Wednesday, December 28, 2011

TLN to Test Team Tennis Format in 2012

In 1974, Billie Jean King co-founded World Team Tennis, the groundbreaking co-ed professional tennis league. She followed up with the World Team Tennis Recreational League, one of the most popular recreational tennis formats in the U.S. 

In the spring of 2012, Tennis League Network (TLN) will also launch team tennis programs of its own--on a pilot basis--in Boston and Washington, DC. This is essentially “a beta test to see if see if we can create a format that we can take nationwide by the fall,” says Steve Chagnon, League Administrator.

What is Team Tennis? In professional tennis, it is a coed professional league played in the United States with a unique team format. Each match consists of five sets. Each set features a different configuration (men's singles, men's doubles, women's singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles). Before the match, coaches decide the order in which the sets will be played. Each player on a team usually plays in at least one of the five sets.

Here’s how TLN’s Team Tennis will work:
Overview: We'll place you on a team of 3-5 players who on Saturday mornings meet up with another team to play. Over a 6 week season 4 singles and 2 doubles matches will be played + playoffs. The mini-matches will be 8 game pro-sets, so that the commitment is limited to about 2 hours.

Spring Season Start: Sat. April 29th, 10AM start time* and will run for 6 weeks, with an extra week for rain out. Playoff lengths will depend upon the number of teams that qualify. No more than 8 teams and 3 weeks.

How will teams be formed?: League administrator will create teams from the roster of the players who are enrolled, as in a draft. Each team will have players from various levels on it (for example, A-level, B-level, C, etc.). Each team will have at least 1 female player (preferably two). Each team will have 5 players on it to ensure that 4 players will be available for each match. We anticipate having an extensive sub list to help when more than one teammate can't make a certain week. We will attempt to honor requests for a particular teammate, but will not accept a full team for this first season.

Format: 4 singles matches start the day. The captains will order their singles players from A to D and match them up with their opponent’s A thru D players. For the singles match, at least 1 player per team must be female.** These matches will be 8 game pro sets, where a tie-breaker is played for the match at 7-7. Upon completion of these matches, two doubles matches (A & B) will be played where once again at least one of the players needs to be a female player.

Team Scoring: The winner of each match will be assigned a team point. 6 points are up for grabs. If the two teams are tied at 3 points then the tie-breaker will be the team with the best game score. If they are still tied then the match will be called a tie.

Player's Expectation: To be part of this program, you should want to be part of the fun of the tennis team format and meet new people who love tennis. 'Winner take all type” players need not apply. You also need to be flexible and be comfortable with meeting up at any of the courts suggested. The league will try it's best to have a North and South Division, which will greatly reduce the travel times for players.

Captain's Expectation: You are the heart-beat of the team. Your job will be to be in contact with your team and maybe even set up a time to meet up before the first match. On Thursday you should be in contact with the other captain and have the location picked out. You should also know who won't be able to make it, and fill any team needs you have by using the sub list. Captains will also be expected to bring 4 NEW cans ($15) of balls to each match and will have 'collect ball' dues from their team. Winning team takes home the 4 unopened can of balls. Doubles matches will use the singles matches balls.

Big Note: We are NOT going to rely on the tennis clubs to play these matches, so we are going to avoid a significant cost. But, we're also going to be at the whim of the weather. There's a strong chance that several matches won't be able to be played at the Saturday morning time set aside. The captains should be in contact with each other to try to schedule an alternative time or maybe play indoors. By April, the indoor court costs do come down a bit. If this option is chosen, then the players will be expected to cover the court costs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“16-LOVE,” an Indie Teen Comedy about Junior Tennis

“16-LOVE,” an indie teen comedy about junior tennis, is scheduled to appear in theaters, on video on demand, and online January 20th.

“16-LOVE” tells the story of 16-year old Tennis Ace, Ally Mash (Lindsey Shaw of the recently released “The Howling” and “Pretty Little Liars”), who lives and breathes the game until a twisted ankle lands her with hot rookie, Farrell Gambles (Chandler Massey of “Days of Our Lives”).  She makes him a champion, and he shows her what true “Love” is.

The cast and crew of “16-LOVE” are poised for the premiere on January 16th in San Diego—the heart of where the movie was filmed. Drawing on tennis clubs, professionals, and amateurs in the San Diego area, “16-LOVE” is filled with hard-hitting action and a great love story too.

Tennis programs stand to benefit from the “16-LOVE” premiere too. High school tennis teams and other tennis organizations closest to the theaters are selling tickets to the film to earn their programs’ 25% of ticket sales from the “16-LOVE” Will to Thrill fundraiser.

“16-LOVE” recently premiered a “Making of 16-LOVE” special on the Tennis Channel that can now be viewed on Youtube here:  along with their trailer:

For more information about events scheduled around the film please visit

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It Was the Best of Times for TennisOC Fall Season 2011

It was the best of times for Tennis OC (Orange County). The fall season was the most successful season in the entire Tennis League Network’s 8-year history.

So many matches played…so many players playing…so many records broken. So many playoff qualifiers. And so much fun! All in just 10 weeks. Here's what went down:

• 389 matches played between 67 players, an average of 11.6 matches per player!
• 8 players got free seasons for playing 20 or matches. 
Alan Kuhn played a whopping 33 matches.
• 37 of 67 players qualified for the playoffs. 55% of the players in the season.

