Tuesday, July 31, 2012

At 95th Annual ATA National Championships

2012 ATA Nationals Tourney Desk
I wonder how many of you would know what, in tennis terms, ATA stands for, had I the opportunity to ask you? If you happened to be a diehard tennis fan, and of African Descent (commonly referred to as “Black”) you just might know. Otherwise, regardless of your heritage, there’s a good chance you would have no clue.
Big things were happening in 1916. Pancho Villa (freedom fighter or rebel, depending on your perspective) was on the run with President Woodrow Wilson’s troops in pursuit; China’s last Emperor stepped down; Daylight Savings Time was born in Britain; the Boy Scouts were born in the U. S.; the first woman was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives; and, relevant to this piece, the American Tennis Association (ATA) was born.
Unlike other organizations that contain terms like “Black,” or “African American” in their names, the ATA gives no hint that it is an organization which arose from the bowels of racism. It may be uncomfortable for many in today’s world to discuss, hear or read about racism in the United States of America; however, unlike today, where it may be argued (futilely in my opinion) that racism is dead, in 1916 there was no doubt that the scourge of human society was alive and well.
In response to denied opportunities, a group of African American businessmen, professors and physicians, created the ATA. In 1916, people of African descent had no access to competition sanctioned by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA), the entity that governed tennis in the U. S. in the early portion of the 20th century. Since that time, according to the ATA website, the ATA “has become a Mecca for blacks - from all walks of life –who yearn to enjoy the camaraderie and competition offered by a sport for youngsters from 8 to 80.”
Althea Gibson
Included on the rolls of the ATA’s most notable historical members are Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, Zina Garrison, and Lori McNeil, all of whom were ranked in the top ten on their respective professional tours. A number of others attained top hundred rankings on the ATP and WTA tours, including Chip Hooper (17), MaliVai Washington (11), Rodney Harmon (56) on the former, and Leslie Allen (21), Camille Benjamin (21), and Katrina Adams (67), a Tennis Channel staple, on the latter.
T. A. at ATA
I won’t ever be mistaken for being an ATA notable, but I certainly remember the days when my former coach and current friend, Phil Gordon of Hartford CT, would take a group of juniors to the ATA/NETA event at Yale in New Haven, CT. What an event that was!
As a junior player learning the game, it was an inspiration for me to see vast numbers of men, women and children encompassing a wide variety of ethnic groups and ages gathered to share, not just competition, but the communal camaraderie as intended by the founders. Here was a venue where being colorful was the norm, where displays of superb athleticism were commonplace…And how I wanted to win one of those events.
As a junior I never did, but years later, after returning to the game and again under Phil Gordon’s tutelage, I won the Open Division, and was in the Final of the Doubles and Mixed Doubles as well. It was well into the night when the sun set on my day of tennis, and I had one winner’s trophy and a hospital stay to show for it. It was totally worth it!
T A at ATA Nationals
Today, I played my first ATA tennis match in 25 years, at the 95th Annual ATA National Championships, at The Tennis Club of Fort Lauderdale. Although it wasn’t the caliber of competition I have grown accustomed to in USTA sanctioned events, the experience was still a good one. I expect I’ll have all I can handle before it’s all over, so I’ll just gratefully accept today’s W.
Lonnie White of Moultrie, GA
No.1 Seed Men's 50
There were only 10 players in my event, the Men’s 50s, but there were nine States represented. Of course I ended up playing the only other player from Florida, William House of Coral Springs, but we had a good time out there, despite the skill disparity. See, although we all want to win, it isn’t ALL about the winning. 
William House
The jocular banter and witty verbal exchanges are as much a part of some of the matches as forehands and backhands. Uh, there are also some exchanges that the participants wouldn’t want recorded, but it can’t be all good, can it?
Jim Garner
In any event, reconnecting with individuals I hadn’t seen in years, such as Jim Garner, who captained a team for which I played in Miami; and Harrell Thomas, one of the first Area League Coordinators for Junior Team Tennis, when USTA Florida was still the Florida Tennis Association (FTA); and to have Tim McClary come across the alley to watch was priceless regardless of the eventual outcome for me on court.
That said, the number of participants was disappointing. I remember full draws and throngs of people at the events I went to as a youth. I’m also not thrilled with having to wait until Thursday (10am) to play my next match, but I will make the most of the experience. Until next, game, set, match…T. A.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Latest in Lee County Tennis

If it seems as though this post is dominated by USTA Florida tennis, that’s because it is.

USTA Leagues
First off, let’s give Fort Myers Racquet Club (FMRC) some props. The guys from FMRC just keep getting it done in USTA League play. Their 3.5 men, led by Dan Campbell, are the Regional Champs of the Adult Winter League, and will represent Region 7 at sectionals in Daytona August 10-12.  Earlier this year, the 3.5 guys from FMRC, captained by Kevin Gaines, represented our area at Sectionals in the Senior League, reaching the final before falling to Marion/Fort King Tennis Center.

USTA Community Outreach Committee
USTA Florida continues to be active in our area. If you remember from previous blogs, USTA Florida announced a part-time position for a Target Market Coordinator for 10-and-Under Tennis in Lee County and also contributed $50k to the Lee County Community Tennis Association (LCCTA) in their efforts to grow the game.

The latest USTA Florida initiative in Lee County area is to reach out for someone from Lee County to serve on a new Community Outreach Committee (COC). The mission of the COC is “to support community tennis so that tennis participation and tennis programming increases at the local level.”

