderson edged No.2 Seed Juvy Sutherland 3-6, 7-5, 7-6. That victory was vindication for the 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 loss to Sutherland in Week 2, the only three-set loss on her record this season. I’m hoping to catch some of this one!
Also at 10am, it will be No.3 Seed Jenny MacDermott of Fort Myers Racquet Club and No.4 Seed Julia Owens of Cape Coral in the Final of the Women’s 3.0 Division. MacDermott moved on to the Final under unfortunate circumstances (injury and controversy) surrounding her 7-5, 3-3 (retired) semifinal victory over seventh-seeded Joy Dickey.
Owens moved past Virginia Forget of Estero in three sets, posting a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 come-from-behind victory. Owens got off to a slow start this season, losing her first match, but was not threatened the rest of the way in her division. MacDermott lost just one match herself during the regular season, so this Final ought to be pretty competitive as well.
I hope to be reporting back as this season's Ultimate Tennis 5.5 Champion, but regardless of the outcome, it has been a rewarding season. Oh, and let me remind you once again that you, too, can get in the game, be it singles, doubles or mixed, by logging onto the Ultimate Tennis website and registering. The singles deadline is fast approaching (May 25th), but you have some time for doubles and mixed. This ain't EA Sports, but "Get in da Game!" Game, set, match...T. A.