Clearly, everyone loves tennis in TennisOC:

This program is great for all of us who are trying to get back in the game. I think this is a great place to meet other tennis lovers. -E. Valdez, member Since 07/19/11

I had been trying to find a way back into tennis...I'm so glad I found the Tennis League Network and Tennis OC! My game is coming back.
--S. Maki, member since 05/11/09

I have found some great matches and players. Everyone has been very flexible. It's a great league! I plan on playing for years to come.
- R. Baker, member since 03/15/10


Well, the fall season has ended, but  the fun in the sun isn’t over yet. (see the link below.) The New Tennis OC seasons begins January 3. So, if you are in the OC league, you can enroll now. The rest of us here on the East Coast will just have to wait until spring.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rafael Rios: A (Tennis) Tale of Two City Championships

What began as a “filler sport” for Rafael Rios led him to being a different kind of 2-time champion. Although it has been done before, it’s a feat to win just one championship, let alone two. What hasn’t been done is for one of our players to spread a tennis footprint from Tennis NorthEast in the Boston area all the way to Tennis New York. Apparently, this 4.0 player is a tennis champion wherever he goes. Which makes him an unusual Tennis League Network (TLN) player, and the only one of his kind.
So what league is he actually a member of? It depends on when you ask him. “I’m a current member of Tennis NewYork, and a former member of Tennis NorthEast. I’ve been a TennisNewYork league member since July 2011, when I switched over from the Tennis NorthEast League, which I had joined in July of 2010. I was relocated to New York this year for work and immediately switched leagues. I pushed my way through some solid competition in this league and was happy to come out on top again in the Summer 2011 season. I think from all my playing with Tennis NorthEast, I was well prepared for the competition in Tennis New York.” (How does the song go? If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…

It’s up to you - New York, New York)
Rafael learned about the Tennis League Network from James Lee, a fellow league member in Tennis NorthEast. “We were both in the same work league (Raytheon Tennis League) and he suggested I join Tennis NorthEast for the larger pool of players and increased level of competition. I did just that and have been enjoying it since.”

After joining Tennis NorthEast in July 2010, he quickly jumped from a 3.25 to a 3.5 level. “Not having played competitively since high school, I was very rusty at first, but quickly got better and better with each match. By the end of the fall season, I was back in form and winning most matches. I also started playing the 4.0 division to with some success.” At season’s end, Rafael was playing only a couple of times a month due to a hectic work schedule that involves a lot of travel. “But when I first started last year, I could not get enough. Between Tennis NorthEast and my work league, I’d sometimes play two matches in the same day and do it all again two days later. That was one factor, I think, that led to an ankle injury in August, 2010, which put me out for a good six months. “Steve (TLN Admin) graciously allowed me to get back into playing shape before finally playing our Finals match in April of 2011.”

When did Rafael start playing tennis?
“I started playing tennis my sophomore year in high school (2003 for Billerica Memorial High School). Before that year, I had never picked up a tennis racquet in my life. Growing up, my sports were always soccer in the spring/summer, soccer or football in the fall, and basketball in the winter. In high school I stuck with soccer, but I needed a filler sport for the spring. I tried doing track as a freshman but hated it and switched to tennis the next year. By my senior year I made captain and was playing second/third singles. I finished my senior year with a 13-2 record and our team made it to the state tournament.”

When he graduated high school in 2005, he went to college at Massachusetts Maritime Academy-- a school that had no tennis team (can you imagine?)-- but “I played on and off my four years there, mostly with friends, and training up my brother, who was three grades behind me and still on the high school team. “ He took a year off from tennis in 2009, when he started his current job with Raytheon. “After that year I noticed that the working world was making me fat and lazy, so I decided to pick up tennis again and started looking for leagues because I wanted to stay in shape. And because I love the sport.”

So, Rafael, what are your memorable league matches?

“I’ve had many memorable matches both good and bad. From Tennis NorthEast, one of the most memorable matches was with Don Tran in the summer playoffs. I’ve played more matches with Don than with anyone else (most of them off-the-record), and when we play it always seems to be a chess match-- picking at each other’s weaknesses, with a constant ballet of drop shots, lobs, and cross court forehands. I took the first set 6-4 on a few lucky points that helped me break his serve. In the second set, I think I won the first few games outright and then sort of relaxed, feeling like I could coast the rest of the set.

“This proved to be a mistake, since Don is a guy who brings it all on every point. He ended up tying up the games and at that point you mentally start to break down and play ‘not to lose’ rather just playing your game. By the third set I was so worn out and demoralized that he made quick work of me, 6-1. It’s matches like those that teach me the most and help improve my game. I make it a point now to try and play like I’ve got nothing to lose and just play hard every point, regardless of the score. Tennis is an awesome game of momentum and mental toughness.”

In Tennis NewYork, two very memorable matches have come against Christian Roumain and Orlando Jones (who was also profiled in this blog in October). I’ve played two 10- game pro set matches against Chris and in both I was down something like 5-1 and came back to win. Those were long rally matches where the points came from forcing opponent errors rather than winners. My only match against Orlando was in this summer’s playoffs. Lucky for me, that day I was nailing my first serves and it seems that I hit every line edge about ten times. I’m really looking forward to playing him again.”

