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Florida Tennis Briefs(5): Regional Columnists; League Warrior

December 4, 2013 03:17 PM
Good Friends and Tennis Age 55-plus 

by Scott Harrison, USTA Florida Region 1-West (Panhandle) Columnist

region_1W-Old_Guys__August_2013In every city and town around Florida there are groups of men, women or mixed doubles players who get together to play just for the fun and camaraderie of the game. Some play at a one- or two-court neighborhood complex and others, like the one pictured here (Roger Scott Tennis Center in Pensacola), play at bigger tennis venues. But they all have a good time and do it for the love of the game.

This group is the focus of this piece because I am a member of it and because the players have meant so much to the game over the years. The fellows in this group are between 55 and 77 years old and are all pretty darn good tennis players. There are retired military guys, doctors, attorneys, engineers, pilots, managers and educators. Some have played tennis at the highest levels such as Don Caton, who is not pictured, but won the Orange Bowl when he was a junior. He's 70 now and still serves and volleys! Bill Kellenberger has been very high in the national rankings when he younger and Peter Wilken has been on several teams that went to the USTA League Nationals.

But what all these guys enjoy is playing tennis. Not everyone gets along all the time, but the format for our play on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:45 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m. is spin the rackets, get a partner, an opponent and play a set. Then, do it again. Anywhere from 4 to 16 players show up on any given day. So, if you draw a guy you're not particularly friendly with, you only play one set. Usually we play three sets but sometimes four and the duration of the outing is two and a half to three hours.

Even though Pensacola has a good-sized tennis population, there are not enough players in the older ages at the correct NTRP level to have viable leagues. Many of these guys have traveled all over the country to play tennis and they don't need that anymore. But, the game is in their blood and they just love to play.

When Mario Alvarez, retired Navy chief and still teaching tennis in his 70s, shows up, he brings hot tea, bananas, chocolate and cookies! And, although he can't run like when he was 45, he hits the ball better than ever. There is no such thing as no man's land to Mario!

So, I salute these guys, my friends, for being the best bunch of guys one could have as old guy tennis buddies.

Tallahassee Program Proves You Can Play Tennis Anywhere

by Kelly Tucker, USTA Florida Region 1-East (Tallahassee-area) Columnist

region_1E-Grace_missionThe Grace Mission Episcopal Church after-school enrichment program ended its fall tennis season in mid December. For those unfamiliar with Grace Mission, it is a non-profit charity that provides much-needed assistance to the homeless, poor, and underemployed population in Leon County. 

For nearly two years now the children who attend the after-school program have been given the opportunity to participate in a tennis program held on Tuesdays through the support of many volunteers from Florida State University and Florida A&M University and the City of Tallahassee Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Affairs. The program, which was originally held at the LeVerne F. Payne Community Center's tennis courts off Fourth Avenue, had to be relocated to the Springfield housing authority apartment complex off Joe Lewis street due to funding constraints. 

The Springfield location initially posed some unique challenges for the instructors, volunteers, and children. Not only was the playing area, consisting of a concrete slab in the back of the apartment complex, covered in glass and debris that had to be cleared every week, but the children were required to walk down a steep embankment and through grass just to reach the playing area.

Another challenge that was present was the size of the playing area. Because the area was relatively small, the program had to be broken up into two groups -- first and second graders one week, and third, fourth, and fifth graders the following week. 

Despite the program's challenges, almost 50 children have been introduced to tennis this season, proving you can play tennis just about anywhere. For many of the children in the program, tennis has been a great escape from their daily routines and home life.  When it is time for tennis, most of the children come barreling down the hill to the makeshift tennis court, eager to play. 

In fact, some of the children who live in the apartments but who aren't associated with Grace Mission can't wait to come down each week just to help the instructors pick up balls and pack up the racquets and portable tennis nets. Elizabeth Crowe, director of the after-school program, stated, "The tennis program has been such a positive experience for the children. They just can't wait until Tuesday rolls around each week and when the program is rained out, let's just say the children are extremely disappointed."

For information on how to help support the program or to volunteer please contact Ms. Crowe at elizcrowe@comcast.net.

Lake Cane Tennis in Orlando Hosts Women Playing for T.I.M.E.

By Susie Rahimitabar, USTA Florida Region 4 (Central Florida) Columnist

region_4_susieThe 20th annual year of tennis fundraisers for Women Playing for T.I.M.E. (WPFT) was the perfect year for MD Anderson to partner with USTA Florida with the PINKOUT campaign, and to shoot for a goal of 20 events.

During September and October 2013, those using the code PINKOUT when joining or renewing their USTA Florida memberships also promoted WPFT. 

To help meet that goal, the Lake Cane Tennis Center offered up free tennis court time to host the event in October 2013. Marcelo Gouts, president of MG Tennis, Inc. (that runs the tennis facility inside Shadow Bay Park at Lake Cane Tennis Center) has supported this worthy cause for years. 

