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!