Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fort Myers Tennis Coming Around the Bend

Tianju Bao & Coach CJ Weber
FGCU Fall Invitational 
FGCU Fans enjoy act
Okay, I need your help here. There’s good tennis happening at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) this coming weekend, the 28th through the 30th, and I’m going to have to miss some of it. I need some folks to head out to FGCU and pick up the slack for me in my absence. Sure would be good to hear how things went on the final day of the FGCU Fall Invitational.  After their first ever A-Sun playoff appearance last season, the Eagles are gearing up for another playoff run, using the Fall Season to get prepared. This weekend, the guys of green and blue will take on the University of Miami, University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University, and Barry University in a yet to be determined draw. However, the action will begin at 9am on Friday and continue through the weekend. You might want to visit the Eagles website for more details.

On the Road
Just in case you were wondering why I have to miss some of the best tennis we’re going to see around here until…well, until the Eagles have their next home match, it’s because we’ll be on our way to Orlando to participate in a meeting of USTA Florida’s Community Outreach Committee (COC). As our local volunteer representative, I’ll be reporting on the state of tennis in our area, and hope to bring back some useful means of enhancing our local tennis experience. I owe Lyn Bruner (LCCTA Exec. Dir.), Blake Matherly and Susie Bessire (USTA Florida Local League Coordinator) for doing their best to educate me.

New League
Speaking of Blake Matherly, he Gary Englehard and a group of “local tennis nuts” have created yet another competitive opportunity for local area players: Southwest Florida Team Tennis (SWFTT). Similar to the SCAT League for women, SWFTT features team competition for some of the upper echelon players in town (4.5 and above), including some teaching pros who enjoy competing. Among the seven teams participating in SWFTT this inaugural season are Beachview from Sanibel, Fort Myers Racquet Club, Plantation Country Club, The Vines at Estero, Lighthouse Bay, Pelican Landing, and The Landings. Play starts on November 9.

LCCTA Junior Tournament

The Lee County Community Tennis Association (LCCTA) is back in action next week, hosting a Level 7 USTA Junior Local tournament at the Barbara Manzo Tennis Center at Three Oaks Park on Oct. 6 - 7. There will be opportunities for boys and girls in 10s, 12s, 14s and 16s divisions, and you can register your young’un (sorry, been reading westerns) online with ID 153710812 by midnight on Wednesday, October. 3. If you would like to find out more, please contact or (239) 482-3382.

Speaking of the LCCTA, please help me extend condolences to Connie Fox and her family. Connie’s family has been an active part of the LCCTA for years, and Connie has contributed greatly by directing junior programs at Rutenberg Park in Fort Myers. Sadly, Connie’s husband passed away on September 16. Our hearts go out to you Connie!

USPTA Grand Prix Host-A-Pro
The local USPTA Florida chapter, headed by Gateway’s Alex Hermeto, is initiating a “Host a Pro” program for the USPTA Florida Fast Dry/10-S Tennis Supply Grand Prix Circuit event that will be held at The Landings October 19 - 21. Anyone in the community who wants to host a player entered in the draw is welcome. Call TA Niles at (407) 466-4652 or email for details.

USPTA Pro League
For all of the terrific Pro League fans out there, the Pro League draft is this week, so your favorite Friday evening entertainment is just around the corner. I’m told that there will be more teams and more players this season, and I say, “The more the merrier!” By next week I should have the team rosters and schedules ready for press. Stay tuned!

Interesting Tidbit
Before I go, just in case you find yourself watching an obscure match on tennis channel and they are playing lets, the ATP Tour is going the way of college tennis. Beginning next year, service lets will be in play on the Challenger Circuit. That means that when a serve hits the net and falls in the box, that ball is live and play continues. No more disputes over let calls. 

As with any rule change, some will like it and some won’t. When you win the point by getting a let cord ace, you’ll love it. When your opponent wins the point the same way, you’ll hate it. Such is life. The rule change will speed up matches, and I am sure that was one of the considerations. Almost anything that pleases TV goes! That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Game, set, Match...T. A.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall Tennis in Fort Myers

Things Hopping at The Landings
Paul D’Amico hasn’t been at The Landings Yacht, Golf & Tennis Club for a full season yet, but he has already made a significant contribution to the Fort Myers tennis community. This past March The Landings hosted Madisen’s Match, one of the area’s fastest growing charity events. Right around the corner, on October 6th – 7th (Sat. & Sun.), D’Amico and the Landings will be hosting another fundraising event: the Pink & Blue, National Cancer Survivors Classic. 

