Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another Ace Served At Williams Island Grand Prix Masters

So, I have been to a few USPTA Grand Prix Masters events, but the 2012 USPTA Florida Fast Dry/10-S Tennis Supply Grand Prix Circuit Masters at Williams Island Tennis Club, in Aventura, December 8-9, has my vote for the best I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Don’t get me wrong, they all have been outstanding events, but this one stands out for me.

Leandro Gutierrez, Fred Stolle,
& Carlos Triana
The event got off to an excellent start, when Carlos Triana and his staff produced  60 players for the Player Clinic.  I was a little concerned about doing the clinic before playing singles and doubles in the kind of shape I’m in, but I believe the clinic participants inspired me.

T. A. Does Overhead Clinic
Bantering on court with the “Maddies” (Marcus and Zern) was a blast. Harvey Pollack and José Klahr were too fun to teach, and no one was more 
Clinic Participants
serious about learning something at the clinic than Leila Gorra…unless of course it was Carime Muvdi or Monica Rangel. All in all, the clinic was more than worth the energy expended that first morning.

Mary Ellen, Steph, Katman at Party
The rest of the day went well for me as well, and I’ll get to the tennis eventually, but to those who actually made it, how sweet was the player party! 
Maharaj Table
Would I be exaggerating to say those shrimp were almost as big as my fist? And how good were the baked hors d’oeuvres, or the ribs, the salmon, etc?

Anthony Cammarano & Rick Oswald
Folks, the spread put out by Anthony Cammarano, Williams Island Director of Food and Beverage, and his staff was splendid. The outdoor, evening 
Party Setting
setting on the patio was ideal for some old-fashioned camaraderie and table hopping after dinner. Oh, before I forget, those lunchtime tacos were “da bomb” as well!

Carlos Triana & Fred Stolle
So the first day was an unqualified smash hit for me: great clinic, two match wins, terrific lunch and dinner, and Carlos even threw in a local celebrity: Fred Stolle…what more could one ask for? 
T. A. & José Klahr
The following day was outstanding as well, and the Williams Island members contributed greatly to that, starting the day off beautifully with the Pro Am.

T. A. & José
I played in the Blue Flight and I’m still marveling at José Klahr’s “refuse to lose” attitude. Unfortunately for José, he played his first round with me and I think that cost him the top prize by one game. Sorry José! 
Jeff Diggs & Harvey Spear
I believe Harvey Spear came out on top of our group. I can’t speak for the other groups, but our group had a good time with the friendly competition.
Jeff Diggs & Harvey Spear
As you all know, neither the Masters, nor the Grand Prix Circuit would happen if it weren’t for some very important entities. First and foremost, the Circuit sponsors and the individual event sponsors are the life-blood of the Grand Prix.

Among the Circuit sponsors are Title Sponsor Fast Dry Courts (Racquet Sports Industry Magazine’s "Tennis Court Builder/Contractor of the Year" 2005), 10-S Tennis Supply (a Fast Dry Courts affiliate and one of the largest wholesale distributor of tennis court equipment, materials and supplies in the U.S!), 
USTA Florida (the Florida section of the Nation’s sanctioning body for tennis, the USTA); Welch Tennis (one of the largest clay-court construction firms in the world, and former recipient (2001) of Tennis Industry Magazine’s “Court Builder of the Year”);  Giliberti, Inc. (a research, development & manufacturing company for vehicles in the airline, golf, tennis, and emergency medical services industries); 
Stan Oley & John Morales
Stan Oley Tennis Equipment Sales and Service, Inc. (Playmate Ball Machine's Florida Authorized Sales and Service Center since 1997); and The Wimbledon Experience (the official provider of Wimbledon overseas tours).

The clubs that host the Grand Prix events usually find support in their communities, and Williams Island was certainly no exception. As was the case with the Williams Island event itself, the sponsorship, too, was worthy of Masters level designation.

Anthony Quinones of Lehman in Black
Jeneffer Soto, Anthony Quinones
 & Juliet Bryan
Not only did Lehman Auto World provide vehicles as a backdrop to event activities, Anthony Quiñones served as their representative on site both days. He shared our table at dinner and it was a pleasure chatting with him. I believe he was rewarded for his attendance on Day Two; right Tony (wink)? 

