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USTA Florida Regional Tennis Columns

February 4, 2013 02:36 PM
Snow Ball Smash Caps 2012 Tennis Season
 
by Kelly Tucker, USTA Florida Region 1-East (Panhandle) Writer
 
Region_1E-Champions_Leigh___Laura_Ceci
Snowball Smash champions Leigh Ceci and her daughter Laura
The "Snowball Smash," a parent-child tournament sponsored by the Tallahassee Tennis Association and the City of Tallahassee Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Affairs, was held at Forestmeadows on Dec. 29, 2012.
 
This tournament event is held every year on the first Saturday after Christmas to allow families the opportunity to play together in a fun, informal tournament setting during the holidays. According to the Tournament Director Cathy Kendall, there were so many new players that entered in this year's tournament that it wasn't feasible to use the round robin format that has been typically used in the past.
 
This year, players were split into two groups, the Ice Storm Division and the Blizzard Division. Round robins were played within each division with the finalist of each division advancing to play each other in the overall final match.
 
This year's Snowball Smash champions were Leigh Ceci and her daughter, Laura. The mother-daughter team first had to win the round robin of the Ice Storm Division and then play Sharon Nicholson, and her son, Ronnie, who had won the round robin for the Blizzard Division. The championship match ended with an exciting tiebreak with the Ceci's having to come from behind to capture the title.
 
For information on upcoming tournaments and league play in the Tallahassee area visit to www.ttatennis.org.
 
 
Two New Public Tennis Centers in Region 1 Florida
 
by Scott Harrison, USTA Florida Region 1-West (Panhandle) Writer
 
Two new public tennis centers are on the horizon in Region 1 West of the USTA Florida Section. The basis for a good tennis community is a thriving public tennis center with adult and junior programs of all types. Both the project in Milton and the one in Niceville will have those characteristics in addition to being the home courts for junior and senior high school tennis.
 
In Milton, the six old hardcourts are currently being demolished and rebuilt into six new full-size courts and one permanent 60-foot 10 and Under Tennis court. In the immediate future, plans are two more full-sized courts and 60-foot courts. Funding for this project is from Santa Rosa County, Santa Rosa County Schools and the USTA.
 
In Niceville, The Eagle Ram Tennis Center Capital Campaign is spearheading the effort for a brand new eight-hardcourt facility to be built on the grounds of Ruckel Middle School, adjacent to Niceville High School. Both schools have had many good tennis teams throughout the years but never had a public school courts to play their matches. Trying to schedule matches at a private club always causes problems. The USTA as well as other private and public sources of funding are being pursued by the Eagle Ram Tennis Center Capital Campaign. One of the project's spokespersons, Niceville High Tennis Coach Chris Poate, says they hope to break ground on the project in late February or early March of 2013.
 
The courts for both of these projects will be available to the public for play. In this tough economy, it is nice to see recreational tennis facilities under construction. In another note, Santa Rosa County is adding lights to the courts at Gulf Breeze, Navarre and Pace High Schools this year.
 
WEAVER GOLDEN IN JACKSONVILLE SUPER SERIES
 
Pace 12-and-under tennis player Elena Weaver had a golden tournament in the Julington Creek Plantation Junior Super Series on Dec. 15-17, 2012, in Jacksonville. Weaver, the top seed in the Girls 12s, following a first round bye, won all four of her matches 6-0, 6-0. Congratulations!
 
 
USTA Pro Circuit Events Repeat in 2013
 
By Nancy Morgan, USTA Florida Region 3 (Sun & Nature Coast) Writer
 
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 Innisbrook's tennis and recreation Director Pam Collins, Pro Circuit wildcard winner Elizaveta Ianchuk and Tournament Director
Rhett Rollyson
As it has the last four years, Region 3 ushered in the New Year by hosting the first USTA Pro Circuit event of the 2013 season. This year -- the circuit's 35th -- more than 90 events will be staged around the nation.
 
Innisbrook Resort, a Salamander Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, scheduled its second annual Innisbrook Women's Open, a $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit, in early January. Following a Wildcard Tournament that advanced Ukraine's Elizaveta Ianchuk to her second consecutive main draw entry in Innisbrook's Pro Circuit, organizers planned an array of community activities to heighten interest in the professional tournament. Leading off the activities was a Doubles Pro-Am that included round-robin partnering with the pros and a VIP/Player Party. Also planned were complimentary tennis clinics for club and USTA members, a Family Fun Festival and an Adopt-a-Unit Clinic to honor veterans and troops.
 