After consulting with a number of knowledgeable Lee County tennis community members, including former President and current Interim Director of the LCCTA, Committee chairperson, Deb Anderson asked me represent our area on the committee. I accepted the invitation, and am now your representative on the COC.

I’ll be sharing more about my role as it becomes more clearly defined. I hope you will be willing to share your thoughts with me about what we can do in our community to maximize your tennis experience, and to keep expanding the game in our community.

Host a USTA National Event
One of the things we could do to enhance our area’s tennis profile is to host a national USTA event, and such an opportunity is imminent! Do you have four or more clay courts at your club or facility? Is your facility a USTA member organization? Would you like to host a National USTA event? If you’ve answered yes to all three, then you can submit a bid to host the 2012 USTA National Husband/Wife Mixed Clay Court Championships this October, on or about the weekend of the 12th.  

The deadline to submit your bid is by noon this coming Friday, August 3.  And you can do so by clicking here or copying and pasting the following link in your web browser:   http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/3374g50633. For additional information, you may contact Theresa Bowen at 914-696-7150.

95th Annual ATA Nationals
Regardless of the state of my tennis game, I just love competing and putting myself to the test. That’s just what I’ll be doing this coming week at the 95th Annual American Tennis Association (ATA) National Championships in Fort Lauderdale.

“What’s the ATA?” you ask? The short answer is that it is a tennis organization created in 1916 to provide an opportunity for people of African descent to compete in sanctioned tennis events. I’m working on a piece on the ATA, so if you’re interested I’ll tell you more then.

Meanwhile, I’ll be playing the Men’s 50 Singles starting Tuesday morning. It has been 25 years since the last time I played an ATA event, and although I won at least one of the three finals I played in then (might have been two but can’t remember), I ended up in the hospital after nine hours of tennis. I think I’ll stick to one event this time.

Look at the time! As much as I like writing about tennis, I prefer playing, so off to Park Meadow, where Michelle Rygiel and I will take the court against Kelly Greens in 9.0 Mixed Doubles. Enjoy the Olympics! Oh, tennis is being shown on Bravo (237 on DirecTV, 51 on Comcast) from 7am – 3pm. Game, set, match…T. A.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Florida Open Scores Again

Despite weather that would drive any tournament director batty, Paul D’Amico, Director of Tennis at the Landings Yacht, Golf, and Tennis Club and his staff brought the USTA Jr. Regional Florida Open to a successful conclusion. Tournament draws included Boys’ and Girls’ 18s and 16s, and the Greater Fort Myers-Naples area had a number of participants among the more than 250 in the event. The Naples contingent produced the only standout performance, which was in the Girls’ 18s.   

Girls 18s
Nikki Kallenberg of Naples
Unseeded Nikki Kallenberg of Naples showed why she was named 2012 Girls Tennis Player of the Year by the Naples News. I’m not sure why Kallenberg wasn’t seeded and Vivienne David of Naples was (seeded 9th), since Kallenberg is ranked higher by the USTA, but such was the case.

Perhaps that is why Kallenberg played like she had something to prove. She didn’t lose a game in her first match, made No.2 Seed Kate Vialle of Leawood, KS quit after the first set (7-5), served up a second-set bagel to her third opponent, and knocked off No.9 Seed Sonja Radosevic of Miami in a straight-set quarterfinal match.

No. 7 Seed and Eventual Champion Maria Shishkina of Bradenton was a bit much for Kallenberg to overcome in the Semis, but Kallenberg defeated yet another seed, Bennett Dunn (9) of Plantation in a hard-fought three-setter to claim third place. Kallenberg can add Florida Open “Outstanding Local Performer” honors to her list of accolades for 2012.

Vivienne David made it through her first round match, but fell in a tough three-setter to Athena Trouillot of Miami in her second match. Jemileth Aguilar of Naples wasn’t seeded, but won her first match against the No.6 Seed Yasmin Franklin of Largo in three sets, before losing to Gabrielle Wreder in straight sets in her next match.
Girls' 18s Champion
Maria Shishkina of Bradenton

Media darling and 13-year-old (14 next week) phenom, No.7 Seed Maria Shiskina of Bradenton won the Girls’ 18s in a three-setter against 14-year-old (15 in two days) No.1 Seed Katerina Stewart of Miami. Before the Final, Stewart hadn’t lost more than four games in a match and Shishkina hadn’t lost more than five. The Final went 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 in Shishkina’s favor.

Boys' 18s
Henrik Wiersholm
Oliver Landert had the best showing of any of the locals in the Boys 18s. Despite being unseeded, Landert reached the Quarters, before being ousted by No.3 Seed Henrik Wiersholm of Kirkland, WA. En route to the Quarters, Landert defeated No.6 Seed Justin Butsch of Miami Beach in straight sets.

Adam Hamilton
Both of our Fort Myers entries in the Boys 18s fell in the first round. Parker Cuevas-Woodall exited in three tough sets against Jorge Vargas of Naples, and Adam Hamilton of MAD Academy lost to Parker Hayslett of Clearwater in straight sets. Somehow, with 32 players moving into consolation after the first round, Adam had to player the only other Parker in the draw in his second match. That’s right, our Parker. 

Boys' 18 Champion
Chase Perez-Blanco
When it was all over, Adam was 1-1 against the Parkers in the event. After the killer three-setter that Parker C-W had played in his first round, he just didn’t have the gas to go the distance, and Adam posted a 6-3, 4-1 victory. Adam fell to the No.8 Seed in the following round.