This year volunteers Sally Ohe and Claire Stoppler recruited a group who put on a lovely event. Winners of this year's Lake Cane event were Virginia Greenlaw and Giselle Serralles of Southwest Orlando. 

Congratulations to them and to all who participated or organized or supported the effort.

Sherrie Barnes: Winning the Trifecta to USTA League Nationals Tennis

By Barbara Eisner Bayer, USTA Florida Region 8 (North Gold Coast) columnist

Sherrie Barnes (left) and Cheryle Hicks toasting
their 4.5 dominance

Most people only dream about going to USTA League Nationals. Once. But for Sherrie Barnes, the hard-hitting 4.5 Atlanta native from Dillon Tennis Center in Oakland Park, her dreams are coming true, not once, not twice...but three times! Because as wonderful as the facility's women's 4.5 40 , 18 , and mixed doubles 9.0 teams are, they share one secret to their successes -- Sherrie Barnes.

"It's like winning life's lottery," said Sherrie, who feared her competitive career was over when she suffered a knee injury a few years back. Boy was she wrong!

Sherrie's tennis talents were discovered early. After playing in the juniors, she attended Florida A&M University on a tennis and basketball scholarship. Only one other person in school history received the same kudos -- her inspiration -- a woman by the name of Althea Gibson.

"When I was coming up as a junior," said Sherrie, "there weren't a lot of blacks in tennis, and I experienced some racism. But Althea's challenges were 100 times harder than mine. If she could do it, I could do it."

And do it she did.

Sherrie and her partner, Cheryle Hicks, had only a week between the USTA Nationals in Phoenix, Ariz., and Indian Wells, Calif. -- so they planned a road trip.

"We called ourselves Thelma and Louse," joked Sherrie, adding, "I'm the one with the gun." (She was referring to the speeding ball that flies off her rifle-like racquet, of course.) According to Cheryle, the two are a perfect partnership -- Sherrie crushes the ball from the baseline, and Cheryle puts them away at the net. They overcame challenges including winning two 10-point tiebreaks, and running out of gas -- but nothing deterred them as they dropped only one match at both USTA National events combined.

Sherrie learned tennis from her dad -- so it was a special moment when her parents, Gene and Jannie Barnes, saw her play at nationals. She had help financing her trip from her old friend and former mixed doubles partner from Atlanta, Amp Myers, a past 5.0 national winner.

Although Sherrie's teams didn't finished first, she still has one more chance, when her 9.0 mixed doubles team heads to Hawaii in April 2014.

"Hawaii...are you kidding me?" she says. "Three nationals in one year is surreal...it's a blessing and a gift." And all who have had Sherrie on their team feel she's a blessing and a gift, as well.

Electric Tennis and Rockin' Blues, One-on-One Doubles Coming to Florida Locations

One on One Doubles 013.jpgOne-On-One Doubles Tournaments will return to Florida in its music filled format in 2014.

The three-hour tournaments will be played at The Kiwi Tennis Club in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., on Friday, March 7 and at Hawks Landing Tennis Club in Plantation, Fla., on Saturday, April 5.

Both Men's Open tournaments will offer $3,000 in prize money and are piloted by USTA Florida.

This unique tennis event integrates rockin' blues music throughout the three-hour event. A live rockin' blues concert and a dinner party for the tournament players, club members, event sponsors and guests will immediately follow the tournament.

One-on-One Doubles, endorsed by the USTA, is a half-court, serve-and-volley singles game played on the doubles court. This game brings the full arsenal of tennis shots into a new fast-paced, spectator-friendly sport. Since 2005, One-On-One Doubles Tournaments have been hosted at the annual ITA National College Coaches Convention.

In the Summer of 2012, Tennis Channel aired a Professional One-On-One Doubles Tournament, hosted by the Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club in Ocala, Fla., that was won by Michael Pernfors, 1986 French Open singles finalist. The game's founder, Ed Krass, is also the director of the College Tennis Exposure Camps, the world's only camps taught exclusively by head college coaches.

"The tournaments will consist of some of the state's and nation's top players going after the One-On-One Doubles titles," Krass said. "This will surely be a great mix of tennis and music to entertain the fans."
The National One-On-One Doubles Championships is scheduled for Nov. 9, 2014, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home to the US Open, in Flushing, N.Y. One of the Florida tournament winners will earn an all-expense paid trip to compete in the national event in November.

"One-on-One Doubles events are a blast! Customizable and team-format friendly, it's a natural addition to any tennis clubs' schedule both for regular play and special events," says Whitney Kraft, tennis director at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. "Kudos to coach Krass and the Florida Section for their innovative collaboration with the upcoming events throughout the state."

For more info go to www.oneononedoubles.com or contact Ed Krass at oneononedoubles@yahoo.com or call (813) 684-9031.






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