Rafael’s biggest league rivalries “still remain in Tennis NorthEast with the likes of Jeff MacMonagle, Don Tran and James Lee. As I mentioned, I’ve played more off-the-record matches with Don Tran and, no matter the occasion, we always battle long and hard; I’ve had some of my best wins and losses with him. Same goes for Jeff in terms of intensity. Playing matches with James was always fun because his level of play was so high it just made you feel good when you finally took a game or two away from him, never mind a set.”

On the other hand, Rafael has begun “some good rivalries here with Tennis NewYork. As I described, my matches with Christian were epic in nature and Buddy Koehler and I play such similar styles that it’s like playing myself (very exhausting). Bernardo Gomes is also a very good hitter who I’m looking forward to playing some more.”

We can probably bet on the fact that Rafael has some other interesting rivalries -- outside the TLN leagues-- and inside the Rios League. “My younger brother, Billy, and my father became my default hitting partners as I learned the game, and Billy became a very good player. We played together my senior year in high school. Admittedly, he has beaten me on many occasions and is one of my personal motivators, as well as a rival; but luckily also one of my best friends. As soon as he graduates, I will personally see to it that he joins the league so that we may have our matches on record and finally settle who is the better player!”

Rafael looks forward to continuing to be an active member in Tennis New York. “I have really enjoyed my experience thus far. I hope to make the trip down to Miami next year and play in the National Tourney. And I hear that there’s a Raytheon in San Diego… who knows… maybe my job will send me there next and I’ll shoot for 3 Championships in 3 Cities. (Ha Ha)

Watch out Tennis League San Diego!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Orlando Jones Is “Hooked” on Tennis New York

Tennis wasn’t always the primary sport for Orlando Jones, a 4.0 player in the Tennis New York league. It was actually a backup to another sport that requires a solid swing-- baseball. Even so, he helped to save the high school tennis program. Then other sports netted his interest.

“I started playing tennis in high school, when I didn't make the JV baseball team my freshman year. The tennis program was going to get cut unless they recruited more people to play, so I signed up. I played baseball the next year, but played tennis my junior and senior year. I didn't play at all in college because I wasn't that serious, and ended up playing rugby. But once I joined the Tennis New York league in the spring of '09, I became hooked. I guess I like the one-on-one competition. Just me out there, all by myself, nobody else to help me.”

Orlando has participated in NYC League for about two years, and, like many Tennis League Network (TLN) players, he learned about it through the Internet. Could there be a more ringing endorsement than this? Says Orlando:

“What I like most about the league is that it provides a way to play competitive tennis against other people. The league does a great job of matching up players of similar skill levels so that the matches are usually a lot of fun. It's almost like you're a pro because there are rankings and playoffs and a national tournament.”

Orlando is modest about his tennis. Although he is currently ranked 4.0 by the league, “I would consider myself a 3.75.” He tries to play as often as possible, and usually gets out on the courts twice a week. But wait until you hear what he does out there! He is highly competitive with an astounding—and inspiring-- will to win.

In all of our profiles, TLN asks the players about their most memorable matches, good and bad. The match Orlando describes here will be memorable for all of us because it’s so competitive and it demonstrates how a will to win can produce results. In his own words:

“The most memorable match I had was the League 3.5 Fall 2010 championship I played in against Karthik Elango. He had beaten me earlier in the season fairly handily, so I had a chip on my shoulder.

“ We had to wait 6 months to play the championship match since we weren't able to play it in the Fall. So when we finally got around to scheduling the match I was fairly ready. The championship was important, but my main objective was avenging my loss from the regular season. When we finally started the match, it started off exactly as our previous match had. He and I were evenly matched, holding and breaking, until I was finally to win the game that really mattered, the final game of the 1st set 7-5.

“ For some reason, my serve, which had been pretty much non-existent, was working that day and it was my ace in the hole. The second set went pretty much the same way until we were tied at 4-4. At this point, we would get into long rallies on every point and it was starting to take its toll. Luckily, I was quick enough to run down most of his shots, even though they should have been winners, and it was beginning to frustrate him.

“ So my opponent decided to change his strategy and started to put some air on all of his shots. This worked extremely well because it effectively nullified my ability to approach the net, where I was hitting most of my winners, and was causing me to rush my shots and start making errors. Eventually, I was broken and lost the 2nd set 6-4.

“During the break, we both sat down and joked about how much longer each of us could go. It wasn't that it was hot or humid, but as any tennis player knows, two hours of closely contested, long rally tennis can take it out of any recreational player. I didn't think about winning the match, I just said to myself that if he was going to beat me on this day, he was going to have to play the game of his life and hit all winners because I wasn't going to let him get any points easily. Winners or nothing.

“ As we walked to our sides for the 3rd and final set, we smiled and I said, "Well here we go...". As I got to the baseline, all I could think about was my service motion. That's it. Not strategy, not my opponent, just my service motion. I was so tired, but I willed myself to keep going. I had waited six months to play this guy and redeem myself, and I wasn't going to break down like last time.
“And what happened next was nothing short of spectacular. I served the best set of tennis in my life. Time after time, I was cracking first serves like nobody's business. There was no aim involved, this was me just hitting a serve as hard as I could over and over again, and hoping it would land in the box.

And luckily for me on that day, they were going in. I was winning my service games with my serve, and he was winning his games through sheer grit and determination.
“Finally, after winning yet another service game to bring it to 5-4, I realized that all I needed to do was break and I would win the match. I got to the baseline and reminded myself that I was going to make him hit winners to beat me. Once again we played another tight game.