Unseeded Chase Perez-Blanco of Miami claimed the Boys’ 18s, dropping just one set in the event, and beating the third and first seeds in the Semis and Finals respectively. The one lost set was against No.3 Seed Wiersholm in the Semis. He defeated No.1 Seed Trey Strobel 6-2, 7-5 in the Final.

Boys’ 16s
Unseeded Alan Sweet of Naples logged the best performance of the locals in the Boys’ 16s. Sweet posted three wins, including one over No.6 Seed Zach Fryer of Centennial, CO, in reaching the Quarters. Sweet fell to Robby Morin of Boca Raton, who eventually took finalist honors.

William Shisler of Naples was the only other local to win a match in the Boys’ 16s. Shisler won his first match and gave No.1 Seed Greg Anderson of Tucson, AZ a scare in Round 2 when he took the first set 6-1. Anderson recovered shortly thereafter and won sets two and three handily.

Boys' 16s Champion Alex Knight
Third-seeded Alex Knight of Miami Shores took the Boys’16s, dropping only one set and deposing top seed Anderson and Finalist Morin in straight sets in the Semis and Finals respectively.

Girls’ 16s
Girls' 16s Finalist
Victoria Flores
Ninth-seeded Thandiwe Kangwa of Fort Myers was the only local to win a match in the Girls’ 16s, and what a match it was. Kangwa battled but lost the first set 5-7 to Kylee Shipley of West Palm Beach, but hung tough in the sweltering heat and claimed the final two sets 6-4, 6-3. That match took its toll, however, and Kangwa wasn’t able to finish her next match against, unseeded eighth-grader and eventual Finalist, Victoria Flores of Fort Dodge, IA.

No.8 Seed Rachel Rohrabacher of Tampa won the Girls’16s in straight sets over Flores. Rohrabacher survived a quarterfinal scare against Brianna Lashway of Bradenton in the Round of 16 in which she lost a first-set tiebreak, but won the final two sets and didn’t drop another en route to taking the Championship.

As usual, it was great to see members of the various participating clubs volunteering to make this event the success that is and has been over the years. I’m sure the players also appreciated the local tennis fans who came out to the various venues to watch the matches. I look forward to the 2013 edition of the Florida Open. Hope you’ll join us for that as well.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Post Wimbledon Thoughts

Federer's Wizardry Prevails
My vocabulary cringes in anticipation of failure! How could I possibly describe that magnificent, virtuoso piece of artistry that Roger Federer treated the tennis world to yesterday. I have not seen every tennis match that has ever been played, so I cannot say that Roger Federer’s performance in the Wimbledon Final was the greatest performance ever, but I can say that it was the finest display of tennis that I have seen, bar none, in my 40-plus years of watching the game.

In baseball I think they check bats to make sure they aren’t corked. In golf they verify that clubs are conforming. Somebody needs to check Roger’s racquet, cuz he sure twirled that thing like it was a magic wand. Most will talk about his tying the most wins in history, and regaining No.1. It was Roger’s artistry that captivated me.

Surely there have been players who have displayed similar effortless power, and there must have been players who have glided as gracefully across the Wimbledon lawns. And without doubt there have been those with maestro’s magic and surgeon’s precision. But has there ever been one to parade them all simultaneously with such seeming ease as did Federer yesterday? I’d have to see it myself to believe it.

Okay, there have been cleaner matches played; after all, Roger did sprinkle 38 unforced errors amidst the deluge of winners that cascaded from his wand…uh, I mean racquet His winner count? That would be 62, the highest single match total in the 26 matches played by the four Semifinalists over the fortnight.

Andy Murray
To put it in perspective, Ivo Karlovic, with his 17 aces (which factor into winner counts), recorded 58 winners in four sets against Murray. Roger dropped 14 more winners than the average against Murray in the other four-setters he played during the event. If you just look at Murray's four-setters without Ivo’s bombs thrown in, then Roger’s tally goes up to 17 more winners than others have hit against Murray on average in four sets.

But those are just numbers and they can’t do Roger’s genius justice. You would have to have seen the point culminating in the drop volley to claim the second set. You would have to have seen, with Murray serving at 1-2, 30-0 in the third, the -how do you describe this- run around, inside out, slice, angled forehand that nosedived inside the service box and off the court for a winner. That had to be one of the sickest (as in, how in da...) shots of all time!

Hopefully you did see it all and therefore understand why I say that, though Nadal and Djokovic may beat Federer 100 times more, Roger is the greatest wielder of a tennis racquet I have ever seen. I could go on for several pages, but perhaps you get the drift. It was the best, most complete display of tennis I have seen from Roger Federer or anyone…ever! Thirty is the new twenty?

Serena Snatches Fifth Title
But there was more than Roger Federer this past weekend at the All England Club. Serena Williams, another who crossed the 30-line, amazed again, but in ways different from Federer. Serena is grit rather than grace, and her power may cause some to overlook her precision. Serena may have more mental lapses than Rafael Nadal during a match, but she is every bit as game, gives every bit as much effort on every point.

Serena has surely been the most dominant player on the WTA Tour for over a decade now, but if Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf had graves, I know they would have turned over in them when Chris Evert said, on the air, that Serena Williams might be the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. Serena can certainly be in the conversation about greatest women players of all time, but Steffi and Martina have done things that no other tennis players, male or female, have done.