The event is a Mixed Doubles Tournament, the proceeds of which will benefit the Regional Cancer Center of the Lee Memorial Health System. A number of divisions will be available, including Open, 40 and over, 50 and over, 60 and over, and 70 and over. Players may participate in two events and must enter by Monday, October 1st. Participation should not only be a lot of fun, but will also contribute to a very worthy cause. For more details, please contact The Landings tennis pro shop at 239-482-0515.

USPTA Grand Prix at The Landings
Two weeks after the Pink & Blue, The Landings will host a USPTA Florida Fast Dry 10-S Supply Grand Prix event, October 19th – 21st, featuring local USPTA pros and others from around the State. The Grand Prix Circuit offers professionals who still like to test their skills competitive opportunities at various venues across the State. Pros compete in Open and age-group divisions in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. At season’s end there is a Masters event where the top four finishers in their divisions playoff.

Several local teaching pros have done well thus far on the Circuit. Those currently in the top-five of the Grand Prix Rankings include Steve Shortridge of Colonial (3rd and 2nd in Men’s 60 Singles and Doubles respectively), Denny Rager of Lely (3rd in Men’s 35 Singles), Tyler Owens of Fiddlesticks (4th in Men’s Open Singles), Jim Katterfield of Shadow Wood (4th Men’s 55 Singles), and I’m not doing too badly myself (1st in Men’s 50 Singles and Doubles).

Members of the tennis community can get involved by coming out to support their local pros and by participating in a new initiative: The Host-A-Pro program. Essentially, in attempts to boost participation, we are hoping that members of the local tennis community will be willing to house a tennis professional during the Landings event. Interested parties can contact me at or 407-466-4652.

Fall Leagues Underway & Gearing Up
As I’m sure most of you know, USTA Fall Leagues will begin play within the next days. If you know that then you also know that there are only adult leagues now, with divisions separated by age.  It's the first go round for this system, and new Local League Coordinator (formerly the Tennis Program Coordinator for our area) Susie Bessire counts approximately 80 teams for the Fall Season, which begins play on September 29th. 

The Lee County Women’s Tennis League (LCWTL) also begins play the second week in October, and they boast over 200 teams with more than 1700 ladies playing in 14 divisions, including their newest Copper Division.  Two of those teams will be debuting at The Hideaway Country Club this season, with Bert Ann Haas leading a Copper team and Pearl Warren heading a 3.0 team. 

Also debuting will be the new rule which renders third sets obsolete. All LCWTL matches will play a third-set super-tiebreak (10-point tiebreak) if sets are split. In previous years, only senior divisions played super-tiebreaks for the deciding set. I suspect that, with the rule change, the ladies will have just as much fun on court, and tennis directors and other members will also be happy.

Another league gearing up for fall play is Bonero, a 50-plus ladies doubles league for women in Bonita Springs and Estero. Although the spring features their primary season, eight teams will participate in the fall, which runs from October 16th through December 4th, with a season-ending event on December 11th. If interested in the Bonero League, contact Deb Graziani at or 734- 645-1727.

The “big hitting” women’s league, known as SCAT (Sun Coast “A” Tennis) by most, will also begin play in October. This time around three Naples teams will join the fray along with two Park Meadow teams, one from Cypress Lake and another from Plantation. As always, the competition is likely to be fierce!

Ultimate Tennis
The Ultimate Tennis (UT), often referred to as “K-Swiss,” fall season is also underway, with first matches to be played by the end of September. I hadn’t planned on defending my spring league singles title in the 5.5 Division, but since I’m bowing out of the USTA Nationals next month, I have to do something to keep me motivated. Having to play a match that counts for something on a weekly basis is a great motivator.  Unfortunately, Jarrod Goare, the summer singles 5.5 singles champion, and only loss during that spring season, won’t be one of my competitors. There’s still time to register for fall doubles and mixed doubles as well.

If none of the above leagues work for you or give you your fill of tennis, YOTA (Your Own Tennis League), the newest league in town, might just do the trick. Touted as “a league that listens to the players concerns in order to ensure you have more fun” and a league “where the players have more involvement in decisions to help maintain fun & fair play,” YOTA begins play on Monday, October 8th. The league offers doubles competition for men and women rated from 2.5 through 4.0. The Captain’s Meeting is September 25th at Rapallo and Registration closes on October 1st.