“ Backhand pass down the line and he goes up 15-0. I hit a volley at the net for a winner to tie it up 15 all. I hit a ball wide during a long rally to put him up 30-15. I hit a forehand slice that dies before he can get to it to tie it up at 30 all. During the next rally, I hit an inside out forehand to his backhand and rush the net for another forehand volley to get to match point. The ensuing point goes into another extended rally.

“Each of us is making sure to keep the ball in the court, hoping that the other would make the error so that we could win the point. Eventually I hit a cross court forehand to his forehand, which he hits back right into the middle of court halfway between the service line and the baseline. I wind up and just whip a forehand down the middle, figuring that even if I lose the point, we still have to go to deuce.

"The ball bounces up on his side and he hits a forehand that sails towards my backhand corner. I watch as the ball just continues to sail, eventually past the baseline. As I watch it finally bounce long, I breathe a sigh of relief and do a very small fist pump. I had avenged myself, and for the league championship to boot. 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.”

Wow…congrats Orlando! It’s easy to see why this clearly this was a memorable match. He can recall almost every point! But good recall can also have its downside, because “… I can remember all of my losses. I hate to lose, so that usually sticks with me for a while. There are 13 of them so far, so I'd be here for hours writing about them.” A quick note: Orlando is 5-3 for the fall season.

“As for rivals, I would say I'm rivals with Pranav Kabra, Esu Manzano and Buddy Koehler. I play those guys a fair amount, so it's always a good match whenever we meet up. I would list Jason Schatz also, but I haven't beaten him yet. But believe me, I'm working on that.”

As a “young bachelor living and loving life in Brooklyn,” there is no family that plays tennis, but a few of his friends do.

“When I'm not playing tennis, I'm either watching the pros (and almost any other sport), playing sports, cooking up a storm (I love to eat) or reading some good books (I've been reading a lot of books on Bushido these days).

But back to tennis. “The league is great, I just wish everyone who signed up would be serious about getting out and playing. Many times, you have people who sign up and then never play. Seems like a waste of money to me. But that's not the league’s fault.

“And for the record, most people call me O.J.” And also for the record, he’s a killer on the tennis court!

Admin Note: Playing tennis in NYC is so difficult in comparison to all the other cities in the US. The city has so few courts and most of them don't have lights for the million of people in the city. More often than not, players can only get an hour of court time and they will be booted off the courts after the hour. This is no way to really play a singles match. Also add in the fact that the Parks and Rec decided to double the tennis pass fee to $200 just for the rights to use the courts. Basically a grim scenario for people who love to play tennis in the city. But, even through all that our NYC players continue to connect up on the courts to play the game they love.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Benoit Benaibbouche: Jouer au Tennis, Anyone?

       Although he hails from the land of Lacoste, Gael Monfils, Marion Bartoli, Nicolas Mahut, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Benoit Benaibbouche didn’t take up tennis until he moved to the United States--land of Fish, Roddick, Isner and Williams. He says he loves Tennis-Miami for a number of reasons: 
       “I like the competition, and meeting players. Even in a match you never know what to expect. The excitement is playing people you never met before. That makes it interesting. And why else?

       “I love the league. It’s very well organized, and I have never had a bad experience . Everyone is fair, honest and respectful. ”

      Benoit learned about the league when he went online to the West Side Tennis Miami partner program. He contacted Steve, who suggested playing in the league. It’s clear that Tennis Miami has netted a pretty good player. He’s an Advanced 4.0 player who’s on a tennis court an average of 3-4 times a week. 
      Moreover, many matches, only one isn’t really a positive memory—a match that was almost a win-- but wasn’t.
       “I was playing against a player with 25 wins, and wasn’t even expecting to win. But I did get close. I won the first set; he won the second set. In the third set, we called it quits because it was too hot. (Remember--this was summer in Florida.) We played the third set another day. I was happy; I had a great match. On that night, we played another match right away; but I lost again. He was very honest to tell me that I was one of his toughest wins.” Seems like that last part makes for a good memory, non?
       Benoit has one solid league rivalry. “I have one guy, Robert Duran, I play with a lot, since we both have time during the day. We have similar games, so it’s always a lot of fun. He has a 4-3 record against me. And we have never finished a match in 2 sets. We always go to a third.”

Tell us something about yourself:

• When did you start playing tennis? “Three years ago I started playing intently. I always liked tennis.”

• What brought you to the United States?
       I came to Miami from Paris when I was transferred by Omega Watches. I am a sales manager. • Do you have a family? “I have a wife and a child.” In fact, Benoit has had a hidden motive for encouraging his family to play tennis. “I got them to play tennis to justify all my time.” (Hah hah!) His wife has been playing regularly for six months and takes lessons. “I taught my son to play tennis, age 6. We play together and hit balls.”
       The photos of Benoit shown here were taken last spring at a benefit tournament organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce. “It was for a good cause…all the profits went to a charity association to help an Italian family with money for school.” Although it was filled up, “they said to come over on Saturday, when, sure enough, there were two no-shows. Doubles teams were grouped and there were a lot of day matches. We got to the final and the ‘prize’ was to play on central court at the Key Biscayne Crandon Park Tennis Center—just a month after the Sony Ericsson tournament....what a joy!”
       OK, for those tennis players who miss a lot of shots and have to run around corralling tennis balls, here’s the best part: “We even had ball boys to pick up our balls--the guys we beat in the semifinals. We felt like pros! (And he looks like one in these photos, doesn’t he?)

