Monday, October 21, 2013


Wouldn’t it be great if people collaborated before planning events? Wishful thinking indeed. Well, what that lack of collaboration gives us is plenty of tennis variety on any given weekend in our little corner of Southwest Florida.
The weekend of the 25th will be about as hectic as the weekend of the 11th was.It will be another big weekend for college tennis as FGCU hosts its annual Invitational, and South Seas Island Resort on Captiva will also be hosting a women’s wild card tournament.

The wildcard tournament will present the winner with a wildcard entry into the $50k Women’s Pro Classic also hosted by South Seas. The Women’s Pro Classic will be the last opportunity in the US for WTA hopefuls to earn ranking points, and three local charities will benefit from event proceeds. 
They include the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, Madisen’s Match, and Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc.
There aren’t many locals entered in the Wild Card 
event, but Nikki Kallenberg of Naples, who had an outstanding showing in last year’s Florida Open is entered. Nikki will have stiff competition from players coming from as far away as Maine and Iowa. We don’t know how Nikki will do, but we do know that we will have world class tennis in town over the next couple of weekends.
Melanie Oudin
Photo courtesy of John Roleke
The main Draw of the Pro Classic will have some names you may recognize. Melanie Oudin, who created quite a stir in 2009 when she reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon and the Quarterfinals at the US Open, will be in the draw. Another American, 21-year-old Coco Vandeweghe, who has been as highly ranked as No.69 in the world, will also be among the competitors.

FGCU Men’s Fall Invitational
FGCU Junior Jordi Vives
Also beginning on the 25th and running through the 27th is FGCU’s Fall Invitational, and there’s little doubt that the competition will be fierce. Jordi Vives, FGCU’s No.1 player captured the main draw of the Invitational last season, and seems poised to defend his crown. 
Photo by Linwood Ferguson
Competing at the recent ITA Southeast Regional Championship, Jordi reached the quarterfinals after downing Miami’s Wilfredo Gonzalez in three tough sets. Jordi lost in the quarters to eventual Tournament Winner Nathan Pasha of University of Georgia, in two close sets. In fact, Jordi won more games (8) than Pasha’s subsequent opponents in the semis and final (6) combined.

One other Eagle has had good results on the 
FGCU Senior Gabe Echeverry
scoreboard in the early fall season, and that Is Gabe Echeverry. Like Jordi, Gabe has posted a 5-2 record thus far, including four consecutive wins. Amongst those wins were four consecutive triumphs en route to his tournament win at the Georgia Southern Championships (GSC).

Defending Atlantic Sun Conference (A-Sun) Champion, University of North Florida (UNF), was among the schools participating in the GSC, with two players in the White Singles Draw.Gabe dispatched UNF’s Pablo Tellez in the semifinals in straight sets, before doing the same to Ignacio Hernandez of Armstrong Atlantic, the Finalist in the Division II National Championship.

The other Eagles are working to find their form, which 
FGCU Junior Tianyu Bao
they will need for dual match play beginning in January, and which is absolutely vital for Conference play, which begins in early March. The Fall Invitational will be an excellent measuring stick and an opportunity to fine tune for the spring season.

The Combatants

Barry University 2012-13
Division II National Champs
Photo courtesy of Barry website
Four of the six competitors in the 2013-14 Invitational are returnees from last year’s Invitational. University of Miami (UM), Barry University (BU), Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and University of Central Florida (UCF) were among the teams FGCU bested to capture the Invitational last fall. It will take some doing to repeat the success the Eagles experienced last fall, but I know Coach C. J. Weber and his guys believes they are up to the task. 

Boston College
Matt Wagner of BC
Photo courtesy of BC website
One of the newcomers, Boston College, did struggle mightily at the close of last season, and may prove to be the least dangerous of FGCU’s foes. However, the other first-timer, University of Arkansas (UA), will present stiff challenges to the competition. All of the above bring recent successes into the Invitational and will be looking to build confidence for dual matches in the spring. 

University of Miami
Omar Aly of Miami
Photo courtesy of UM website
In-state rival University of Miami, which reached as high as the top 50, and finished No.55 in the 2012-13 ITA rankings, will be on hand again for the Invitational. The Hurricanes left empty-handed at least season’s Invitational, but took it to the Eagles to the tune of 6-1 in their dual match later in the season. 
Wilfredo Gonzalez of Miami
Photo courtesy of UM Website
The Hurricanes are likely to be a tough matchup again for our Eagles if recent action can point the way. Already mentioned above was Jordi’s tough win over Miami’s Gonzalez at the ITA Regional. 