USPTA Pro League
And of course I can’t talk about leagues without mention the USPTA Pro League, which is a Friday evening staple in our tennis community. The Pro League draft will be held next Friday, September 28th, and the schedule should be ready for posting online shortly thereafter. Matches typically start in early October, and a new expanded format is on the horizon, so stay tuned for imminent Pro League updates.

Local Tennis for Kids & More
The Lee County Community Tennis Association (LCCTA) is still doing all it can to accommodate the youth of our area, and in affiliation with several public parks, offers programs after school and on weekends that bring kids and tennis together. Parents can find Quick Start/10-and-Under programs, intermediate and advanced lesson and clinics, as well as private lessons at the Barbara Manzo Tennis Center at Three Oaks Park in Fort Myers, Rutenberg Park in Fort Myers, Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres, and  Hancock Park in North Fort Myers. Adult programs and clinics are also available at these facilities throughout the season and beyond.

Penny for Your Thoughts
One last thing before I go, Steph and I will be heading out to Orlando for a meeting of USTA Florida’s Community Outreach Committee. I have volunteered to be the liaison between USTA Florida and our area. Essentially I am charged with reporting on what’s happening in our tennis community, bringing to USTA Florida our ideas and practices for growing the game, and bringing ideas and practices back to our community that can enhance the game in our area. Any feedback about tennis in our area, including how we can improve it, is welcome. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.  Well, that’s about it for now. Until next, game, set, match…T. A.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Oceanside Rides Grand Prix Wave

Greg Wheaton (50 Champ) & 
T. A. Niles (Finalist)
The USPTA Florida Fast-Dry & 10-S Supply 2012 Grand Prix Circuit stop at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach was certainly worth the four hour trip across the State, despite my humbling loss in the final to Greg Wheaton, whom I must call my nemesis after three consecutive losses. It had been a while since we played, and it was good to see Greg back out on the court. 
That’s one of the tremendous positives about playing the Grand Prix: you get to rekindle old rivalries as well as friendships at these events. I hadn’t seen Denny Rager play singles in some time, despite the fact that we live only a few miles apart. I saw Steve Shortridge, another neighboring pro, look like he was just about out of gas against Vishnu Maharaj. Shortridge out of gas? Surely that’s worth a trip across the State! 
Barbara Manne & Steve Shortridge

All kidding aside, the venue, as usual was terrific. Mike Sanders, his staff, and the always-smiling volunteers at Oceanside did the usual bang-up job that the directors and staffs usually do at the Grand Prix stops. Despite the weather, the courts were as playable as any I’ve encountered this season, and the venue was only about a mile, if that, from the beach. It was a good combination.

Jeff Cohen & Jim Bryan
Although I missed playing the Pro-Am (click here for photos), it was still one of the highlights of the event for me. Watching the members revel in the on-court interaction with USPTA professionals, most of whom appear just as thrilled as the members, is really a good time for someone who enjoys our game as much as I do. Hopefully the participants enjoyed it as much as they seemed to.  

Milos Vasovic & Mike Sanders
Before moving on to the tournament results, I need to acknowledge and thank the event sponsors on behalf of all the USPTA professionals who participated, Mike Sanders and his staff, and the members, some of whom were also sponsors, who participated. A number of local sponsors contributed to the Circuit stop, in addition to the usual sponsors that make the circuit possible: Fast-Dry Courts, 10-S Supply, USTA Florida, Welch Tennis, Stan Oley Tennis Equipment, and The Wimbledon Experience.

Generous Sponsors
The list of businesses and individuals who contributed to making the Oceanside stop a success is far too long to layout here, but Platinum Sponsor, S. R. Perrott, Inc. and Gold Sponsor, Mr. Wich Deli, along with Silver Sponsors Joe and Lisa Mirante, Daytona Foot and Ankle Specialists, Gamma High Voltage, and Daytona Mitsubishi-Kia are among the biggest contributors to the event’s success.

Paolo Barros & Joe Mirante
Asked about his three-year involvement as a sponsor for the Oceanside Grand Prix venue, Joe Mirante replied, “The USTPA event has been a great event for Oceanside. It's thrilling to be an intimate observer of professional tennis. What's even better than observing the pro's skills is to enjoy their love of the game and generous teaching in the pro-am and clinics. I will continue to be an enthusiastic sponsor of the event. Our pro Mike Sanders has done our club a great service in orchestrating this tournament.” With committed members like the Mirantes, the Oceanside event is likely to be a mainstay on the circuit for some time to come. 