Benoit is apparently an inspired competitor. “I’m going to apply to the November Tennis League Network national tournament. I believe I was in the playoffs last spring, so hope I can play in it.” Why not? He’s an avid Tennis-Miami promoter.
       “It’s a great league. I try to get as many guys as I can. I especially like the player of the year incentive. The more people you refer, the more points you get. I suggest that we also get more points by playing, and that playoff players should get additional points. Getting points to be in a playoff is great incentive, along with a Tennis Warehouse gift certificate.

“It’s very well organized. I have referred 3 guys and wish I could refer more.”

      That says it all, doesn’t it?    Miami / Dade County Tennis League

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

100+ Matches of Tennis for Valentin Ionescu-Tiba of TennisLosAngeles

100 matches in 12 months? You have to be kidding. Nope. No joke. 

      Valentin Ionescu-Tiba has taken full advantage of his membership in TennisLosAngeles. More of us should do this, but we may not have the time or motivation to even approach that total. 
      This passionate player, who is in the men’s competitive2 3.25 division, began his Tennis League Network (TLN) “career” in Boston back in August, 2010, and then moved to Los Angeles a month later. He has now played 109 matches since he started with TLN, with a win-loss record of 15-8 for the summer season. Valentin also plays USTA matches and is in some other leagues. That’s one heck of a lot of tennis.

       What does he like most about his Tennis Los Angeles league? For one thing, he likes the fact that it’s “exercising outdoors.” It also helps him “to focus and to improve.” Finally he likes “playing with diverse opponents with various styles of play.” 
       That takes us to the topics of memorable matches and rivalries.

       Memorable match: Valentin's 100th league match on July 13, 2011, with Dennis Cisterna in the summer 2011 season, when he “won easily after losing to Dennis in the 2010 Winter final match.” Good goin’ Valentin. 
       Another was last fall when he and Jeremy Lange were trying to complete their match “before the showers got worse.” (It’s a good thing he doesn’t live on the Eastern Seaboard, where Hurricane Irene dumped more showers on us than we can handle, and wrecked everyone’s weekend tennis plans. That’ll be a memory for sure.)
       On to the rivalries. There are several: Gustavo Alfaro, Terrill Warren, Rubio Punzalan, Victor Kowalewski), Justin Kim, Sergio Ibarra, and Dennis Cisterna.
       Overall, “The TennisLosAngeles league is excellent, Valentin says. “I am able to meet many players on my level. Playing tennis matches helped me to participate in a great activity after I moved to LA.”
       Here’s more about this highly active TLN player.
  • He is a senior project manager with a technical consulting firm. 
  • He began playing tennis “In my teenage years.”
  • He is married with no children. 
       And, he is “trying to find a way to get my wife on the court.” He wants to know: Does anyone have any suggestions?

       If he is successful in getting her out there, that could that mean even more court time? Whoa, Valentin. Take it easy and get some rest!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Prateek Raturi--More Tennis, Please

Prateek Raturi is always looking for more matches. In fact he’d like to play twice as often- 4 times a week instead of just two. He’s likely to find these matches as a member of Tennis NorthEast (Boston area). He joined about a year ago, when he heard about it from a friend, and has this to say about it:

“I have had a wonderful experience and have met some very good people. At the same time, I have taken my game to the next level.” It’s a pretty good level, too—3.5. In fact, he won the finals in 2010.

Prateek started playing tennis when he was 12 years old “but it was off and on after high school…

“I love the sport as it has a lot of class. Also, it teaches you to be mentally tough along with having a good game. The game needs to be won on the court and also in the mind.”

Any memorable matches?

“My league finals in 2010 fall was very memorable as it went 3 sets. I was playing an unorthodox player who would return everything and keep the point alive. I managed to come back after losing the first set and won the finals.”

He doesn’t have any particular league rivalries, “ but I do have very competitive matches with a few players.”

Prateek, a management consultant, is married to a wife who does not play tennis, and “my daughter is only 10 months old and keeps us busy,” which could explain why she isn’t on the tennis courts.

Look out, NorthEast players. This one-year member may meet you in the finals and be the champ two years in row!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ron Novak- Into the Swing of It with Tennis Cleveland

Ron Novak has been playing tennis for about three years, but he is really in the swing of it –and more svelte, too—since he joined three years ago. He learned about it from a friend, and is high on the group because he gets to play new people instead of the same old gang. It gives him the opportunity to meet new people across the city that enjoy playing tennis.
“I play at a club in the winter and for the USTA season in the summer,” he adds. “This league provides me an opportunity to play others, rather than the guys I hit with all year at the club. The fact that each person has a different type of game also allows me the opportunity to improve my game…

He also likes the TLN format:
“One of the other things I like about this league is the three-set match. In USTA we play a ten point tie break and I think it leaves too much to chance to only score ten points to win a match. I prefer to have to play another set. This allows for a few more mistakes, and means you have to be in really good shape.”

So what happened three years ago that brought him to tennis? Actually it was a business trip back home to Texas, where he had been living for 10 years (Dallas) before the move to Cleveland.