Jose Klahr sandwiched by
Mike Baldwin & Rod White on left,
Carlos Triana & Anthony Cammarano
on right
Financial support is always greatly appreciated, but when an event sponsor participates, it adds something to event. The aforementioned José Klahr, of Klahr Team Realty, was one such sponsor. José spent the entire two days playing, chatting, taking photos, and just having a good time.

Other key sponsors that helped make things happen at Williams Island include Parksman Parking (a full service Valet and Self Parking Management Company, specializing in the high rise luxury condominium market, service retail centers, as well as high end restaurant locations and hotels), 
Organic Brewery of Hollywood (a restaurant featuring an on-site brewery and a made-from-scratch American menu) and Wells Fargo Bank (which promotes itself as a community-based, diversified financial services company).

Mike Baldwin
You can have all the sponsors in the world, but if you don’t have key, competent personnel in place, an event could not reach the heights reached at the Masters at Williams Island. 
Sandi Pardon
As he has at every Grand Prix event I’ve attended, Mike Baldwin, Grand Prix Chair, was the right arm of the tournament host, this time Triana. Sandi Pardon served as official and wo-manned the tournament desk.

Sandi, Mike, Leandro
Head Tennis Pro Leandro Gutierrez, Jeneffer Soto, Juliet Bryan, Steven Smith, Lissette Roa and others saw to it that tournament players, clinic and Pro Am participants and spectators had all that they needed to be comfortable during the weekend. 
Lissette Roa working
overtime in background
Mark Etinie and Jean Feviere kept the courts playable for us, despite some rain on Sunday, and on behalf of all the players, I’d like to thank the entire Williams Island tennis crew for their contributions to a top-notch weekend. As Mike Baldwin put it, “The players were absolutely spoiled and loved every minute of it.”

All of the above is certainly woven into the fabric of what made the USPTA Florida Fast Dry/10-S Tennis Supply Grand Prix Circuit Masters at Williams Island Tennis Club special, but it was the tennis that everyone came for, and there was plenty of that.

Men’s Open Singles
Beginning with the Marquee event, the Men’s Open Singles held true to form all the way through. No.1 Seed Paolo Barros of Winter Garden came in on-form and it showed. In his semifinal match against Erik Turnquist of Winter Haven, who came in as the top-ranked player in the Grand Prix Open Division, Paolo delivered a first-set bagel, and surrendered just two games to Erik in the second set.

Second-seeded Tye Myers of Naples had to overcome stiff opposition from the always gritty Julien Link of Sarasota in his semi, winning 6-2, 2-6, 10-2. I guess Tye might say that this one was 2-close for comfort :).

Paolo opened the final as strongly as he did the semi, serving up another bagel in the first. However, as one would expect, Tye battled back but fell a bit short, losing the second 5-7.

Men’s Open Doubles
You can probably imagine the fireworks on court with Franco Mata of Naples and Myers battling Paolo Barros and Erik Turnquist for a spot in the final. 
The spectators were loving the battle, and when they split sets, the guys wanted to play out the third. Tournament officials stood firm on the published format, and Mata and Myers took the closely contested match, 4-6, 6-1, 10-5.

If the one semifinal featured fireworks, the other was all about bombs; those would be the serves Andy Lake of Plantation and Milos Vasovic of Melbourne were dropping on each other. 
Lake teamed with Link to down Vasovic and Denny Rager of Fort Myers in straight sets. The first set went to a tiebreak where Lake and Link edged Vasovic and Rager 7-3. The winners closed out the second 6-3. 
Franco Mata & Tye Myers
Mata and Myers were crowned Masters Champions when Lake and Link withdrew.

