Sunday, May 18, 2014


Paul D'Amico & Mike Baldwin
Where does the time go? It has been a week already since the final ball was tossed up, and the champions were crowned at the USPTA Clay Court Championships at The Landings Yacht, Golf & Tennis Club in Fort Myers. As always Paul D’Amico, his staff, and The Landings facility proved exemplary hosts for one of the USPTA’s National surface events.
Robyn George of News-Press with
Sam & Hannah in the crowd
Several professionals distinguished themselves at the event by winning multiple divisions, including two who took home three titles, winning each event they entered. Let me start with the heroic efforts of the individual who completed the triple with the most difficulty. No, the fact that she toppled me and my partner has nothing…well maybe a little…to do with it.

Triple Title Winner Trish Riddell
Trish Riddell
Trish Riddell of Lakeland won the Women’s 40 Singles and Doubles, and the 40 Mixed Doubles as well. In the 40 Singles, she downed Susie Evans of Marco Island 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in a heated battle. I guess given the weather last weekend, every battle was heated.

Susie Evans & Trish 
In the Doubles Final, Trish teamed with Evans to post a comeback victory over Erica Cossairt of Cape Coral and Kerry Kendrick of Fort Myers. Riddell and Evans dropped the first set 3-6, came back to take the second 6-3, and then dominated the breaker 10-3.  

Trish & Jack Steyn
I’m sure Erica saw more than she wanted to of Trish last weekend, because Erica and I faced Trish and her partner Jack Steyn of Bradenton in the 40 Mixed semis, and we bit the dust in a full three sets. Trish and Jack jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Erica and I got on the scoreboard and made it a respectable 6-3 set. We took the second by the same score, and lost the final set 3-6 as well.

Triple Title Winner Franco Mata
Franco Mata
Courtney Vernon & Franco
The other triple-crown winner was Franco Mata of Naples, who took the Men’s Open Singles, Doubles, and Open Mixed titles. In the Doubles, Franco partnered with Ryan Sherry of Fort Myers, 
his opponent in the

Singles Final, to down Milos Vasovic and Jared Kalpin 6-1, 6-3. The Mixed event was claimed with little more difficulty, as Mata teamed with Courtney Vernon to defeat Sherry and Kendrick 6-1, 6-4 in the Final.

As is often the case, the Men’s Open Singles proved to be a high-level contest with both Finalists displaying both skill and resolve. Although the opponents appeared to be evenly matched on the skill dimension, Mata’s recent competitive efforts may have lent him the edge.

Ryan Sherry
Franco won the first set in a grueling 6-4 set, but Ryan showed no signs of going away, as he battled back to take the second set by the identical score. But Franco isn’t affectionately called “a beast” simply for his physique, the moniker also fits his ability to grind in the heat, point after point. In this instance, Ryan thought discretion to be the better part of valor and retired with Franco up 3-0 in the third.

Double Title Winners
Courtney & Jana Wilks
There were four other players who claimed victories in two events. Courtney Vernon, Coach of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Women’s Tennis team; Kam Kuchta of Boynton Beach; Mike Barnes of Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club, and Patricio Madariaga, Head Pro at Williams Island.

Women’s Open Singles & Mixed Open Doubles
Courtney Vernon, fresh off leading the FGCU Lady Eagles to their best season in their Division I history, easily captured the Open Singles by eclipsing Jana Wilks of Palm Beach Gardens 6-1, 6-0 in the Final. As mentioned above, Courtney then partnered with Franco Mata to upend Ryan Sherry and Kerry Kendrick 6-1, 6-4 in the Mixed Open Doubles.

Men’s 65 Singles & 60 Doubles
Mike Barnes
Mike Barnes, who  plies his trade primarily at Miromar Lakes, is proving to be a dominant force in both the 60 and 65 Divisions. In the 65 Singles, Barnes outdueled the legendary Fred Drilling of in the Final, posting a 6-3, 6-4 victory that was more difficult than the score indicates. In the 60 Doubles, Mike joined Larry Gagnon to defeat Drilling and Rick Flach 6-0, 6-2 and downed Armor Persons and Gewan Maharaj 6-3, 6-2 to claim that title.

Men’s 45 Singles & 40 Doubles
Kam Kuchta
Kam Kuchta continued to display the tremendous grit he always shows every time he takes the court. In the Final, Kam faced top seed Frank Vermeer of Jacksonville, who was coming off a recent finalist-finish in the Men’s 45 Singles at the ITF Seniors World Individual Championships in Palm Beach Gardens. 

The first set was all anyone could ask for, with Kam taking it 7-6. I suspect the grind of the previous few weeks, along with Kam’s indomitable will, took its toll on Frank. The second and final set was 6-1.