But that’s really not the point. What is important is that Serena, when she is playing as she is capable of playing, is the best woman player on the planet now. Remember my writing above about Ivo Karlovic’s 17 aces and 58 winners in four sets? Well, Serena delivered the same in three sets. She served more aces than any other player, male or female, at Wimbledon, and her average winners per match count was right up there with the Men’s Semifinalists.

Agnieszka Radwanska
But you have to give Aga Radwanska a ton of credit. It looked as though she was going to dine on a bagel during breakfast at Wimbledon in that first set, but she dug in and got one game in the set, and battled tooth and nail the rest of the way. I am in no way surprised that Aga gave Serena all she wanted in that second set, but if you look at the numbers, between the first and second sets, there are pretty similar. It was set No.3 where Serena stepped up her return game and cleaned up the winner to unforced error ratio (20/7).

As I suggested before the match, it really was all about Serena and how she played. If she brought her A-game, it was all hers. If she didn’t, then Aga had a chance. In the end, the cream rose and Serena pulled off another double (singles and doubles titles) at Wimbledon.

In Sum
All in all, I am amazed that the tennis continues to get better and better year after year, even when I think there’s no way it could. I can’t imagine the US Open topping what we’ve seen already this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am. Game, set, match…T. A.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wimbledon Finals All Set

The Men's Final
So what’s the lesson from the men’s semis? Bring a big serve to Wimbledon. Roger Federer was impeccable on serve, but for one game in the second set. Andy Murray served his way out of trouble at 5-5 in the fourth set from 15-40 down, and the rest is history.

Key Stats From Federer-Djokovic
Serves aside, the key stat from the Federer-Djokovic match was the 75% and 72% of points Federer won on his first and second serve. Djokovic had a healthy 71% on first serve, but only 57% on second serve. Ordinarily, that’s good enough, but not with Federer returning as well as he has in some time, particularly on the backhand side where he came over the backhand more than usual.

Perhaps the most surprising stat in the Federer-Djokovic match was the disparity in the players’ efficiency rating. Roger ended up with a plus-21 rating with 31 winners to 10 unforced errors. Huh? Roger with only 10 unforced errors in a match? Djokovic on the other hand, was a mere plus-seven, with 28 and 21 winners and unforced errors respectively.

Still, a point of concern for Federer fans should be his break percentage on return, which was a paltry three of 11 for 27%. Fortunately, he only gave Novak three attempts to break his own serve and Novak converted on just one.  Federer will have to play as clean a game on Sunday and hope for some Novak-like struggles from Murray to claim his record-tying seventh Wimbledon Singles Championship.

Is Murray Ready?
Well, I’m almost ready to concede that Murray has finally arrived. He has played back-to-back tremendous matches, playing as offensively as I’ve ever seen him, and defending as well as he normally does. He’s not making nearly as many questionable strategic plays as usual, and he’s hanging tough at crunch time. Ivan Lendl (Murray's relatively new coach) is looking for a raise after this performance from Murray.

Murray is a tough out for anyone when he’s playing to his potential, because he has one of the best serves in the game and is one of the game’s better returners. In the match against Tsonga, Murray won 75% of points on his first serve and a very solid 64% on second serve. With Tsonga serving at 122mph and 97mph on first and second serves respectively, Murray still managed to win a total of 41% overall and a whopping 68% of points on Tsonga’s second serve.

If you thought Roger’s efficiency rating was nice, and it was, Murray’s plus-28 (40 winners, 12 unforced errors) was “redonkulous” as the Curr Dawg might say. With Murray serving and receiving as he is, hitting plenty of winners and making very few errors, Roger has his work cut out for him.  

Come Ready!
One more lesson from the Men’s Semis?  Come ready to play from the opening gun. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga didn’t look as though he came to play until the third set, and by then Andy was pretty comfortable. Novak brought his serve early, but not much else, and he paid the price for it. If they both bring their A-games and the nerves don’t dominate either with so much at stake, Murray would have the edge with his return game. We’ll see on Sunday. The moment may just be too much for the Brit.

The Ladies' Final
Just about everyone is ready to concede the Ladies Final to Serena Williams over Agnieszka Radwanska, and that may just be where the trouble lies. Serena knows that she’s supposed to blow Aga off the court, and so does Aga. We saw what happened to Serena against an opponent she was supposed to crush in the first Round of the French. Didn’t quite go according to the script, did it?

Listen, if Serena pounds another 24 aces, I don’t care who she plays, she wins another Grand Slam title. Serena serves double-digits mph faster than Radwanska on both first and second serves (averaging 107mph and 90mph respectively), and will certainly attack Radwanska’s pedestrian second serve (76mph).

The key is which Serena Williams comes to play. If the 13-time Grand Slam Champion who has been the dominant player in the women’s game for more than a decade. Since 1999, there have been just three years in which Serena has not won a Grand Slam title. No one else can come close to that stat.

If you had $20k and were betting on the match, I would suggest betting $19k on Serena, and $1k on Aga. Radwanska doesn’t have the big guns and have been blown out by the players with bazookas, but she has plenty of grit and gray matter, and if Serena shows weakness, Aga has the stuff to exploit it. Regardless, history is in the making! Hope you catch it. Game, set, match…T. A.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wimbledon Semis: A Look at the Numbers

Wow! How about those quarterfinal matches! Just a little warning for you: If you aren't a numbers person, this may not be your cup of tea. If you are a numbers person, you should love this post. 

