Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TLN Profile: Martin Spielmann – Have Racket, Will Travel

Martin Spielmann loved the 2009 Tennis League Network tournament at the Crandon Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, FL, just a few miles from Miami. He had such a good time that it’s a good bet that if all air travel were suspended, this 4.0 tennis devotee would even be willing to drive there when he goes back in November.
If you follow pro tennis, you may know that the Crandon Tennis Center is home of the Sony Ericsson tournament held at end of March through early April. Andy Roddick won it this year. It’s also the home of The Tennis League Network National Invitational Tournament, where last year Tennis Boston’s Martin Spielmann met his goal of moving past the round robin, which is run according to this format:

Players are grouped in mini-divisions of 5 players. A round-robin is played using a 10 pro set format (first to win 10 games). Depending on the number of participants the top performers qualify for championship Sunday and the single elimination tourney.

On Saturday, it came down to Martin’s last match and he was fortunate to beat Kyle Free from St. Louis to qualify for the Sunday single elimination tourney. Although Martin lost his first match Sunday, he ended up playing doubles with other players who were also eliminated. “Having pickup doubles games with players from all across the country after I was eliminated was my favorite part of the whole tourney. Losing ended up being a blessing in disguise. I even took a break and walked across the street to the beach for a swim, only to come back and play more doubles until my flight home,” said Martin. The loss won’t keep him from returning to Key Biscayne in November, since everyone who went the first year is invited back. That means he has another chance to compete and go to the beach! 

Like many of us, Martin’s forehand is his strongest shot, and his weakest is his backhand. Nonetheless, he wins more than he loses. And he has only good things to say about his league. “Everyone I’ve played has been a great sport. It’s competitive and it’s fun.”

There is little doubt that Martin Spielmann is dedicated to tennis. On two different occasions when his club closed in the middle of a match, he and his opponent left to continue the match at another location. One time Martin and his opponent drove around the suburbs of Boston looking for a tennis court with lights. Unable to find one, they had to resume the match another evening. Recently Martin and his opponent drove almost a half hour to another club to finish a match. Unfortunately, Martin lost that one.

Martin (at left with Ricki Ciolfi) almost didn’t even go to the 2009 National Tournament. Work and family responsibilities would have meant rearranging his schedule to go and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it. After a tragic accident suffered by a co-worker, Martin decided to reconsider. “My friend’s accident was a wake-up call. You never know what twists and turns life has in store for you, so I decided to go for it. How often do you get a chance to play a tennis tournament in Miami? I had help from my family and friends to make the trip a reality. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.” says Martin.

It’s likely that TLN’s national tennis invitational doesn’t have a bigger cheerleader than Martin Spielmann. He is also a Boston league fan who learned about it from a friend two years ago. “I couldn’t continue with a team I had been on, so I thought it would be a good way to meet and play against new opponents.” Growing up, during summers Martin played almost every day at local courts in his home state of Connecticut. The last few years, “I’ve worked at getting better. Last winter I had contract time with a friend and we focused on drills. The extra work really pays off in matches.”

Watch for it- someday there may be some other Spielmanns in Tennis Boston. Martin has Mondays mornings off, and during the summer runs Daddy’s Day Camp, when he takes the older three of his four children (ages 10, 8, 6, 3) to the tennis courts. The littlest one is going to be joining them soon. Being half Swiss, Martin is a huge Roger Federer fan. When in discussions to name the children, Roger was always at the top of his list. The 6 year old is named Peter, whose name was partly inspired by Martin’s second favorite player, Pete Sampras.

So get going, league players. (at left are Steve Kushner, Steve Chagnon and Ajay Patel) If you are winners in your leagues, you too could end up traveling to Key Biscayne for TLN’s November 5-7, 2010 national event (see below for details about how to qualify), where you could even meet up with Martin Spielmann for a little tennis and a walk across the street for some more sun and fun. Life’s a beach, isn’t it? No, it’s a tennis court, actually.

Five Ways to Qualify (By Invitation Only):

(1) Players who have won their respective season playoffs receive a playing entry into the Tourney.

(2) Players on the Top 100 all-time Legacy Wins in the Tennis League Network.

(3) Any player that refers 5 or more players in 2010.

(4) There will be about 10 at-large bids for friends of the league and most active players in various communities.

(5) Players who attended the 2009 National Tourney.

Monday, July 12, 2010

TLN Profile: Tom Emmitt—A Comeback Kid at 48

As you have probably learned, the range of skill levels varies widely in the Tennis League Network, which is one of its primary advantages.

Some are beginners, and others play at such a high skill level that they achieve entry into their league’s Elite division. Meet one of those players--Tom Emmitt.

Tom is unique because he is one of about only a dozen players in the Elite division of Tennis Los Angeles, where you can play tennis all year long. 
As a 4.5+ player, Tom has won the championship in both the 2009 Summer League Men's Advanced 4.0, and the 2008 Summer Season Men's Competitive. 

Like many league players nationwide, Tom is one of those comeback kids. He dropped out of tennis for what turned out to be a two-decade sabbatical. He explains:

“I love to play tennis and in college I played 4.5 hours a day. But it was an obsession, and there was tremendous pressure to improve. Finally, there had come a point after playing high school and college tennis many years ago that when I stepped on the court it wasn’t fun anymore. I did other things for a long time. After putting my rackets away for 20 years, I decided to come back to tennis. Why not? I’m still competitive. Most important is that I have rediscovered the joy of playing tennis, and truly love every minute that I am out on the court. But I don’t have to care about it. Even if I lose, I can be happy that I got on the court and played. It is also a great form of exercise that trains the legs, as well as the core.”

Watch out for that “still competitive” comment”, all you Los Angles players. This guy is dangerous. “I would say that I am a solid 4.5, who occasionally plays up to a 5.0 level, and unfortunately, occasionally plays down to a 4.0 level.”

The primary reason Tom likes his league is that “It’s a really great way to hook up with people of like ability. Most people who sign up are active. They don’t just sign up and forget about it. The thing that stands out most is the quality of people involved. Everyone is great about showing up on time, and calling if they have to cancel or reschedule, and everyone calls the lines fairly.”

One of Tom’s memorable matches was the final of the advanced division two seasons ago, when he lost to rival Jonas Stasivicious in three sets. We both played well, and in the end, he won by a break. Neither of us had a mental letdown, and we maintained a high level of play for the entire match. I would have liked to win, but somehow, as long as I play my best, and compete for the whole match, I can live with the results either way.”

Jonas is just one of Tom’s rivals; add Ken Chen and Paul Ferguson into the mix. “I have a tough time with all three of them, and can win or lose on any given day. That makes it exciting.” Jonas came into the league about a year ago. “He slaughtered me with his big strong forehand. We have played a lot of really close matches. I look forward to playing with him. It’s never a blowout, but a real cat and mouse match. I’m 48 he’s 24 or 25. I’m the resident old guy in the league.”
Tom would definitely recommend Tennis Los Angeles to other players. “There is a place in the league for any skill level or level of participation. I can play once a week or 4-5 times a week. It’s very flexible; it’s whatever you desire.”

For Tom, stepping up to an elite division was a “great step.” However, with a number of new strong players in Tennis Los Angeles this season, he his work cut out for him. On the other hand, if his past success is any indication, he is a challenging opponent and has a good chance to compete well in this 2010 season.