Frank Vermeer & Kam
Kam and Frank put their racquets together in the Men’s 40 Doubles Final against two local heroes in Mike Curran and Scott Harrington of Fort Myers. Mike and Scott have been a top-ranked USPTA doubles team in the past, but neither had seen much competition in the recent past.

Mike Curran & Scott Harrington
Both teams showed their grit in the first set, which was a see-saw battle that Mike and Scott won 7-6. Like Kam’s singles match, the second set was not nearly as hotly contested, at least as far as the score was concerned, as Kam and Frank took that set 6-1. The match-tiebreak was an anti-climactic 10-3 win for Kam and Frank.

Men’s 50 Doubles & Mixed 50 Doubles
Patricio Madariaga & Susie Brown
Last, but certainly not least, of the two-time division winners, Patricio Madariaga, emerged as a doubles specialist, taking home two doubles crowns in the 50s. Patricio dropped his opening singles match to John Jerome of Wildcat Run, he bounced back to take the 50 Doubles with Carlos Triana of Williams Island.

Carlos Triana & Patricio
Patricio and Carlos had little trouble downing Paul D’Amico and me 6-3, 6-4, and joined Susie Brown to post a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Fred Drilling and Kim Jones in the Mixed 50 Doubles Final.

Men’s 35 Singles
Milos Vasovic
Milos Vasovic of Melbourne has been one of the top performers in the USPTA’s 35s Division for the past few years, and this event was no exception. After a relatively routine victory in the semis, 6-0, 6-3 over Nate Griffin of Bradenton, Milos ran into tough local player, Dave Rowat of Cape Coral.

Dave Rowat
Dave had already fought one tough battle in the semis against No.2 Seed Mark Palus of Tampa, emerging with the three-set win (6-2, 1-6, 6-3). Dave made a fight of it in the Final against Milos as well, but Milos was too tough, claiming the title that barely escaped him the previous year, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Men’s 50 Singles
Steve Brady
My hero of the tournament came from the Men’s 50 Division. In the Men’s Singles, Steve Brady  (my newest tennis hero) battled Carlos Triana for three and a half hours before claiming the 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory. 

Why is Steve my new hero? Well, I think he played serve-volley or chip and charge for every single point of that match! I quit doing that some years ago because my body couldn’t handle it…and Steve is two years older than I am. Hat's off to you big guy!

Men's 60 Singles
Gewan Maharaj
Gewan Maharaj of Tampa did what he has done so often in the Men's 60 Singles: Win. Gewan played two matches, lost five games, and pocketed yet another USPTA title.  Armor Persons of Breckenridge in Fort Myers took four games in the semis (1, 3), and Steve Shortridge of Colonial in Fort Myers got a total of one game in the second set.

Women’s 50 Singles & Doubles 
Ruth Hessert
In a feat certainly worthy of accolades, Ruth Hessert of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania came back in the Final of the Women’s 50 Singles from a 6-7 first-set deficit, to outlast Carolyn Franca of Tampa, 6-4, 7-5 in the final two sets. Anyone who knows Carolyn knows that is worthy of a raised glass.

Cindy LePrevost & Susie Brown
Landings Head Pro Kimberly Jones and Christie Bradley, Director of Tennis at The Sanctuary, also showed true grit in claiming the 50 Doubles title. In their first match against Sabita Maharaj of Rockledge and Carolyn, the locals went 6-4, 4-6, 10-5 in claiming victory.

Kim Jones & Christie Bradley
Things got no easier in their second and final match against the Defending National Champions, Susie Brown of S. Palm Beach and Cindy LePrevost of Fort Lauderdale. In what might just have been the match of these championships, Susie and Cindy took the first set 6-7. Kim and Christie charged back to take the second set 7-5, and the battle had just begun. When Kim and Christie hugged in triumph, it had taken them 13-11 to dethrone the gutsy defenders.  

Final Thoughts
Reflecting on the event, I was initially saddened by the small draw sizes, but the quality of competition was high, and if the noise level was any indication, the spectators seemed to enjoy the event as well. The Landings is one of the best venues to play and to view a tennis event, so hopefully Paul can make it happen again next year.

As always, an event like the USPTA Clay Court Championships can only be successful with the support of sponsors, and our thanks go out to our event sponsors. They include Fast Dry Courts, 10-S Tennis Supply, Welch Tennis Courts, Stan Oley Tennis Equipment, Giliberti, Inc.,  USTA Florida, and Cigar Cutters

In closing, I'd like to thank Steph for all that she does to make this blog happen. Without her talent and efforts on the camera we wouldn't have the photographic record of the event. Thanks Sweet Girl!!! Game, set, match...