A Quick Hit 
The Germans won the numbers game through the Quarterfinals, with four players, two men and two women, making the final eight in their respective draws. No. 8 Seed Angelique Kerber and No.15 Seed Sabine Lisicki faced each other in the Quarters guaranteeing the ouster of one of the Germans left in the Women’s Draw. No.31 Seed Florian Mayer faced No.1 Seed Novak Djokovic and No.27 Seed Philipp Kohlschreiber took on No.5 Seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both German men exited the tournament after advancing well beyond expectations.  How about some numbers for those still in the event?

The Men
Semifinal No.1
Novak Djokovic
On serve against No.31 Seed Florian Mayer, No.1 Seed Novak Djokovic produced 65% first serves winning 76% of those, with seven aces against three double faults. His serve speed averaged 120mph on first serves and 100mph on second. He converted 59% of his second-serve points, and saved all but one of the eight break points he faced. 

Florian Mayer
In his receiving games, Novak won 45% of points played, winning 39% and 55% of points on Mayer's first and second serves respectively. He converted five of the nine (56%) break point opportunities he had. Novak’s most impressive stat may be his 50 winners against 20 unforced errors (+30) in the 27 games played.

Roger Federer
On serve, No.3 Seed Roger Federer served 62% first serves and won 88% of those points, despite serving just two aces against No.26 Seed Mikhail Youzhny. Roger averaged 116mph on his first serve, faced only two break points, and saved them both. He averaged 99mph on second serves, and won 52% of the points played. 

Mikhail Youzhny
Receiving, Roger won 49% of points played, but won 49% and 48% respectively on Youzhny’s first and second serves respectively. Roger broke six times, but that was on 20 break opportunities, for a mediocre 30% conversion rate. He produced 25 winners against 13 unforced errors (+12), which is pretty conservative, but good, for Roger.  One can place a very safe bet that those numbers won’t be similar against Novak in the Semis.

Despite my pulling for Roger to get another Slam, the numbers, current and recent past, favor Djokovic. As has been the case with Federer for a few years now, he fails to convert a high percentage of his break point opportunities, which ramps up the pressure on his own serve, especially against the top players in latter rounds of Grand Slams. 

Roger’s numbers are similar to Novak’s in terms of efficiency at Wimbledon, posting a plus-23 versus a plus-25 for Novak. The stats aren’t provided to help us measure confidence and mental toughness, but bottom line is that while Roger is the class of the field on serve, and Novak is class of the field on return, Novak is better on serve than Roger is on return. However, if Roger brings his A-game and can get over his mental breakdowns against the top two players in the world, he has a good shot. If not, it’s all Novak.

Semifinal No.2
While Novak and Roger posted dominating performances against, No.4 Seed Andy Murray and No.5 Seed Tsonga had stiff tests against their opponents. 
Andy Murray
Murray’s performance against No.7 Seed David Ferrer was as good as any I’ve seen from him in a big Grand Slam match. Murray took two of the three tiebreaks played against Ferrer with superb tennis. On serve, Murray won 80% of his first serve points, serving at 61%, and bombing 18 aces with just three doubles. He averaged 116mph and 85mph respectively on first and second serves, and converted 59% of his second serve points. Murray saved 10 of 12 (83%) break points against him against one of the best returners in the game. 

David Ferrer
On the receiving end, Murray won just 35% of points played, but a relatively healthy 47% on Ferrer’s second serve.  He converted just three of nine (33%) break opportunities, and will likely have to do better against the bigger serving Tsonga. Murray’s efficiency numbers (+22) were second only to Djokovic’s, cracking 61 winners against 39 unforced errors.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
On serve against Phillipp Kohlschreiber, Tsonga produced 63% first serves winning 80% of those, with 17 aces and zero doubles. He averaged 120mph on first serves and 95mph on second serves, winning 59% of his second serve points. Tsonga faced five break points and saved three of them. 

Philipp Kohlschreiber
In receiving games, Tsonga won just 35% of the points played, winning 43% of Kohlschreiber’s second serve points. However, he converted just three of 10 break points (30%). His efficiency was on par with Rogers (+16), posting 43 winners against 27 unforced errors. Tsonga’s penchant for lowering his level of play at times could cost him against Murray, as it did in losing the second set against Kohlschreiber, where his efficiency rating (+2) was the lowest of the four sets.
Both Murray and Tsonga have been known to have some struggles mentally during big matches, but Murray looked mentally sound throughout his match with Ferrer, and Tsonga has been able to turn it on seemingly at will after his lapses. In this matchup we have Tsonga with the tournament’s best efficiency numbers (+29), against the player with the worst (+21). However, Murray has won five of six times the two have met, including the past four, one of those a quarterfinal win at Wimbledon in 2010. 

Will the crowd provide the boost that Murray needs, or will the pressure prove too much? Will Tsonga be able to erase the memory of his five-set loss to Djokovic at the French after having three match points? Murray had a very physical test against Ferrer, and if this one goes deep, Tsonga should have the advantage. But if Murray plays a controlled yet aggressive match, as he did against Ferrer, he stands a good chance of taking it in four or less.

Some Numbers on All Four
On the year, Novak is No.1 on second serve points won on opponents’ serves and No.2 in return games won on Tour. Federer is No.24 and No.22 respectively. Murray is in the top five in both (No.2 and No.4 respectively).  Tsonga is in the top ten in break points converted at No.6 (47%), while Djokovic is No.11 at 45%, and Federer is No.23 at 42%. Murray is at No.22 also at 42%. 