Women’s Open Singles
As the result of a last minute withdrawal, Ioana Paun of Delray Beach, an accomplished and experienced competitor, faced first-time Masters participant, Carly Carpenter of Fort Myers. 
Mike Baldwin and Ioana Paun
It was not a very welcoming introduction, as Paun defeated Carpenter 6-0, 6-0. Carly maintained her ever-present smile and reported that “it was still fun!” If only more players had Carly’s attitude…

Men’s 35 Singles
Milos Vasovic
Milos Vasovic, who led the Men’s 35 Rankings by a huge margin all season long, and Kam Kuchta Boynton Beach, who was second in the standings, came into Masters Weekend seeded No.1 and No.2 respectively. Denny Rager was third-ranked at the end of the season, and Mike Baldwin of Boca Raton finished ranked No.4.

Andy Lake
But Mike passed on the opportunity and presented it to Andy Lake, who had finished fifth in the standings. Andy took full advantage of the opportunity, taking out Kuchta 4 and 4 in the semis and downing Milos 1 and 3 in the final. 
Denny Rager
Perhaps Milos was feeling the effects of the battle he had with Denny in the semis, where he had to go 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 to advance to his meeting with Lake. 

Women’s 35 Singles
Sandy Bell
Only two women laced them up in the Women’s 35 Singles. Sandy Bell of Lake Park and Christie Bradley of Sanibel came in ranked No.s 1 and 2 in the Women’s 35 standings and that is precisely the way they finished Masters Weekend as well. 
Christie Bradley
Sandy edged Christie Bradley 6-4, 7-6 (0) in a close one to finish as one of only three players to finish No.1 in the Grand Prix Singles Rankings and win the Masters as well.

Men’s 45 Singles
Things went according to form in the Men’s 45 as far as seeding was concerned, when No.1 Seed Horacio Rearte of Boca Raton downed points leader Jack Steyn of Bradenton 6-2, 6-1 and No.2 Seed Jeff Cohen of Boca Raton posted a 6-0, 6-1 win over John Morales of Melbourne in the semis. 
Jeff Cohen
Rearte then continued his dominance of the division when he beat Jeff 6-4, 6-2. After the match, Jeff reported, “I had my chances,” but Horacio somehow finds away to turn others’ chances into missed opportunities. 

Men’s 40 Doubles
Kam Kuchta
Horacio proved to be the MVP of the Grand Prix Masters, as he was the only player to pull off the double, winning both singles and doubles. 

Kevin Kearns & Jeff Diggs
He partnered with Kuchta to dispatch Steyn and Rick Oswald of Oviedo 6-0, 6-3 in the semis, then the two won a tough one against Jeff Diggs and Kevin Kearns of Fort Myers in the final.

Mike Baldwin & John Morales
The match against Diggs and Kearns turned out to be all Horacio and Kam could have wanted. Diggs and Kearns came into the final confident after a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Baldwin and Morales, and played like it against the favored Reartes and Kuchta. But the champs were too tough, taking the final 6-4, 7-5.

Women’s 45 Singles
Carolyn Franca
Displaying the true grit that she had shown the entire season, Carolyn Franca of Tampa wore down the competition to claim the Masters victory. In her first match, Franca defeated Sabita Maharaj of Rockledge 6-1, 6-4, then faced a familiar foe in Elizabeth Burger of Delray Beach in the final.

Elizabeth Burger
Elizabeth had beaten Maharaj earlier in the round robin competition, 6-1, 6-3, and turned toward the task she had had trouble completing during the circuit. Burger gave it all she had, but Franca’s toughness gave her the 7-5, 3-6, 10-2 win. Franca was one of the three players who, both, led their Grand Prix division and won the Masters in singles (Sandy Bell & I were the others).

Women’s 40 Doubles
Cindy Leprovost & Susie Brown
Carolyn teamed with Sabita to chase the double, and got a semifinal walkover into the final. In the other semi, Sandy Bell and Elizabeth Burger took on Susie Brown of Delray Beach and Cindy Leprovost of Fort Lauderdale. It wasn’t quite a walkover, but it didn’t go well for Sandy and Elizabeth. Susie and Cindy prevailed 6-1, 6-0.

Elizabeth Burger & Sandy Bell
The final didn’t present any more of a problem for the Susie and Cindy, as they rolled over Carolyn and Sabita by the identical score they posted in the semis. Susie and Cindy came into Masters weekend as the top doubles team in the division, and they left that way as well.

