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USTA Florida Senior Mixed Doubles Section Championships

October 9, 2007 02:45 PM

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USTA Florida Senior Mixed Doubles Section Championships presented by Chrysler began Friday, October 5 at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach and culminated Sunday, October 7.  Twenty three teams and 250 players, divided among 6.0, 7.0 and 8.0 divisions traveled to Daytona hoping to continue their season onto the National Eastern Mixed Championships in Orlando, November 16-18.

Rain on Day 1 was an obstacle for tournament staff and players.  The last match was originally scheduled for 3:45 p.m., but because of ardent weather all matches were pushed back.  Most of the 8:00 a.m. matches were pushed back to 2:30 p.m., followed by 9:00 a.m. matches, 12:00 p.m. matches and 1:00 p.m. matches.  The last scheduled match on Friday went out at 7:30 p.m.

Sandy Marshall, USTA Florida League Coordinator said, “Players were all cooperative and supportive which was the best part about it.”

Saturday was considered a make-up for lost time day, as bright skies cooperated and allowed players to enjoy a day full of tennis competition.  Besides two rescheduling changes that included several matches beginning a half an hour earlier at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, plus 3:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. scheduled matches from Friday taking place after 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, morale was still high.

Champions and finalists in both the 6.0 and 8.0 divisions were decided on Saturday, while champion teams in the 7.0 division finished around 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon due to morning rain showers. 

The 6.0 division was a round robin format between five teams from Tallahassee, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Lee/Charlotte.   

Both the 6.0 team from Boone Park in Jacksonville, captained by Lisa Winney, and the 6.0 team from Grand Haven in Palm Coast (Daytona Beach), captained by Bernie Barczak, finished tied - each with three wins and 1 loss.  In order to break the tie, section rules state to look next at least sets lost.  In a close finish, Jacksonville edged by with only 7 sets lost as compared to Daytona’s 8 sets lost.

In the 7.0 division, ten teams represented two different flights.  Flight I consisted of teams from Tallahassee, Gainesville, St. Pete/Clearwater, Sarasota and Naples, while Flight II included teams from Jacksonville, Tampa, Daytona Beach, Lee/Charlotte and South Miami.

The St.Pete/Clearwater team from Treasure Bay, captained by Pat Bitonti, went into the finals on Sunday with a perfect record of 4 wins and zero losses.  Their opponents, the Jacksonville team from Boone Park, captained by Charles Nissen, also had a flawless record of 4 wins and zero losses going into Championship Sunday. 

In the finals, both teams won a line and were tied 1-1.  Boone Park won the No. 1 doubles position in a close two setter after Clinton Weeks and Lane Manis def. Linda Riffe and Luis Ferrey 7-6, 6-4.  St.Pete/Clearwater went on to claim the No. 3 doubles position; Pat Bitonti and Sally Marshall def. James Gilliam and Connie Meadows 6-2, 6-2.  The deciding game came down to the No. 2 doubles position between Susan Hobbs and Jim Kennerly of St.Pete/Clearwater and Paul Wilson and Lisa Winney of Jacksonville.  After splitting the first two sets, St.Pete/Clearwater rallied to win the No. 2 doubles line 4-6, 6-2, 10-7.
 
A rain delay did interfere with the 7.0 Finals, which Nissen said may have turned their momentum for the worse. 

“All the team match-ups, besides maybe one or two in the tournament were close in nature, and it could have gone one way or the other,” said Nissen.  “I give credit to the other team who didn’t let the rain get to them.”

“We had about ten friends of ours that came to cheer us on and were very supportive of us,” said Bitoni.  “Considering all the rain we had, the tournament officials did a fabulous job and it was very well organized.  We new exactly when we were supposed to be back to play and it was first class all the way.  We just had a fabulous time!” 

Looking forward to Nationals, Bitoni knows it is going to be a tough challenge.  “It is going to be a much harder competition, but we love playing competitive tennis,” he said.  “Now we just need to find hard courts to practice on here before we head to Orlando!”

Competing in the 8.0 division, the highest level at the Senior Mixed Doubles Sectional Championships, were eight teams in two different flights.  Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa and Lee/Charlotte made up Flight I while Gainesville, St. Pete/Clearwater, Daytona Beach and Sarasota comprised Flight II.          

The Tampa team from Harbour Island, captained by Diana Helsing, and the Sarasota team from Cy Walton Racquet Center in Bradenton, captained by Jeff Jaudon, won their respective flights with 3 wins and zero losses.  This set up a championship show-down between Sarasota, the 2006 defending 8.0 Eastern National Senior Mixed Doubles Champions and the underdog, Tampa.

Although both teams had a perfect win-loss record going into the finals, getting to that point wasn’t as easy as it looked.  In fact, last year at the same competition, these two teams met in Flight play and the result was the same (Tampa winning 2-1), yet the end result was quite different.  Sarasota booked the trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico for Nationals.

“They were the only team we beat last year which was determined in a third set tiebreaker,” said Diana.  “It was a nice rematch this year.”

“Florida has one of the toughest mixed doubles leagues the Nation as far as I have seen,” added Jaudon.  “We won every match 2-1 within our flight which just shows the level of competition at the tournament.  It is absolutely terrific tennis.”

The underdogs pulled out a 2-1 victory thanks to their No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams who won in straight sets.  Joao Sucupira and Diana Helsing def. Enrique Vela and Ute Vela-Marquez 6-2, 6-2 in the No. 1 doubles position and Dave Gunn and Mary Snowden Gordon def. Jeff Jaudon and Susan Adrian 6-2, 6-4 in the No. 2 doubles position.  The defending champs showed their strength in the No. 3 doubles position when teammates Roland Ontog and Margaret Elmore def. David Bjornson and Emily Signoracci 6-4, 6-1.

“I thought we approached the tournament with some expectations and we tried very hard to repeat our success from last year,” said Jaudon, who acknowledged that playing three matches on Saturday took its toll.  “Every team has adversity throughout the year and it is how you come though that adversity that determines your success as a team.  Our team responded well and played tough in close matches.” 

“I don’t think our team felt any pressure because if you are going to go beyond that level [sectionals], you have to beat the best teams out there,” said Diana. 

As far as her expectations for Nationals?  “I look forward to meeting people from all over the U.S. and being able to play against new and different people.  I think that is so much fun!”

Congratulations to all players for your hard work and dedication leading up to the 2007 Senior Mixed Doubles Sectional Championships.  The USTA Florida League Department and tournament staff thank you for your patience during uncooperative rain showers, and we wish the winners GOOD LUCK at Nationals.  In addition, special thanks to tournament director Larry Jaben for his continued experience, expertise and understanding about tournament efficiency amidst unforeseen challenges!

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