“One of the guys I worked with retired and didn't play golf. We got together to hit some balls. He is about 70 and has been playing his whole life. His whipping inspired me to pick up the game and try to get better.

“My other motivation was to get in shape. I've lost over 30 pounds since I started and I am proud to say they pounds have stayed off. I feel like I am in the best shape since

getting out of school almost 20 years ago.”

Do you have any other comments about your experiences with the league?

“Meeting new people since I am not from the area has been a great experience. The different type of players and the different skill levels have helped me improve my game.”

He must be improving fast because, after taking up the game three years ago, he is already a 3.0 player, working hard to reach 3.5. He has taken some private lessons, and he is a member of a local club. “I take group lessons in the winter and attend drills at least once a week when I am not travelling,” he explains.

 ”I am satisfied with my progress and I am working really hard to get to the 3.5 level. I need more consistency when playing in matches. Mostly, I have to stay mentally focused and work very hard to keep my feet moving to get in position to return the ball.”
What is his favorite shot?

“I really like hitting passing shots when my opponent comes to the next. My best shot is the unforced error,” he laughs.

My most memorable match? “Although I recently lost a close match in the third set, the three hour battle was a great workout,” says Ron, ever the fitness buff.

And here’s something we can all relate to:

“I learned pretty quickly that, unlike golf, the balls come back in tennis. Early on I found myself admiring a good shot, only to be out of position when the ball came back.”

(Gotta watch out for that, Ron!)

Ron is on the courts between two and four times a week, which probably offers him a nice break from his job as Human Resources Director at a Fortune 500 company. But he doesn’t take a break from his wife and daughter.

“They both play the game as well,” says Ron.

Ron does like to follow pro tennis, but his Wimbledon wishes didn’t come true. He had this to say about Wimbledon before it began:
“I am looking forward to attending the US Open for the second year in a row. We have now made it a family tradition to head to New York for Labor Day weekend. I like to watch Roger, Rafa, Andy and Novak on the men's side. And, I like watching Maria, Caroline and Samantha Stosur on the women's side. My guess is Rafa will win Wimbledon, but it would be cool to see Rodger win another major, or even Andy Murray win in England.
 It would be really cool to see Maria win at Wimbledon again as she has not played at the highest level since her shoulder injury.”

Maybe next year, Ron.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Wait is Over--Wimbledon Starts on Monday

Wimbledon, one of the most famous sports events in the world, begins Monday and continues through Sunday, July 3. You can learn everything about this year’s tournament here:

For the most part, players are entered automatically according to their world rankings. But this year there are two exceptions on the women’s side.

Serena Williams is seeded 7th, even though her ranking is 26. This exception is well deserved, since she was ranked first a year ago, when she left tennis because of a foot injury, and then blood clots in her lung. Additionally, she not only won Wimbledon last year, but 3 other times as well. That makes her a four-time winner and without dispute deserving of a place among the top 10 seeds.

The other exception is her sister Venus, who, though she ranks 33, is seeded 23. She, too, was out with a hip injury for most of this season. Venus has won Wimbledon 5 times! Just so you know, women’s #1 Caroline Wozniacki is seeded first, as is men's #1, Rafael Nadal.

One of the real disappointments for many people is that Kim Clijsters was forced to withdraw because of a foot injury she sustained at the recent Unicef Open in the Netherlands, played last week. That leaves things wide open, even with a likely rusty Serena Williams in the mix.

The top 10 seeds are :

1 Caroline WOZNIACKI (DEN) [1]


3 Vera ZVONAREVA (RUS) [3]

4 Na LI (CHN) [4]

5 Victoria AZARENKA (BLR) [5]

6 Maria SHARAPOVA (RUS) [6]

7 Francesca SCHIAVONE (ITA) [7]

8 Serena WILLIAMS (USA) [26]

9 Petra KVITOVA (CZE) [8]

10 Marion BARTOLI (FRA) [9]

The top ten male seeds are:

1 Rafael NADAL (ESP) [1]

2 Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB) [2]

3 Roger FEDERER (SUI) [3]

4 Andy MURRAY (GBR) [4]

5 Robin SODERLING (SWE) [5]

6 Tomas BERDYCH (CZE) [7]

7 David FERRER (ESP) [6]

8 Andy RODDICK (USA) [10]

9 Gael MONFILS (FRA) [8]

10 Mardy FISH (USA) [9]

So keep your eye on the Wimbledon ball. It should be two weeks of inspiring tennis for us TLN folks.

Opening round matches will be televised on ESPN 2 from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., and if you happen to have Tennis Channel, matches are repeated at night at both 7 and 11 p.m. If you can’t see matches on TV, there is plenty of opportunity to follow matches on the website, where you can see live scores and video replays of matches. You can see streaming video of matches at and at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Troy Ngo - Getting Fit with Tennis OC in the California Sun

Troy Ngo, a resident of sunny California, has played in the OC League since July, 2009.
Like many of us, Troy learned about TennisOC from a friend playing in the program.He started playing tennis just 6 years ago. Troy today is a 3.25 to 3.5 player who is on the courts two to three times a week.

“I liked tennis when I was a kid,” says Troy, “but I never had the chance to play. As I got older, I knew it was time to get some exercise.

So I thought about tennis. Then I started to learn and to play tennis. Best of all, it is great for fitness.”
What Troy appreciates most about TLN is the flexibility in scheduling matches and the opportunity to play matches with different players. Apparently, some of those matches have been quite memorable—good and bad.

