Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Let's Ace Cancer . . .

       Tennis is a love of mine. It's one of the many things I love in life. In fact, it's the only place on this earth that I leave this earth for a little while. It's my escape and a way to let out some ruthless aggression. We all have things in life that we enjoy doing and look forward to. Like Louie Armstrong said, 'What a Wonderful World'.

       However, people who have cancer, can have their worlds altered overnight, their hopes and dreams put on the back burner and they can be overcome with a paralyzing fear. All of the simple things in life that most of us take for granted, become a precious commodity to those that battle this dreaded disease. The fight is no longer about winning and losing on the court. It's is about life and death off of it.

       We all know someone who has their lives affected by cancer. For me, it is my best friend. In addition, she is a mother, daughter, aunt, sister, director, CPA, cheerleader coach and jack of all trades. A true superstar that MANY people count on. She was fortunate enough to knockout cancer a few years back.

       But over the summer a thought dawned on me. What if she did not win the battle? What would all of those people do without her, that count on her everyday? My life is GOOD, way too blessed to be stressed! I decided to dedicate the Philly fall singles, doubles and Tennis League Network Year End Tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida matches in her honor and for everyone battling cancer that would love to be on that court.

       About a week into the season, my friend called me and said that her aunt was now fighting breast cancer. This is a disease that can strike anyone of us at any given time without notice. It is a privilege each and every time I step onto the court. The pressure of converting a set point or getting a second serve in can seem trivial in the grand scheme of things. Each time I was faced with these clutch moments this fall season, I thought about my friend, her aunt and everyone battling cancer to keep my head in check and fight with the heart of a lion. Whether I play singles, or doubles with my partner Tony, it's an absolute joy playing tennis. I am truly blessed. Really... I am blessed.

       I am proud to write out a donation today to the Cancer Research Institute, the home charity of the Tennis League Network.
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) is the world's only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to harnessing the immune system's power to conquer all cancers. The Tennis League Network with the help of founder and ambassador Steve Chagnon, have raised over $5,000 dollars for the Cancer Research Institute over the last 4 years.

       I ask my fellow Tennis League Network members, in over 37 cities, to do something good for someone else this holiday season. Maybe even joining me in making a donation to CRI. As Steve would say, 'It's the right thing to do'.

Have a great holiday and I will see everyone in 2014.

Jeffrey Barr
Tennis Philly

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Some Details about the 2013 End of the Year Tourney held at Crandon Park Tennis Center

What a line-up!  What a line-up!   This is by far the most talented roster of players coming for the 2013 End of the Year Tourney.   I'm so excited to meet you again or for the first time.  Let's play way too much tennis and have fun on the tennis courts at beautiful Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, FL.

Here's some tourney highlights:
*  Ajay Patel out of Orange County is our most decorated player ever. He has 14 championships and 377 total wins in the program.
* Eli Panell out of Miami is returning after winning the Advanced championship last year. He's also won 5 total championships.
* Norbert Pukeca out of Orlando and Mariano Copello out of Miami both are undefeated at 27-0 and 9-0 respectfully.
* 16 players are returning for 2nd or 3rd or even 4th championship. Brian Beno out of Ft. Lauderdale and myself will have participated in all 5 tournaments.
* 44 players are attending as of today. That's a record.
* 28 players could be considered out of towners and will be traveling to the tourney.
* 16 players are from Miami or the Ft. Lauderdale franchises.
* Darrel Belvin out of Seattle will be the player making the longest trip to Key Biscayne.
* We're going to have 16 Advanced players playing for only 8 championship Sunday playoff spots. Friday, Saturday count more for them!
* Our smallest functional franchise: St. Louis will be having two participants: Nick Flanscha and Brandon Hall.
* The total record of everyone attending is:  2537 wins, 1785 loses -  58.6% win percentage
* The total record for the Elite players is:  964 wins, 211 loses - 82% win percentage
* Once again Denise Lynch will be the lead assistant in running the tourney. She did such a kick butt job last year and she's a wonderful sister. :)

Great things are happening at Tennis League Network.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A reflection on my first 100 matches - by Brian Patrick

           It was recently pointed out to me that I was approaching my 100th match.  I hadn't realized it and when I was first made aware, it didn't seem to mean much.  But after having a chance to reflect on 100 matches, I realized it was a big deal - to me at least.