On points won while returning opponents’ first serves, Novak is No.4 while Roger is No.34. Murray comes in at No.9 and Tsonga at No.12. On all return measures, Roger is the weakest of the four semifinalists.

Where Fed makes up the difference on the other Semifinalists is on serve. He’s leads the pack in aces at No.4, with Tsonga coming in at No.8. Novak is well down the list at No.20, and Murray is No.22. Roger is also tops in the group in second serve points won (1st), first-serve points won (4th), service games won (2nd), and break points saved (6th). Tsonga (14th), Murray (15th), and Ferrer (16th) all lead Novak (31st) in break points saved. 

In fact, the only listed serving category in which Roger isn’t in the top ten is in service percentage where he comes in at No.36. Djokovic is at No.29, Murray at No.53, and Tsonga is not in the top 75. Novak is right behind Roger in second serve points won at No.3, and isNo.12 in service games won, so although he isn't among the leaders in first-serve numbers, he's right there on second serves. Tsonga comes in at No.15 and Murray at No.28 in service games won.

These two Semifinals provide terrific storylines for Wimbledon, and some of the best tennis that will have been played on the planet. No way do you want to miss either of these if you are a tennis fan…even if your guy Rafa isn’t in the mix.

The Women
Semifinal No.1
Victoria Azarenka
No.2 Seed Victoria “Vika” Azarenka was dominant in her match against Tamira Paszek, the only unseeded player to reach the Quarters. Vika served an impressive 75% first serves and won an even more impressive 78% of those points, while serving seven aces against three doubles. She won 60% of her second-serve points. She had an average first-serve speed of 100mph and second-serve average at 83mph, faced four break points and saved two. 

Tamira Paszek
On the receiving side, Vika won 46% of receiving points and converted on three of the nine (33%) breaks opportunities she had. Her aggressive but efficient 33 winners versus 18 unforced errors, was very key in her dominant performance (+15).

Serena Williams
No.6 Seed Serena Williams played her best match against No.2 Seed Petra Kvitova. Serena served 59% first serves, but won an incredible 86% of those with 13 aces against zero double faults. She averaged 109mph on first serves and 91mph on second, winning 56% of second-serve points. Serena faced just one break point in the two sets, and saved that. While receiving, 

Petra Kvitova
Serena won just 40% of points played against the big-serving Kvitova, but converted on two of the four (50%) break points she had. In addition to her stellar serving, Serena’s efficiency was responsible for her advance to the Semis. She delivered 27 winners against 10 unforced errors (+17).

Just looking at the numbers, as well as the players’ records, it would appear that the semifinal-matchup between Azarenka and Williams would be more fitting in the final. The numbers presage an epic battle, but only if both players bring their A games, or both bring sub-par games. If either is on and the other off, a blowout would be in the making. 

Azarenka has appeared to be more stable mentally throughout the event, but Serena has navigated her way through some tough mental moments. Serena has beaten Azarenka five straight times and seven of the eight they’ve played. Will Azarenka’s newly-found confidence as a result of her stellar year trump Serena’s experience as a 13-time Grand Slam singles winner? Only time will tell.

Semifinal No.2
Angelique Kerber
No. 8 Seed Angelique Kerber served 66% of her first serves winning 61% of those points, with only two aces and three double faults. She averaged 94mph on her first serve, and posted an impressive 60% of second serve points won despite an average second-serve speed of 74mph. Kerber was broken five times, but broke No.15 Seed Sabine Lisicki eight times. 

Sabine Lisicki
On return, Angelique won 48% of receiving points, despite Lisicki’s 105mph on first serve and 82mph on second. She made 19 winners against 13 unforced errors for the lowest efficiency number (+6) of the remaining players.

Agnieszka Radwanska
No.3 Seed Agnieszka “Aga” Radwanska served 77% on first serves with five aces, but won just 59% of those points, slightly more than the 56% of points she won on her second serve.  Her average first-serve speed was 93mph and her second-serve average was 76mph. Aga was broken five times in the three sets she played against the big hitting Kirilenko, but saved seven other break points. 

On her receiving games, she won 44% of the points played, but won 50% of points on her opponent’s second serves. She broke Kirilenko six times, but only converted 33% of break point chances. Despite her less than superb serving numbers, her outstanding efficiency rating, firing 36 winners against 22 unforced errors (+14), along with her strong return numbers got her over the hump.

The second Semifinal couldn’t be more even. The numbers above indicate a pretty even matchup with Radwanska holding a slight edge on serve and a better efficiency rating. However, the two are so evenly matched that it will likely come down to who manages the moment better. They are 2-2 in head-to-head battles, with three of the four matches going three sets, and have split the last two. 

Kerber has been in one Grand Slam Semifinal (US Open last year), while Radwanska has never been to a Grand Slam Semi. She has made five Quarterfinal appearances in Slams and is having as good a year as she has had on Tour.  This ought to be another very competitive match, with the winner having nothing to lose in the Final.  