FGCU Senior Dean Tsamas
In two other Eagle-Hurricane battles in the ITA Regional first round, the Hurricanes came out on top: Diego Soto downed Tianyu Bao in straight sets, and William Albanese topped Dean Tsamas, one of our grittiest Eagles, in three tough sets. With Coach Weber’s historical ties to Miami, this in-state rivalry will remain intense.

Barry University

Renato Lombardi of Barry University
Photo courtesy of Barry website
Barry University opens the 2013-14 season as the No.1 Division II program in the country, having gone 29-0 last season, and winning the NCAA Division II National Championship. In the past six years, Barry has finished as the National Champions twice and as the Finalist three times. Obviously, this team knows how to win! 
FGCUs' Lance Lvovsky & Tianyu Bao
Despite its Division II status, at last year’s Invitational, Barry scored multiple wins against the Eagles. However, when Jordi met Barry’s Renato Lombardi in the semis, en route to winning the title, he defeated the Barry player 6-2, 6-2. In addition, when Lance Lvovsky and Tianyu Bao faced Barry’s Leo Vivas and Eduardo Alfonso, in the Doubles Final, they downed the Barry team 8-4.

Florida Atlantic University

Will Neuner of FAU
Photo courtesy of FAU website
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) playing in the Sun Belt Conference (SBC), struggled to a posted a 13-9 season under former interim coach Ricardo Gonzalez. Gonzalez is now the head coach, and will be leading the Owls in their first season in Conference USA (C-USA). 

The team might prove dangerous if individual wins against teams like Stetson and Florida State at the Bedford Cup last month are any indication of where they are headed. The Owls performed well at the Southeastern Intercollegiate Tournament at the University of Georgia last month as well, so confidence should be high for the Owls coming into the Invitational.

University of Central Florida
Photo courtesy of UCF website
Playing in the newly formed American Athletic Conference (AAC), formerly the Big East Conference, the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Knights will be no pushover at the Invitational. The Knights handed the FGCU Eagles a tough 4-3 loss in dual match play last season. In that contest, the Knights of UCF took four of six singles matches. However, that match was at UCF, and the Eagles defended their turf quite well at last season’s Invitational. 

Both FGCU and UCF played the Bedford Cup last month at Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee. Jordi’s first match was against Arjun Watane, one of a quintet of UCF freshmen that will bolster the Knights this season. Jordi prevailed in straight sets, but in another FGCU-UCF contest at the Bedford Cup, new Eagle, Lucas Vaz, fell to another of UCF’s freshmen, Reece Acree, in three sets. Another of those freshmen, Inaki Espindola, won two rounds before bowing out to the eventual tournament winner from FSU.

University of Arkansas

Photo courtesy of Arkansas website
The University of Arkansas Razorbacks, who come in representing the Southeastern Conference (SEC) will present some issues for the Eagles in both singles and doubles play, as they bring a strong squad that competed quite well in the ITA’s Central Region Championship this month. Razorbacks senior Mike Nott, who was seeded 9th at that championship, promises to be viable opposition for the other top players in the draw. 
Tianyu Bao & Coach Weber
Coach Weber will need a strong performance from the best combination he can find to challenge Nott and his doubles partner Manfred Jeske. Nott and Jeske made it to the Round of 16 at last season’s NCAA Division I Championship before falling in three to the event’s No.3 Seed. Arkansas finished as the ITA’s No.59-ranked team last season.

Boston College

Photo courtesy of BC website
The Boston College Eagles (BC Eagles) come into the Invitational seeking solid ground from which to springboard their 2013-14 season. The BC Eagles finished with 11 consecutive dual match losses last season, winning just four (4) of 77 individual matches during that stretch. Yet, the BC Eagles appear ready for a turn around, as they won more individual matches in the recent West Point Shootout than they did during the entire 11-match stretch to end last season. 

The bottom line is that there will be some serious scrapping going on on tennis courts this coming weekend at FGCU and South Seas, and that's even before the ladies fighting for a spot on the WTA Tour come to town beginning Sunday November 3rd, again at South Seas. Enjoy the tennis! Game, set, match...T. A.

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