Sunday, May 11, 2014


There are levels of mental/emotional and physical fitness that you must have in order to play competitive least to compete well, and my performance today at the
USPTA National Clay Court Championships at The Landings was a cruel reminder for me. Watching those competitors who evinced those levels of fitness, reminded me of why I now embrace the golf course more than the tennis court for competition. 

Although the same applies there, at least in golf there is a handicap system that allows me to compete successfully with others who have similar mental/emotional and physical deficiencies. And of course, I believe I can still improve at golf, whereas in tennis I am a bit doubtful. 

Nevertheless, there was good tennis today at the Landings and there will be good tennis tomorrow. Heck, I might even play some good tennis tomorrow. But whether I play well or not, I know I will see some good tennis.
Note: All singles finals start at 10:30am
Franco Mata
Franco Mata doesn’t look much like Novak Djokoivc, but there are some similarities. Sometimes I think Franco just loves being out there, loves pleasing the crowd, and that leads to a relatively passive style that just says, “Go ahead and hit whatever you want and I’ll just keep bringing it back.” 
Franco's 6-pack...or is that 4?
But when it comes down to crunch time, Franco can bring that serve and turn up the heat on the groundies…just like Da Djoka. The other major similarity? They both like to show off their 6-packs after a win :).

Ryan Sherry
Franco got past David Irvin in a thriller (3-6, 6-4, 6-4) and will meet Ryan Sherry in the Final tomorrow (Sunday) at 10:30am. 
Ryan took down Nestor Nunez in straight sets (6-2, 6-4), in an entertaining match that featured a number of 20-plus-hit rallies. This battle between Eagle (FGCU) and Gator (UF) should be highly entertaining. There’s quite a bit of show in both of these talented individuals.

Milos Vasovic
As expected, it will be Top Seed Milos Vasovic and Dave Rowat in the Final of the 35s. Milos had little trouble with Nate Griffin, beating him 6-0, 6-3, although Nate did evoke some classic Milos self-dialogue in the second set. 

Dave Rowat
I’m sure Dave was having a conversation of his own with himself after taking the first set 6-2 from No.2 Seed Mark Palus, then finding himself on the short end of a 1-6 second. But the bottom line is that he righted the ship and took the third 6-3. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another three-setter in the Final, but Dave will have to bring his A-game…but then so will Milos.

Frank Vermeer
In the 45s, top-seeded Frank Vermeer got off to a slow start against Adam Zastempowski, but he did what top seeds are supposed to do: he dug deep, turned it around and won 6-4, 6-2. 

No.2 Seed Kam
Kam Kuchta
Kuchta was too much for Jack Steyn, advancing to the Final with a 6-1, 6-0 victory. I’m not positive that Frank is 100% out there and Kam is a tough out, so I anticipate another hotly contested match for the title in the 45s.

Carlos Triana
No.2 Seed in the 50s, Carlos Triana, should just move to Fort Myers, because every time he comes over here he leaves a happy camper. 
John Jerome
Today Carlos took on John Jerome, whom I expected to emerge the victor, and he outlasted John, much the way he did me last October. Carlos went 4-6, 6-1, and 7-5 to move onto the Final where he will face Steve Brady.

Steve Brady
Nobody knew who No.1 Seed Steve Brady was coming in, and probably still don’t, but he ousted Pete Hessert 6-2, 6-1 in his semi and may be a “tall” order for Carlos. Actually, I am expecting Carlos to pull this one out, but Steve appears to be at least 6’ 5.” I didn’t get to see too much of Steve’s game, but I suppose he was seeded one for good reason. We’ll see tomorrow at 10:30am.

Steve Shortridge
In the 60s, Steve Shortridge as not kind to his friend Chuck Nelson on his birthday. Some happy 63rd huh Chuck? In any event, Steve held his No.2 seeding and advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Chuck.

Top-seeded Gewan Maharaj took his semi in straight sets (6-1, 6-3) over a game Armor Persons. Gewan and Steve have met a
Gewan Maharaj
number of times and I believe Steve has yet to notch his first win. However, this is the first they are playing since Steve knocked off Roscoe Tanner in the Florida Cup. Maybe this is his time. I’m guessing Gewan would, if asked, respond, “Not!”

Fred Drilling
Ah, and now for the battle of legends, well established and in the making. The former is, of course, Mr. Fred Drilling (shoot you get called “Mr.” when you’ve done what Fred has). Fred downed Bob Green 6-2, 6-2 and conserved his energy for, perhaps, the best match-up he will have had in some time.

Mike Barnes
Fred will be taking on legend in the making, Mike Barnes. The last time Mike played a tournament at the Landings, I believe he walked away with multiple titles. He’s trying to do the same again, only this time he has "the venerable one" as an obstacle. I can’t wait to see what happens in this one. I’m looking forward to some outstanding play.