"We started thinking about this year's Pro Circuit as soon as last year's was over," said Pam Collins, tournament chair and Innisbrook's director of tennis and recreation. "We planned most of the same community activities as last year, and added an Adopt-a-Unit Tennis Clinic to honor our veterans and troops. We are partnering with the USTA to adopt the 160th Military Police Battalion that is stationed in Afghanistan.
 
"Our primary goals are to provide a good venue for the players to compete and to draw in as many spectators as possible so they can see this high-level tennis with the pros of the future. Long term, it would be wonderful to see Innisbrook host a WTA tournament again as it did 20-or-so years ago."
 
Last year, Grace Min vaulted from No. 414 to No. 169 after winning the Innisbrook Open and credits her USTA Pro Circuit competition with her rise.
 
"The Pro Circuit is a great stepping stone for us juniors to transition to the pros," said the 18-year old Min from Georgia. "It provides small steps, so young players aren't overwhelmed with what they want to accomplish."
 
The men's Pro Circuit competition begins in Region 3 at Tampa's Harbour Island Athletic Club and Spa in mid-May, followed by Innisbrook's in early June. Both are $10,000 Futures Pro Circuit events and serve as proving grounds for top-ranked juniors, college players and pros at the beginning of their careers. Tampa's winner last year, Tennys Sandgren of Tennessee, along with Innisbrook's champion Blaz Rola of Slovenia took advantage of their wins to advance their world rankings.
 
Sandgren, 21, who played two years for Tennessee, has raised his world ranking from 539 to No. 233. Rola, 22, was No. 721 in 2011 and finished 2012 at No. 311. The Ohio State scholar athlete junior plans to continue his education and hone his game with the Buckeyes in preparation for the professional arena.
 
It's a win-win situation for the USTA Pro Circuit players, who thrive on the competition and the opportunity to earn ranking points to advance their careers and for the spectators, who can experience the stars of tomorrow up close and personal.
 
 
All in the Family -- Tennis Champions
 
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Edwin Escalona gives his daughter Valeria a big hug after she won the Interlachen CC 8s event
By Susie Rahimitabar, USTA Florida Region 4 (Central Florida) Writer
 
For the first time in the Orlando USPTA Grand Prix History the 8s & Boys 10s divisions were won by siblings in the same season. Valeria Escalona was the winner in the 8s division (boys & girls) and the Boys' 10s was won by her brother Andres Escalona.
 
The Escalona's train in the exclusive Florida Futures programs at Lake Cane Tennis Center. The program, which is run by one of their coaches, Kenny Gouts (PTR Pro), for junior players 8 & under and 10 & under divisions, follows the 10 and Under Tennis format of play. The Escalonas also train privately with several of the Lake Cane coaches including Scott Boruszewski, head teaching pro at Lake Cane Tennis Center.
 
The children's father, Edwin Escalona, has also recently taken to playing tennis and can be seen hitting with the kids for hours in addition to their instruction. Edwin and his wife, Gelsomina, have also become good friends with other parents of kids in the program and the parents coordinate tennis play opportunities. Even with this much tennis, it is hard to get the kids off the tennis courts and they talk about each opportunity to play with great excitement.
 
Their excitement is contagious and many of the young players in the same programs have also had great success in tournaments.
 
The Orlando USPTA Grand Prix is a series of tournaments where novice and recreational players are encouraged to participate in a 'soft competitive" forum. The goal is to provide players with a positive, fun and fair competitive platform on which they can grow and compete as players, as well as build a lifelong love of the sport, according to their website. Point count in the series encourages return participation. For more information go to www.courtsideusa.com/communities/orlando_area.
 
In 2012, the series included 10 events in the Greater Orlando Area from September to mid-December. Each player receives points for participation, and the top players in each division earn a higher number of points. In addition to event winners who receive prizes, the points accumulate to produce top scorers for each division who are also awarded a trophy at the end of the season.
 
Valeria and Andres were excited to watch who was in the point lead after each event and set their goals, along with a good performance at each event, on the total points for the season win.
 
Other division winners for the Season were: Taylor Graham and Patricia Gonzales were overall winners in the Girls' 10s. The Boys' 12s overall winner was Alex Bludworth, the Girls' 12s was won by Annalise Vetter, Jacob Johnson was the winner in the Boys' 13s division, and Prophetess Gray had the most points in the Girls, 13s division.
 
SCRAPPERS 'TENNIS FAMILY' SCRAPS AT USTA LEAGUE NATIONALS
 
Scrappers_Family___FriendsTwo thousand twelve was a good year of tennis for the Fort Gatlin Scrappers.
 
The Scrappers started as a first-year rookie team and went on to take second place at the USTA League National Championships in Tucson, Ariz. There they lost in the finals to the USTA Caribbean team (Puerto Rico) 1-4 after beating the USTA Intermountain team (Ohio) 3-2 in the semifinals.
 