Tourney Results

Men’s Open
Julien Link (Champ) & Alex Henderson (Finalist)
Winner of the Men’s Open, Julien Link, loves to hit tennis balls and I think he loves to grind opponents into the dirt. He did precisely that to Alex Henderson in the final, after wearing down James Roesch, his previous opponent. Link moved into third place in the Grand Prix standings, behind Eric Turnquist (1) and Paolo Barros (2). Neither Turnquist nor Barros played singles, but Barros did play doubles, losing in the semis to Denny Rager and Milos Vasovic.  Rager and Vasovic faced Link and Kuchta in the Open Doubles final, but the match was called due to rain after sets were split.   

Men’s 35s
Kam Kuchta (Finalist) & Milos Vasovic (Champ)
Speaking of Milos Vasovic, he was the Grand Prix points-leader of the Men’s 35s, coming in to the event, and he left with an even greater lead over Kam Kuchta, the player in second place in the Division. The two played in the final, and Kam got the early break in the first set, but Milos fought back to even things up. Milos eventually won two grueling tiebreaks to claim the win. Already holding a 200-point lead in the Division, Milos’ victory padded his lead by another 60 points. He will be tough to catch the rest of the way.

Men’s 45s & 40s
Jack Steyn (Finalist) &
Jeff Cohen (Champ)
Jeff Cohen, who was sitting in second place in the Men’s 45s prior to the event, returned to action and resumed his winning ways, downing Jack Steyn and Stan Oley in round robin action to bag another Grand Prix championship. Cohen moved into first place in the standings, ahead of Horacio Rearte, who did not play. There were no 45s Doubles, but Brad Minns and Stan Oley downed Michael Sanders and John Hudson, 6-2, 6-2, to win the 40s Doubles.

Men’s 50s
After a hiatus from the Grand Prix Circuit, Greg Wheaton returned to the courts and knocked off Men’s 50 Grand Prix points-leader T. A. Niles in a third-set super-tiebreak. After winning the first set 6-3, Wheaton lost the second 2-6, but came back to win 10-7 after being down 5-7 in the breaker. Despite having played just the one event, Wheaton’s win moves him into second place in the rankings. Wheaton teamed with Dave Cordrey to claim the doubles title as well, downing Arup Dutta and I, 6-1, 6-2. I definitely owe Arup one for my odious performance in that one! Sorry Arup.

Men’s 60s
Gewan (Champ) & Vishnu (Finalist) Maharaj
Gewan Maharaj continued his domination of the Men’s 60s, but despite Gewan’s event win, his finals opponent, brother Vishnu Maharaj, is in line for major kudos. Vishnu, who hasn’t played a Grand Prix event in some time, won his first two matches in third-set super-tiebreaks, and then took Gewan to a tiebreak in the first set of the final. With his win, Gewan extended his points lead over Steve Shortridge, who climbed in the standings to second-place by virtue of his semifinal finish. 

Women’s 45s
Liz Burger (2nd), Carolyn Franca (Champ),
Michelle Maharaj, & Mike Sanders 
The only women’s event held was Women’s 45s Singles, and Carolyn Franca took advantage of the absence of the higher ranked players in the Division and some gutty play in her matches to take over the Division lead. Franca survived a tough test against Elizabeth Burger, winning 4-6, 6-1, 1-0, and cruised against Michelle Maharaj, 6-1, 6-0. The win moves Franca 30 points ahead of Julie Farina, the former points-leader.

Mixed Doubles

Gewan Maharaj & Carolyn Franca (Champs)
Franca also teamed with Gewan Maharaj to complete the double for them both, by winning the 40s Mixed event. Franca and Maharaj faced Elizabeth Burger and Dru Ackert in the final, winning 6-4, 6-0.

Next Grand Prix Stop
The Next stop on the USPTA Florida Fast-Dry & 10-S Supply 2012 Grand Prix Circuit will be at The Landings Yacht, Golf & Tennis Club in Fort Myers, October 19 - 21. Landings Tennis Director Paul D’Amico and his staff did a smoking job of hosting the Florida Open, (a national junior event) this summer, and I suspect the same will apply to the Grand Prix stop.

Host-A-Pro Program
To make things as easy and inviting as possible for USPTA pros around the State to play if they have any interest, USPTA District 14 professionals are initiating a “Host-A-Pro” program. Players who are interested in being hosted by a local professional or tennis aficionado should contact T. A. Niles at or 407-466-4652. Hope to see you there!