As with the men, we have two terrific matchups with similar styles in both Semis. Like Roger, Serena is trying to secure yet another Grand Slam title. Like Djokovic, Vika is trying to cement her standing as one of the top two women in the world. Radwanska is comparable to Andy Murray, hanging around the top five in the world without being able to get over the hump to claim a Grand Slam. Unlike Tsonga who has been a resident in the men’s top ten for some time, Angelique Kerber is a relative newcomer in the women’s top ten. However, like Tsonga, she is looking to claim her first Grand Slam title. Should be fun! Game, set, match…T. A.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lee Takes 2nd Annual Land Sharks Battle of Champions

Land Sharks Lee County Team
The Second Annual Land Sharks Tennis Battle of Champions took place over the past two weekends, with the last installment ending yesterday, July 1. Team captains Frank Fourgeau and Art Nowakaski led Lee County to a 15-5 victory over Collier County, captained by Orlando Ferrer and Tye Myers.

Frank Fourgeau
Frank played with Elliott Debolt in 10.0 Doubles, and posted a straight-set victory over Kevin Dwyer and Troy Rush. Art played with John Ramsey in 4.0 Doubles and prevailed in a super tiebreak over Orlando Ferrer and Lee (last name not provided). Lee County won four of the five matches played on Saturday the 23rd, and all four matches played on the 24th. Five of those first eight matches went to third-set super-tiebreaks, with Lee taking four of them!

Ben Berven
Resumed this weekend after postponement due to rain last weekend, Collier had a steep hill to climb to get back in the mix. They made things a little closer this weekend, winning three of the remaining seven matches. Sadly, I was one of those three, losing 6-7, 3-6 in 5.0 Singles to Ben Berven.

Tyler Owens & Orlando Ferrer, Jr.
In the other 5.0 Singles match, Tyler Owens continued his winning streak, needing almost three hours to defeat Orlando Ferrer, Jr. When I was walking off the court, a mere two hours after starting, T.O. and Orlando had just split sets. Tyler took the super-tiebreak 10-2. Let’s hope T.O. can keep that streak alive when he and his Dad Mark play the Father-Son Nationals later this month.

When all was said and done, the “overwhelming” victory that Collier posted last year was evened by this year’s results. The tally is now 1-1, and the teams will be looking forward to getting a leg up in the Third Annual next year.

Art Nowakowski, Jeff Hossler,
Frank Fourgeau, & Orlando Ferrer
Regarding the event itself, the players were treated to a terrific venue, thanks to the efforts of Jeff Hossler and his compatriots at Miromar Lakes, and event organizer Orlando Ferrer of Land Sharks Tennis. The Captains (Frank Fourgeau & Art Nowakowski of Lee, and Orlando Ferrer and Tye Myers of Collier) also did a fantastic job of recruiting and getting their players to the show on time. The Lee-Collier Battle of Champions appears to be a new tradition in the making.

Event Results (Lee in blue)
Women's Doubles
Katrina Ramsey & Paula def Holly Vaughn & Cyndi Burge 6-4, 6-3
Shelly Freshwater & Charleen Bridgett def Alice Briggs & Patty Duquette 6-4, 7-6
Wendy Hechler
Wendy Hechler & Virginia Reid def Sunny & Lynn Albert 6-0, 6-2

Joana Fish & Debra Lamb def Lisa Kitner & Joan Lake 2-6, 6-1, 1-0
Men's Doubles
Tye Myers & Jicham Zaatinin def Sergio Rebolledo & Zander 6-1, 6-3
Frank Fourgeau & Elliott Debolt def Kevin Dwyer & Troy Rush 6-2, 7-5
Joel Hampton & Corey Knapp def Joe Parr & Brian Lord 6-1, 7-6
Tom Fisher & Jim Katterfield
John Gillette & Andy Potts def Jim Katterfield & Tom Fisher 6-4, 6-3, 1-0
Art Nowakowski & John Ramsey def Orlando Ferrer & Lee 6-7, 7-6, 1-0
Lance & Ken Johnson def Grady Myers & Scott Gill 6-2, 6-0
Mixed Doubles
Erin Sowerby & Larry Gagnon def Maja Angeli & Alex Priddy 6-1, 6-1
Rene & Ed Przygodzinski def Holly Vaughn & Mimo Mustafa 2-6, 7-6, 1-0
Regan Colas & George Newton def Jamie Collins and Eric Fussganger 6-4, 6-3
Maggie Rehban & David Dakeermaker def Liza Hogan & Bruce Rosenblatt 2-6,   6-0, 1-0
Men's Singles
Tyler Owens def Orlando Ferrer, Jr. 5-7, 7-6, 1-0
Ben Berven def T. A. Niles 7-6, 6-3
Matt Maloney def Christian Padgett 6-4, 7-5
Parker Woodall & Warren Ebert
Parker Woodall def Warren Ebert 6-2, 7-5
Jeff Hossler def Steve Campolo 7-5, 6-4
Serge Rampezotti def Hector Properi 6-7, 6-3, 1-0

For additional pictures please check out Frank Fourgeau's Facebook page. For more information on Landsharks Tennis please visit the Landsharks website

Landings Hosts USTA Jr. Regional Florida Open

The biggest junior event in Southwest Florida is set to begin this Saturday at the Landings Yacht, Golf, & Tennis Club in Fort Myers.  Top level juniors from all over the country will descend on the Landings to compete in the Florida Open, a USTA Regional Tournament Segment, which was formerly a National event.

Approximately 250 players from 21 states and Puerto Rico will be contesting Boys’ and Girls’ 16s and 18s Divisions from Saturday July 7 through Tuesday July 10. For years the Florida Open has been a tennis highlight of the summer in Fort Myers, utilizing up to nine different sites to host matches and provide practice courts for tournament participants. This time around there will be seven sites, including: Landings, Breckenridge, Colonial, Gulf Harbour, Heritage Palms, Lexington, and Pelican Preserve. Cypress Lake will assist with practice courts.