The 2012 Spring Men's League was the first time any of the Scrappers had played on an organized tennis league. The Scrappers enjoyed the normal season, but the real rewards came when competing in the championships. The level of competitiveness increased at each step from Regionals and Sectionals in Daytona, and ultimately to the national finals in Tucson.
 
Before forming the Scrappers team, most of the team members regularly played together at various neighborhoods in East Orlando, usually Eastwood.
 
The Scrappers are really part of a larger "tennis family" that is composed of friends and family who enjoy each other's company on and around the court. This group has a diverse makeup, with members from many ethnicities and walks of life. Because many of the wives and children play as well, tennis has become a central social activity for the group, promoting fellowship and camaraderie.
 
The Scrappers, along with their family and friends, will continue to enjoy tennis as a sport and promote community social activity for many years to come.
  
 
USTA Florida Grant Makes Difference in 'Wheel' Life
 
By Cary Bayer, USTA Florida Region 8 (North Gold Coast) Writer
 
mark-wheelchair
Sunny and Chair: Upbeat Mark Morgenstern with his purchase
Plantation's Mark Morgenstern is a tennis player who makes a difference. After arranging free seasonal tennis camps for children of armed forces personnel in Broward County at nearby Frank Veltri Tennis Center, he turned his attention to those who have no legs to stand on.
 
A first-time grant writer, his huge heart and commitment landed $17,000 in grants -- $11,000 from the USTA Florida and $6,000 from the USTA Florida Foundation -- to purchase four adult-sized and two kid-sized sport wheelchairs, so disabled athletes could play on Veltri's 28 claycourts. These specially-designed chairs allow for playing tennis in ways that typical wheelchairs don't. An additional $5,200 was given by the USTA Wheelchair Program to promote wheelchair tennis at Veltri, perhaps the only club in the state offering free chairs to disabled athletes.
 
Why wheelchair tennis? "If you try bowling, you find alleys and rent shoes; if you try archery, you go to a range and rent bows and arrows; if you want to play tennis, you can demo a racket and play," Mark says. "But if you can't walk, there are no Florida courts where you can rent special sports wheelchairs."
 
Last summer, Mark met with Bruce Karr of the Boynton Beach-based National Wheelchair Sports Fund about putting on a clinic. Bruce, a chair-bound tennis champ, has played at Wimbledon, the French Open, and the US Open.
 
At the clinic, with 12 wheelchair players, he taught Veltri campers the rules of wheelchair tennis -- two bounces permitted in singles. The game is also played in a "mixed" doubles category with a wheelchair player and a stand-up player -- the latter plays with one bounce. Then, the six new chairs were used at an Oct. 6 wheelchair tennis exhibition.
 
Mark was honored in a Proclamation by the Broward County Board of Commissioners for his armed forces program, and was also cited at USTA Florida's 2012 year-end annual conference in December for his wheelchair efforts. Big-hearted Mark has big wheelchair tennis goals for Veltri, which hosts the Florida Orange Bowl Tournament, weekly classes, and a regional event leading to national and international events as well.
 
 
USTA Florida Jr. Photo Op: Johnnise Renaud
 
By Collette Lewis, USTA Florida junior tennis writer
 
photo_op-RenaudNorth Miami 16-year-old Johnnise Renaud found the perfect antidote for an early singles loss at the Orange Bowl -- a doubles championship.
 
Renaud was the top seed in the 16s division at December's 66th annual Orange Bowl championships, held for the second consecutive year at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, but lost a three-setter to Jessica Golovin in the second round. Quickly putting that loss behind her, Renaud teamed with Germany's Lisa Ponomar to claim the doubles title, with the second-seeded pair taking all four of their victories in straight sets.
 
In the final, Renaud and Ponomar breezed by the sixth-seeded Canadian team of Marie-Alexandre Leduc and Gloria Liang 6-0, 6-1, playing exemplary doubles despite their lack of experience together. Renaud and Ponomar played together for the first time at the Eddie Herr the week before, reaching the quarterfinals there in the 18s division, so Renaud wasn't surprised by their stellar play at the Orange Bowl.
 
"It was a good warm-up," said Renaud, who trains at the Bill Adams International Tennis Academy in Pembroke Pines. "We were pretty confident coming into the tournament, even though it was our second time playing together. We're both very aggressive players, we're pretty solid at the net and we have a good chemistry together."
 
Renaud, a left-hander who is among the nation's Top 10 players in the Tennis Recruiting Network's Class of 2014, said the doubles title took the sting out of her early exit in singles.
 
"The singles (loss) was hard," Renaud admitted. "But I guess taking home the doubles really does help a lot."
 
 
 
 
 

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