Courtney Vernon
The Women’s Open Final will feature Courtney Vernon, FGCU's Women’s Tennis coach, against Jana Wilks of Palm Beach Gardens.  Given Wilks’ results from last year’s event, I suspect Courtney might take this one in straight sets. One never knows though. I suspect Courtney will come to play; I think she always does.

Trish Riddell
In the Women's 40s, Trish Riddell of Lakeland will take on Susan Evans of Marco Island. I can only testify to Trish’s game since she blew a serve by me in our mixed match, and she did some other not so pleasant things to Erica and me en route to her victory with Jack Steyn. 

Susan Evans- Photo courtesy of
Susan's USPTA website page
As for Susan, I’m going to bet that she isn’t going to run out of gas, regardless of what else happens out there. The woman teaches tennis AND does bike tours on Marco Island. Oh, her USPTA site says she was a "standout at University of Iowa."  I hope Trish is ready to go the distance tomorrow, because I’m betting Susan will be.

Carolyn Franca
Speaking of going the distance, Carolyn Franca is in yet another final, this time the Women's 50s. If past experience informs, we can be certain that Carolyn is as ready as anyone to play three-plus hours in the heat. She got past familiar foe Sabita Maharaj (6-2, 6-2) in the semis, so her trademark stamina wasn’t much needed.

Ruth Hessert
Ruth Hessert should be well rested, as Christie Bradley, whom she faced in the semis, was far from 100% and bowed out when Ruth was ahead 6-1, 2-0. Not having seen Ruth play, I can’t say much about the outcome, but the over-under mark for match time in this one is 2:30.

Franco Mata & Ryan Sherry
The Men’s Open Doubles Final was played today, and Franco Mata & Ryan Sherry, opponents tomorrow morning, teamed up to win the title against Milos Vasovic & Jared Kalpin, 6-1, 6-3.

Scott Harrington & Mike Curran
In one Men’s 40 Doubles semifinal, Mike Curran of Gulf Harbour & Scott Harrington defeated Mike Baldwin of Mediterra &
Jack Steyn, 6-4, 6-3. 
Kam Kuchta & Frank Vermeer
In the other, Frank Vermeer & Kam Kuchta played Adam Zastempowski and Clark (no 1st name or score available). The Final will be played at 1pm.

I will have another crack at wining a match in the event tomorrow when
Paul D'Amico with LCCTA Exec Director Lyn Bruner
Tournament Director Paul D’Amico and I face Carlos Triana & Patricio Madariaga in the Men’s 50 Doubles Final at 4pm. If Paul has some strong shoulders, we may have a chance.

It appears as though Mike Barnes is likely to notch at least one National Championship, as he and partner Larry Gagnon have one more match to play against Fred Drilling & Rick Flach (4pm tomorrow) to win the Men’s 60 Doubles. 
Mike Barnes & Larry Gagnon
Barnes & Gagnon beat Gewan Maharaj & Armor Persons in straight sets (6-3, 6-2) today, and Drilling & Flach lost to Armor & Gewan in a tight 4-6, 6-4, 10-3 match this afternoon. Odds are in Barnes & Gagnon’s favor.

T. A. & Erica Cossairt
Erica Cossairt, my mixed partner, will get another shot at Trish Riddell tomorrow at 1pm, when she teams with Kerry Kendrick in the Women’s 40 Doubles. Trish will partner with Susan Evans after playing her in the 40 Singles Final.  

Christie Bradley & Kim Jones
In Women’s 50 Doubles, Kim Jones & Christie Bradley emerged with a tough victory against Carolyn Franca & Sabita Maharaj, going 6-4, 4-6, 10-5. Jones & Bradley are scheduled to face the defending champs, Susie Brown & Cindy Le Prevost, tomorrow morning at 10:30am, with Franca & Maharaj to play Brown & Le Prevost tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.

Courtney Vernon & Franco Mata
In Mixed Open, Franco Mata teamed with Courtney Vernon to win the Final in straight sets over Ryan Sherry & Kerry Kendrick, 6-1, 6-4. In Mixed 40 Doubles, Jack Steyn & Trish Riddell ground Erica and me down (mostly me) en route to their 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory in the semis. 

Trish Riddell & Jack Steyn
Jack & Trish will face Scott Harrington & Christie Bradley in the Final at 4pm. In Mixed 50 Doubles, Patricio Madariaga & Susie Brown took out Pete & Ruth Hessert, 6-1, 6-0, and will take on Fred Drilling & Kim Jones for the title at 1pm. 

If you came today, I know you enjoyed the tennis because there was plenty of good tennis out there today. It will be even better tomorrow as all the finalists battle for national titles. Thanks to Steph for all the photos. We'll try to have a link to photos of all the competitors available at the close of the event. Game, set, match...T. A. & Steph
Photo by Courtney Vernon