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Florida Tennis Briefs(3): Tennis on Campus Champs, President's Message, John Valenti Profile

February 2, 2011 10:18 AM
U. of Central Florida, U. of Florida Win USTA 'Tennis on Campus' Titles at FGCU Dirty Bird Classic

UCF-A-Guys-Winners-web
The UCF "A" team men's champions
UF-A-Girls-Winners-web
The UF "A" team women's champions
For the fourth straight USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' event during the 2010-11 school year the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the University of Florida (UF) met in a final, this time last weekend at the inaugural Dirty Bird Classic held on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers, Fla. The UCF "A" team defeated the UF "A" team in the men's final, and the UF "A" team defeated the UCF "A" squad in the women's final.

It was the same result as the Knightro Cup in November 2010 at UCF in Orlando, and at the UF Gatorbowl in Gainesville in October.

"The Dirty Bird Classic was a great success," said FGCU Club Tennis President Patrick Wrobel of the first-time event. "Running the first tournament at FGCU was a challenge but I am so happy I was the first to do it. All the hard work definitely paid off because many of players said the Dirty Bird Classic was their favorite tournament. I look forward to doing it again."

Other university/college club tennis teams participating in the event were Florida State University, University of Miami, University of South Florida and the host Florida Gulf Coast University, which lost in the semifinals in both the men's and women's events.

"Patrick did an amazing job running this event. I received phone calls telling me how nice the Dirty Bird Classic was organized," said USTA Florida Team Tennis Coordinator Michelle Willis. "I love these series events for Tennis on Campus. It provides a great platform for tennis clubs to show off their leadership skills."

The 2010-2011 USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' calendar:

Sept. 11-12, 2010 -- FSU Capital Challenge, Tallahassee (OVERALL WINNER: UF)

Oct. 2-3, 2010 -- UF Gatorbowl, Gainesville (WINNERS: UCF-Men, UF-Women)

Nov. 20-21, 2010 -- UCF Knightro Cup, Orlando (WINNERS: UCF-Men, UF-Women)

Jan. 29-30, 2011 -- FGCU Championships, Ft. Myers (WINNERS: UCF-Men, UF-Women)

Feb. 19-20, 2011 -- Florida Campus Championship, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

March 5-6, 2011 -- UM IBIS Open, Miami

April 7-9, 2011 -- USTA National Campus Championship, Cary, N.C.

USTA Tennis On Campus
The USTA's Tennis On Campus program is designed to provide college students with opportunities for team camaraderie, social networking, and rivaled competition through tennis without the rigors of a varsity program via college/university "club" tennis teams. Perfect for athletes who have chosen not to make the jump from high school to college varsity, Tennis On Campus offers co-ed team-based play, regional and national championship competition, and helps students maintain active and healthy lifestyles through their college years. Currently, the program is offered on over 500 college campuses and services over 30,000 students.

For more information on the USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' series, go to http://www.florida.usta.com/College-Tennis-Pages/23473_Tennis_on_Campus/.


dan-casey-head-webUSTA Florida President's Message -- Jan./Feb. 2011

By Dan Casey, USTA Florida president

As I start a two-year term as USTA Florida's president, I wish to thank the Nominating Committee for their hard work, Donn Davis who has aided me with great patience over the last two years, and our volunteer team and Board that have unselfishly agreed to serve for the betterment of tennis in Florida. I would also like to thank all of the Daytona staff led by Doug Booth, but especially Lynne Salus who never stops picking up my pieces; I wouldn't attempt this role without her. 

Over my 10 years or so with USTA Florida, I have seen a staff that has grown in size, professionalism and determined focus. Tennis growth in Florida and the nation has been solid during this period, outpacing all other conventional sports by very significant margins. While we face challenges in Florida related to our weak economy and the managing and "tweaking" of our structure and programming, staff has always enjoyed the full support of the Board and our volunteers for their innovative initiatives. Staff and volunteers really do work as a team; I had heard many times at national USTA meetings from other sections that they cannot identify who is staff and who is a volunteer. I know we'll keep it that way.

As we kick-off the new term, I am excited about our new Quickstart Tennis programs and relationships with the USPTA and PTR, as we have resources to offer them and they have field expertise and teaching knowledge we lack. All three organizations will be more effective together than if they were creating three different paths.

I do ask, however, that as we often narrow our focus to ensure success in our key program areas -- we as volunteers, staff and partners should never stop looking for new and fresh ways to introduce and promote the game. We should not be sitting on our hands enjoying the successes; let's keep the forward-thinking, creative ideas flowing while retaining the positive attitude surrounding the edict that there is more to do and we can get better at doing it.


Profile: John Valenti, a.k.a. 'Grinder' or 'Johnny Blazed,' Living the Pro Tennis Dream

by Scott Harrison, TennisLife-Florida Region 1 West (Panhandle) writer

valenti-webI was approaching the corner of the second court in use for the $10,000 USTA Pensacola Men's Futures Tournament held in November 2010. A racket flew through the air and smashed the baseline fence followed by a couple of choice words. It was the first round of qualifying and obviously wasn't going well for this guy. Actually, the guy had just blown an easy shot for set point against him.

I watched a couple of games and two thoughts came to mind: (1) these are the worst groundstrokes I've ever seen at a professional tournament, and; (2) this guy is kind of a jerk.

The guy lost his match 6-2 in the third, a couple of hours in duration.
 
The following Tuesday as the main draw began, the aforementioned guy, wearing dreads bunched into a top knot, was stalking through the courts with a racket bag and delivering and picking-up rackets. The Pensacola maintenance head, Tom Chavis, asked me if I knew the guy and I said no. Tom said I should talk to him because he has an interesting story.
 
John Valenti from Rochester, New York, currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He played his junior tennis in New York and got a scholarship to the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. When he arrived on campus his scholarship was worth $4,000 and tuition was $12,000! So after the first year, he dropped out and worked 14 hours a day, lived in a $175-a-month room and saved all his money. The next year he was a resident of North Carolina, tuition was $2,000 and his scholarship was much more valuable.
 
Valenti, now 34 years old, has played 10 years on the USTA Futures and Challenger circuit. He has made the main draw ONCE! He has played for ATP points only twice. So, why does he keep going? He loves the game and the battle dearly, hence, his nickname, "Grinder." He wants to wear you down with those unorthodox strokes and get you to just give up. He really loves soft courts with a brutal sun beating down.
 
How does he keep living his dream? He keeps his travel and housing costs low and has another source of income on the tour. Players that he travels with say "Johnny Blazed" (another Valenti nickname) is the best stringer in America. He also loves to practice and will hit with anyone any time. In his 10 years of travel on the tennis circuit, he has made a profit every week!
 
Valenti travels in a 1983 Mercedes 300SD Turbo with 480,000 miles that he has converted to running on cooking oil. His license plate number is "VEGIPWR." He also has a mini-school bus he has converted to a motor home. He does all the conversion work and maintenance himself. At age 20, he bought his first rental property in Charlotte. It's paid for and he has two more that are half paid for. Nine times in the last 10 years he has been one of the first 100 at the grand opening of a Chick-Fil-A store and received a free dinner a week for a year. And, he has a "Grinder" t-shirt line using recycled t-shirts.
 
All in all an amazing guy having a ball living the tennis life out there on the men's professional tennis circuit. Check out his very entertaining website at www.Ilovethegrind.com.

 
 

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