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Beginners/2.5 Players Feature at USTA Florida Adult League 2.5/3.5/4.5 Section Tennis Chps.

Rick Vach

Men's 2.5 player Brian Barth (all photos by Jose Medina)
Players seek relief from the mid-90s temperatures and high humidity in the Cool Zone, featuring water-misting fans
The Brevard County 2.5 women relax in style, perhaps the only team to be officially sponsored by Coca-Cola
The South Miami-Dade women's 2.5 team shows that hand-eye coordination can be paired with color coordination
Of the 29 teams competing this weekend at the USTA Florida Adult League 2.5/3.5/4.5 Section Championships in Daytona Beach at the Florida Tennis Center, the most interesting by far (even more interesting than trying to weed-out the self-rated 5.0 players sandbagging as 4.5s) are the beginner-level 2.5 players. They play with such zeal, but coupled with such a great "we're here to have fun" mentality.

USTA League tennis players are classified by the NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) system. NTRP descriptions of a 2.5-rated tennis player's typical tendencies include: "forehand form still developing, and is prepared for moderately paced shots; backhand grip and preparation problems, and often chooses to hit forehand instead of backhand; and attempting a full swing on the serve, can get the ball in play at slow pace with an inconsistent toss, and on the return of serve can return slow-paced serves."

The 2.5 level is the lowest league level in Florida, and many 2.5 players have taken up tennis within the past year. Brian Barth is one such player, a Jacksonville native who was lured to the court by his 14-year-old son who had taken up the game.

"The only time I had played tennis before was when I was 14 or 15 years old and I had a buddy who had a tennis court behind his house and we would just knock it around. I remember he would always beat me," Barth said.

He ended up joining a Thursday night beginner's program at the Florida Yacht Club where he is a member, and eventually one of the teaching pros recommended they put together a men's 2.5 league team.

"They had never ever done it before," Barth said of the 2.5 team, "so we got a bunch of guys together that had really not played before at all."

Matches at the 2.5 level consist of one singles and two doubles, so teams need five players and a roster of back-up players or substitutes. The problem with Barth's team was they ONLY had five players, so every player had to play every match. They won their local league, qualifying for the regional tournament, then won the regional which qualified them for this weekend's USTA Florida Sectional. 

"We were lucky that we got five players," Barth laughed. "It didn't dwindle down to five players, it started at five, and I think the last day that we had to sign-up, we got our fifth player."

While they lost their opening match on Friday in Daytona Beach, Barth and his teammates are savoring the journey from beginning players to -- well, still beginning players, but among the best of the best in their division at the sectional tournament, and just a few wins from qualifying to represent Florida at the USTA League 2.5 National Championships.

"We really hadn't played a lot of matches, and when we started playing matches we quickly realized the level we had to be at," Barth said of he and his teammates and their first league experience. "We felt like we had potential -- it was a surprise for me, I can't speak for the other guys, but for me it was like, 'Wow, this isn't just knocking the ball around.' This was really playing tennis -- we had to really get the serves in! It has been a real journey, it's been fun, it's been fun for us guys. We're here to have fun, and that's how we approach it the whole year. We're out here to have fun, if we win we win, if we don't we don't.

And qualifying for nationals wouldn't be bad either.

"But don't think we're not serious competitors," Barth adds, "because we are."


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