            I joined in the summer of 2011.  I had played tennis on vacation with my wife with a group of retired men and women in Hawaii in a round-robin mixer type activity.  I had played casually with friends before, mostly just singles, but after this one day, I realized I wanted to play more.  We got home and I did a search for tennis leagues in the Cleveland area.  I signed up and I was hooked.  I remember vividly my first match.  I was nervous, mostly afraid of looking foolish, but the gentleman I met that day made me feel at ease.  See, it was also his first match, too.  We had a nice match, despite the result, a resounding 6-1, 6-2 defeat.  Although, in retrospect, the loss was against the eventual champion, so nothing to hang my head over.  

            Needless to say I was hooked.  I signed up for Spring, Summer and Fall in 2012 and couldn't play enough.  My "lessons" were earned on the court.  I am a competitor, so I struggled with balancing winning with working on some of the fundamentals.  I still do.  There are just some matches where you really feel like you need that win to help your morale, or to overcome a hard day at work.  But that's what keeps us coming back, right?

            I've met some incredible people and had some amazing matches.  The highlight of 2012 was going down to Florida for the year-end tournament and meeting other enthusiasts from the other networks around the country.  If you have the means and the opportunity to do this, I highly recommend it.  Oh, and winning my first championship trophy (yes, first....beware TennisCleveland players, there will be more!).  

            2013 is off to a great start.  Match 100 was last night in 93 degree heat.  I lost easily 6-2 6-3, so that is in a way serendipitous to the way I started almost 2 years ago.  54 wins and 46 losses later and I plug on.  I love meeting and playing new people, so if you are ever coming through Cleveland, look me up, I'd be happy to play! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Old is the New Young? by Gabe Gonzalez

          When I started playing tennis 30 years ago, the pro circuit was jam-packed with teen wunderkinds.  Tracy Austin, Jimmy Arias, Andrea Jaeger, and Carling Bassett were all media darlings, each one hailed as the next big thing.  The message was, "If you don't make it big by 16, you have no chance."  But, injuries cut short many of those happy endings. 

          Today, Old is the new Young.  As I hit the courts in my early 40's, I feel like I have company on the ATP and the WTA.  Roger Federer, while not at his peak, is still the Number 2 player in the world and the reigning Wimbledon champion at the age of 31.  David Ferrer is at a peak position of Number 4 at the age of 31.  Tommy Haas, up to Number 14 in the world, is having a renaissance at the age of 35.  In the doubles arena, only two of the top 15 players are under 30.  They are surrounded by the likes of the Bryan brothers (34),  Leander Paes (39), Nenad Zimonjic (36), and Daniel Nestor (40, and a three-time defending champion in doubles at Roland Garros).  These seasoned veterans are usually the first on a captain's list when Davis Cup squads are being formed.

The WTA is no different.  Five players in the top 20 are at least 30 years old, including the Number 1 player in the world (Serena Williams, Li Na, Nadia Petrova, Roberta Vinci, Klara Zakopalova).  And, these players are not coasting.  While Williams and Petrova had success in earlier years, Na, Vinci, and Zakopalova only hit their stride as they got older.  Much like the men, the women's doubles scene is dominated by the older generation, with nine of the Top 15 at least 30 years old (including Vinci, Number 1 in doubles).  And, then there's 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who, after a Top 5 career, returned from a 12-year retirement to ensconce herself in the Top 100 again (currently, Number 74). 

          So, when you think about your game, no matter your age, don't automatically think that your best days are behind you.  In fact, your best days may be right now, or a year or two into the future.  Tennis is a physical game, but it is also very much a mental game.  And, your experience is an advantage that you bring to every match.

-Gabe Gonzalez
Avid Tennis Fan

Friday, April 12, 2013

Boise, Idaho was nearly Novak Djokovic's Waterloo

           As the prize money in professional tennis has reached new highs, the distance between the tennis world of us regular folks and the tennis world of the global tennis stars has sometimes seemed very great.  What do they know about having to play on a questionable court or with the aches and pains of age?  And, do they even remember the pure joy of playing, separate and apart from the money, the celebrity, the titles?  Leave it to the Davis Cup to remind us that a pure love of the game of tennis is alive and well even among the greats.