Parker Woodall
Local area players in the Boys’ 18s include: Parker Cuevas-Woodall and Josh Wardell of Fort Myers; and Jack Haffey, Oliver Landert, Alex Sweet, and Jorge Vargas of Naples. Cuevas-Woodall is the News-Press High School Player of the Year, and Wardell is USTA Florida’s fifth-ranked player in the Boys’ 18s. In the Boys’ 16s Brandon Wortkotter of Fort Myers; and Jack Flagg, Alan Sweet, William Shisler, and Alejandro Vargas of Naples are scheduled to play.

Thandiwe Kangwa- Photo
Courtesy of
Lindsay Terry-News Press
In Girls’ 18s, Vivienne David, Hailey Grillo, Mary Haffey, Nikki Kallenberg, and Anastasia Kondrasov of Naples are scheduled to play. Kallenberg is No.15 and David is No.20 on USTA Florida’s latest Tentative Ranking List. Ja’Cara Gillis, Thandiwe Kangwa, Rebecca Morse, Chandler Novoa, and Sydney Nowak of Fort Myers are vying for the Girls’ 16s title.

If you are interested in the history of the event, click here. To access the draws (available Thursday the 5th) and starting times, click here. For additional tourney info check out the Florida Open website. Hope to see you out there. Game, set, match...T. A.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wimbledon Week 2: The Women

Maria Sharapova
After an almost stumble in the second round against unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova, No.1 Seed Maria Sharapova got back to her dominating ways with a straight set win over, also unseeded, Su-Wei Hsieh. Up next for Sharapova is No.15 Seed Sabine Lisicki, who bounced American teenager Sloane Stephens in three sets, and who made the Semis at Wimbledon last year. 

Sabine Lisicki
Unfortunately for Lisicki, she is 0-3 versus Sharapova, and it was Sharapova who ended her Wimbledon run last year. Sharapova should make it through this one.

Victoria Azarenka
No.2 Seed Victoria Azarenka has made short work of each of her first three opponents, losing no more than six games in any round. Her next opponent, No.14 Ana Ivanovic, a former French Open Winner and World No.1, has the potential to provide Vika’s first test of the Championship. 

Ana Ivanovic
Ivanovic has been retooling her game and has made strides over the past several months. A win or even a good match against Azarenka will signal her arrival back on the big stage. I have to go with Vika based upon recent results.

Aga Radwanska
No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska hasn’t come close to dropping a set, but she hasn’t played anyone in the top 100. Her next opponent, Camila Giorgi, is the lowest ranked player she will have played thus far at No.145. 

Shuai Peng
Chances are Aga will get past this round as well. Her next opponent will be the winner of the No.17 Maria Kirilenko versus No.30 Shuai Peng match. 

Maria Kirilenko
Radwanska has beaten Kirilenko the last four times they’ve played, and has beaten Peng three of four times. However, the two have gone three sets each time, including a 9-7, third-set Radwanska win at Wimbledon in ’09. I’m guessing Aga would rather see Kirilenko in the Quarters.

Petra Kvitova
No.4 Seed Petra Kvitova, the Defending Champion, has been picking up speed as she goes, losing just one game to Varvara Lepchenko in her third round match. Kvitova hasn’t played anyone of note thus far, but will face cagey veteran and former French Open Champion No.24 Seed Francesca Schiavone next.

Francesca Schiavone
Schiavone escaped a tough three-setter in the first round against British wildcard Laura Robson, but handled her subsequent two opponents with much less stress. Kvitova has won the last two times they’ve played in straight sets, and with her big game booming, chances are she will make it through to the Quarters.

Serena Williams
No.6 Seed Serena Williams isn’t looking very comfortable on the grass, and if it weren’t for her tremendous serve and iron will, she might not have made it through match No.3 against No.25 Jie Zheng. Serena dropped the first set and had to outlast Zheng 9-7 in the third.

Yaroslava Shvedova
Up next for Serena is unseeded Yaroslava Shvedova, who ousted No.10 Seed Sara Errani in straight sets. Shvedova didn’t lose a point in the first set against Erani, and hasn’t lost a set in the event. Prior to this year, Shvedova had never been past the second round, and lost to Serena the only time they played. If it weren’t for the first round loss at the French, I would say Serena is a sure bet to advance, but…

Angelique Kerber
With Sam Stosur (5), Caroline Wozniacki (7), and Marion Bartoli (9) gone, No.8 Angelique Kerber is the final seed in the top ten still alive. Kerber evicted one of the exciting young Americans, No.28 Seed Christina McHale, in straight sets to set up her next match with unseeded (ha, ha) Kim Clijsters.

Kim Clijsters
Clijsters beat No.12 Seed Vera Zvonareva and is a good bet to upset Kerber as well. Neither Clijsters nor Kerber has dropped a set thus far. The two have never played, but Clijsters is a multiple-time Grand Slam Winner and has been to the Wimbledon Semis and Quarters multiple times, so I think she gets the nod in this one.   

With the exception of Kerber's potential troubles, the Women’s Draw is shaping up nicely for the remaining top ten women’s seeds to make it to the Quarters. However, as we have seen, what looks good on paper doesn’t always play out on court. Hope you stay tuned for the drama. Game, set, match...T. A.