“Yes, one of the matches lasted for about 2 1/2 hours. I won that one. Another match was getting tough. After we had one set each, my opponent argued for any balls I called out. The most unusual was the match in which my opponent just walked around and relaxed for about 2 minutes after 3-3 in the third set. And then, after leading 5-3, he just walked to the water fountain, which was two courts away, and then came back to play as if nothing had happened. I lost this match.”

Any league rivalries? "Yes. Phil Rabalais is one of them; we have taken turns defeating each other for over a year."

Troy has had many positive experiences in Tennis OC. He explains:

“I have been able to find players and to make new friends through Tennis OC. Ron Baker and Kenny Nguyen are my hitting partners. Any time I call them, they are there for me. Playing with the OC league, I have improved my game a lot and I am now playing better. I would recommend the league to anybody.”

Troy’s family is a bit of a tennis family. “ My wife plays a little tennis, but my son, who is 13, has been playing tennis every week for 4 years now.” Who knows? When he’s old enough, maybe he’ll join his father in the OC league.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Nate Oinonen: A successful example of the Will to Win

Nate Oinonen of Tennis Northeast is a bachelor with a great sense of humor and a passion for tennis. If love means nothing in tennis, it could have great significance in his future.

“... When I do get married,” says Nate, “if it's someone who loves tennis as much as me, I'd love to say our vows at the Tennis Hall of Fame grass courts (in Newport, RI). You know, so we could play a match after the ceremony. Obviously, Andre Agassi would officiate the wedding.

Until then, this DJ will continue to do his competitive best as a player in Tennis League Network (TLN), which he joined in 2008, when he saw a TLN flier. He has played in the Metro Boston league named ever since. He describes himself as a highly competitive player. And he is also much improved. His rating “was just recently bumped up from a 3.25 to a 3.5.” Does his competitiveness have anything to do with this improvement? You be the judge.

Nate will go to almost any length to win and he has some entertaining stories to tell about some of his TLN matches. Hear about those in his own words in this lively and candid Q & A, which should help you understand the relationship of his competitive will to win and his ultimate improvement.

TLN- How often do you play?

Nate- I play tennis almost every day. I play league matches about once a week in the winter and twice a week when it’s nice out.

TLN- What do you like most about it?

Nate- I like the competition. People really get into it. It’s fun to check out your stats online and see who you’re playing next.

TLN -Any memorable matches – good and bad?

Nate- Haha. Yes I have many. One of the best matches I’ve ever played was in the playoffs, fall, 2008. I played Matt Rogers, a good all around player with a nasty spin on his serve. The first set he destroyed me 6-1. He’s serve didn’t have much pace but I couldn’t return it with all that spin.

After losing the first set, I made up my mind that for the rest of the match I would play harder than I’d ever played tennis- or any sport for that matter, before. The next set went all the way to a tie-break which I won. In the third set, again, I gave everything I had. But Matt was just too good. He won the match after 3 hours of play at 6-1. 6-7, 6-4. I was disappointed but I knew I’d left nothing out there. Matt was just a better player. We had two other matches the next year, one of which I won.

Another great memory I had was playing in the 2011 National Championship (Key Biscayne, FL). I met a lot of cool people from other leagues around the country and I played pretty well throughout the weekend. After the first two days I had won 3 of 4 matches, which put me in the final day playing the unbeaten Karl Kuhnle.

I knew my chances were slim against this guy so I decided I would need to get in his head. That night in my hotel I googled Karl and looked for any advantage I could find. Well, I found it. The next day, while down in the match, I asked him about his pitching career with the 1908 World Series Champions, Chicago Cubs.

Karl played in the minors a few years back until he injured his shoulder, which subsequently ended his career. I think it’s actually the reason why he started play tennis. Anyway, I asked him about his pitching days in between changeovers and took some jabs at the Cubs whenever I could. It actually worked! His game started to slip! Even after the head games, I didn’t win. Karl was just too good for me. But I did get to a somewhat respectable 10-6 for the final score. I hope Karl doesn’t hate me- although I’d understand. I was sort of a punk. I definitely owe him a beer if he comes back to Miami this year.

TLN-Any league rivalries?

Nate-Other than Karl? Yes! My friend Jason Greenberg. We met through Tennis League a year ago and have played many matches since. Playing Jason is like playing an ugly, male version of Caroline Wozniacki. Like Wozniacki, he’s not the best when it comes to hitting winners but he is so damn consistent. He’ll get almost every ball back. Sometimes I’ll hit him a big inside out forehand to the back corner. Jason will be on the opposite side of the court but somehow chase it down. And he NEVER gets winded. I’m 2-7 against him officially but I’m pretty sure I’m 73-4 for the non-league matches we’ve played.

So, does this answer the question about Nate Oinonen’s competitiveness and his improvement as a player? I think it does. Do you agree? He gives a lot of credit to TLN.

TLN- We’d like to find out more about you. What is your occupation?
When I'm not playing tennis I'm DJ'ing. You can learn more about it at

TLN-What is your history with tennis?
As a kid, I grew up down the street from a tennis court. Tennis was the only sport I could really challenge my older brother at- so from then on, it was something I loved. But it was never really a constant in terms of playing regularly until about 4 years ago. At that point I decided I wanted to invest more time into it, instead of just playing a few times during summer. I started by hiring on my coach, Julian Mielniczuk. When I first met Julian, we were meeting three times a week. As someone who had never had a lesson before, I had a lot to learn. I don't do lessons often anymore but I still consider Julian my coach. He's always checking my standings, asking me about matches and sending me links to slow motion clips of Federer's backhand. I'm very thankful that I met Julian and I hope that I can hire him on full time when I finally make it to the pro circuit. 