Men’s 50 Singles
Greg Neuhart & T. A. Niles
I finished the Grand Prix season well ahead of the closest competitors, but had lost to both players who were tied for second. 
Greg Neuhart
Fortunately for me, neither Jeff Davis of Treasure Island nor Greg Wheaton of Boca Raton made it to the Masters. But the road to the Masters title didn’t appear to be an easy one, with big Greg Neuhart of Loxahatchee in the draw, and this time, with a healthy elbow.

I didn’t expect to get out to such a good start in the final, but took the first set 6-2. It’s not often you get two breaks of Greg’s serve in a single set, but he’s still on his way back from the bum elbow and his first-serve accuracy isn’t what it ordinarily is. I took the second set 6-4, but feel best about being down 1-4, 0-30, and rallying to win, closing out that 0-30 game with three aces.

Men’s 50 Doubles
Jim Katterfield & T. A.
After three matches, a clinic and pro am in two days, I just didn’t have much to help my partner Jim Katterfield of Fort Myers in the doubles final. 
John Hudson & Jim Morton
Jim and I had a relatively easy semi against Jim Morton of Key Largo and John Hudson of Ormond Beach, winning 6-3, 6-1, and Greg and Carlos teamed to take out Frank Swope of Jupiter and Mike Puc of Palm Beach Gardens 6-4, 6-4.

With me being at least a half step slow, putting very little on the serve, and unable to return serve with any consistency at all, Greg and Carlos had little trouble in the final, taking it 6-3, 6-2. 
Frank Swope & Mike Puc
I had visions of completing the double when I headed over to Williams Island that Friday, but it was not to be. Mike? I just wanna be like Horacio.

Men’s 60 Singles
Gewan Maharaj
Finishing more than 400 points ahead of second-place Steve Shortridge of Fort Myers, Gewan Maharaj of Tampa looked to be a lock to take home the Masters title.He had beaten the other three players in the draw at least once each during the season. 
Bob Green
Maharaj took out Bob Green of Fort Myers 6-3, 6-1 in the semis, moving on to face Joe Bouquin of Delray Beach in the final.

Steve Shortridge
Bouquin came in fourth in the standings, but was just off a nice win in a USTA Category II event. Joe posted a 6-3, 6-2-win over a game Shortridge in the semis and the showdown between one of the most dominant players of the Circuit (Maharaj) and a player who was on peak form (Bouquin).

Joe Bouquin
Joe started with a bang, taking the first set 6-2, but Gewan is a gnarly veteran who battles, and took the second 7-5. The ball bounced Joe’s way in the super-tiebreak and he emerged Masters Champ with the 10-4 breaker victory.

Men’s 60 Doubles
Gewan Maharaj & Steve Shortridge
Both Maharaj and Shortridge got revenge for their losses to Joe in singles when they teamed up to defeat Joe and Bob Grossman of Delray Beach in doubles final. 
Dru Ackert & Terry See
Shortridge and Maharaj blitzed Terry See and Dru Ackert 6-1, 6-1 in the semis, and Bouquin and Grossman did the same to Bob Green and Bob Howell.

Bob Grossman & Joe Bouquin
The final was certainly worthy of a Masters contest. Joe and Bob won a tough 7-5-first set, and it appeared that Joe was on his way to completing the double. 
Bob Howell & Bob Green
But as he did in the singles final, Gewan battled back, albeit with Steve at his side, to win the second set 6-2. This time the tiebreak went Gewan’s way and he and Steve took it 10-3 for the doubles title.

Wow! You made it all the way to the end? Impressive! Thanks to Steph and Mike Baldwin for their photographic contributions, and to Carlos and Jeneffer for their contributions as well. You can see additional photos here

1 comment:

  1. Certainly one of the most wonderful events I have been to! Outstanding tennis, great food and amazing people ! Thanks to everybody who supported and contributed to our tennis community ! I had so much fun being a part of the 2012 tennis season, saw great matches and feel blessed for the friendships and the people who make my life so special! Thank you, TA, for spending hours and nights ( sometimes after heavy matches) to cover events and keep us informed ! I am sure we all look forward to return to the courts ! I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!!!! Steph