Credited to EPA
           Boise, Idaho, is not known as a tennis mecca, but it was almost Novak Djokovic's Waterloo.  The United States and Serbia were playing their World Group quarterfinal there.  The U.S. had to have been feeling good about its chances, with Serbia lacking Janko Tipsarevic.  If John Isner and Sam Querrey each beat Victor Troicki, then the Bryan brothers would seal the deal in doubles.  On Day 1, Querrey needed five sets to beat Troicki, to get the U.S. to 1-1 after Djokovic's win over Isner.  The Bryan brothers were overwhelming favorites against the doubles line-up of Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac, ranked 334th in singles.  But, Davis Cup makes regular players become great players, at times.  That was the case with Bozoljac, who propelled the Serbs to an improbable 7-6(5), 7-6(1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13, win over the No. 1 doubles team in the world. 

Credited to USA Today
           After that shock, with the U.S. down 2-1, they needed a near miracle to capture both reverse singles matches.  It would be up to Querrey to topple Djokovic.  But, in the third game of their match, Djokovic toppled himself, falling to the ground in pain with an ankle injury.  After court side treatment, the mega-fit Djokovic played on, in noticeable pain, and beat Querrey in four sets.  Afterwards, he was reduced to tears when talking about the injury, unsure of how bad it really was.  [An MRI revealed no long-term injury, but Djokovic is doubtful for the Monte Carlo Masters.]

           It's not easy when we are in a league match, playing with a sore shoulder or a painful toe, to think that we have much in common with the No. 1 player in the world.  But, in Boise, Idaho, Novak Djokovic showed the same spirit that all of us have shown at some point, getting on the court and playing your best because you love tennis and would rather be on a tennis court playing this game (no matter your physical state) than just about anywhere else in the world.

-Gabe Gonzalez
Avid Tennis Fan

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Usual Suspects for Down Under?

By Jean Kirshenbaum, Tennis League Network Writer

When it comes to celebrating a new year, Australia, a full 16 hours ahead of the US, leads the way. When it comes to the tennis grand slam tournaments- Australia also leads the way. As the first of this year’s four majors, the Australian Open (AO) begins Monday, January 14. The pundits love to wallow in player analysis but will likely not announce their top picks until they see the draws, which won’t be announced until Friday, January 11. The one player they can’t pick is Rafael Nadal, now #4, who was a finalist last year against Novak Djokovic. As you probably have heard, he won’t even be in the tournament because of a stomach virus, which he has said prohibits him from practicing and being tournament ready. Few are buying it, and instead attribute the withdrawal to the chronic knee problems that have kept him off the court since last June. For that reason, they probably wouldn’t have picked him anyway.

So where does that leave AO predictions? First-ranked Novak Djokovic, winner for the past two years, is the heavy favorite.  But, given Andy Murray’s break-through victories at the Olympics and the US Open, he’s a solid contender. And can anyone ever write off Roger Federer, who won 2012 Wimbledon, yet again? Others being talked about are among the top ten: #5-7 David Ferrer of Spain, Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina. Any dark horses are still in the dark at this point.

The women’s side is even more fluid. With Serena Williams back in the game big time (remember, she won Olympic gold, Wimbledon, AND the US Open), can the top ranked players, #1 Victoria Azarenka, and #2 Maria Sharapova, even hope to claim a victory? Their head-to-head records against her are just awful- Azarenka is down 11-1, and Sharapova, 10-2. Other strong possibilities are players who have been gaining steam, such as almost anyone ranked 4-10: Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Angelique Kerber of Germany, Sara Errani of Italy, Na Li of China, Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic, Samantha Stosur of Australia, and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. Because they were weak in 2012, Stosur, Li and Wozniacki are the least likely contenders of this group. Wozniacki has never won a slam, Stosur hardly got past the first round of any tournament in 2012, and Li’s record since she won the French Open in 2011 has been so poor that she dumped her husband as her coach and took on the former coach for Justine Henin, Carlos Rodriguez. Errani and Radwanska each had a tremendous surge in 2012, so they could be ready to break through to a slam.

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