TLN- Do you have any other comments about your experiences with the league?

Nate-Just a big thank you to Steve Chagnon, who does a great job of making this all happen. He’s a swell guy and truly loves tennis. I’m very happy to be a part of the Tennis League Network and I hope to continue playing and improving every year.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Outdoor Tennis is Just Weeks Away- Improve Your Health, Burn Calories, Get Fit

Some activities are just for fun. You already know this or you wouldn’t be part of Tennis League Network. But tennis offers so much more. It contributes to both your physical and mental health. There is so much you can read on this topic that you could probably burn up to 90 calories an hour just reading about it. If you read in bed and fall asleep, that’s about 60 calories more for doing nothing at all except breathe.

But, wait a minute. There's more to life than breathing. Get off the couch, put down that book, get out of bed, and get thee to a tennis court. That’s something members of our Tennis League Network are happy to do as soon as they can. Tennis compares pretty well with other activities. 
That’s probably why tennis writers and television commentators so frequently talk about the “fitness” of tour players. Much of the time, it seems, the term “fit” is just a euphemism for fat or overweight, as well as being strong, in good condition, and without injury. Serena Williams, whose weight seems to go up and down like a piston, is a case in point. The tennis writers and commentators are still blabbing on and on about the 30 pounds dropped by Mardy Fish last year. Now at 6’2”, 180 lbs., Fish has begun to turn his career around, winning 2 titles each in 2010 and 2011.
For a person weighing 155 lbs. and 1 hour of activity, this is what it looks like:

Running 1267
Tennis, singles 563
Swimming laps, freestyle, slow 493
Walking 3.0 mph, moderate 232
Typing, computer data entry 106 (!!)

More specifically, in an article provided to the USTA by Dr. Jack L. Groppel, Ph.d. (and also published on, a study about this topic about concluded that people who choose to play tennis appear to have significant health benefits, including improved aerobic fitness, a lower body fat percentage, a more favorable lipid profile, a reduced risk for developing cardiovascular disease, and improved bone health.

So it’s no wonder that scientists and physicians worldwide view tennis as the most healthful activity to participate in. Other sports, undoubtedly, provide excellent health benefits, as well as stimulate mental and emotional growth. But no other sport received such acclaim for its great benefits; physically, mentally and emotionally.
Read more from

You can also find more tennis information about tennis and health at the USTA Player Development Web site,

The Facts:

• People who participate in tennis three hours per week (at moderately vigorous intensity) cut their risk of death in half from any cause, according to physician Ralph Paffenbarger of Harvard University School of Public Health. (Paffenbarger not only studied over 10,000 people over a period of 20 years in his landmark 'College Alumni Health Study', but also finished over 150 marathons over the age of 45.)

• Tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem while scoring lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension than other athletes or non-athletes, according to Dr. Joan Finn and colleagues in a study done at Southern Connecticut State University.

• Since tennis requires alertness and tactical thinking, it may generate new connections between nerves in the brain and thus promote a lifetime of continuing development of the brain, reported scientists at the University of Illinois.

• Tennis outperforms golf, inline skating and most other sports in developing positive personality characteristics, according to Dr. Jim Gavin -- author of The Exercise Habit.

• Competitive tennis burns more calories than aerobics, inline skating, or cycling, according to studies on caloric expenditures.

Is it any wonder that scientists and physicians worldwide view tennis as the most healthful activity to participate in? Other sports may provide excellent health benefits, as well as stimulate mental and emotional growth. But no other sport received such acclaim for its great benefits physically, mentally and emotionally.

But wait. There’s more. In an article on heart and vascular health, the renowned Cleveland Clinic says this:

“Bjorn Borg, the stoic tennis-playing Swede who won five straight Wimbledon and six French Open singles titles, was famous for his calm, cool demeanor on the court. For a time, he was dubbed "Ice Borg." His conditioning was legendary, and so was his resting heart rate, a reported 45 beats per minute...

“Whether true or not, the story about Borg's tranquil cardiac tissue underscores an important point about tennis: playing it on a regular basis is good for your heart. It's also good for the body and mind. In fact, playing tennis on a regular basis produces physical, physiologic and psychological benefits.

On the other hand, probably few people recall that it wasn’t until she lost a lot of weight at age 22 that Lindsay Davenport began her ascent to the top of women’s tennis. Burning all the calories necessary to shed the extra pounds helped her to be a better mover on court and to burn away so many of her opponents.

So, TLN players, where do you stand with regard to fitness? Moving too slowly? Need to shed some pounds to increase your speed and stamina? Or so that your clothes fit better? Playing tennis on a regular basis is good for your body and mind. In fact, playing tennis on a regular basis produces physical, physiologic and psychological benefits.

Most spring seasons start in April. Do what you can to do now to get ready to play. Hit the gym, run, swim walk the dog and even shovel snow. And when you do play, you will not only have fun, but you will likely burn the calories that translate into pounds that can affect your health and keep you from playing your best tennis.