Wednesday, December 17, 2014

First ever West Coast Tourney was a complete success with 3 new champions crowned.


West Coast Tourney was a complete success with 3 new champions crowned.

Championship Sunday Qualifiers
     Who knows it rains in Los Angeles as we slipped in the West Coast Tourney between the Storm of the decade and several days of rain in the following week.  We had perfect temps though for competitive tennis as it was low 60's and sunny for the tourney.  
    The Warner Tennis Center at 6336 Canoga Park, Woodland Hills CA is such a wonderful facility run by owner Tim Schnaible.  We the facility hoping with the 32 tournament participates from 5 different cities in Tennis League Network.  Representations were mainly from TennisLosAngeles.com but we also had players from TennisOC.com, ChiTownTennis.com, Metro Boston Tennis League and TennisMinneapolis.com.

Nick Posthuma smashing an ace?
    The format used for this tournament was a 2 Saturday seeding matches where players played 10-game pro sets and those results were used to seed them for Sunday's single elimination championship draw. 

Here's the results from the Saturday play-in matches:


We hope to run many more West Coast Tourney's at the facility. 

 Congrats to the Winners:


Division B Winner:  Andrew Brambila
Finalist:  Nick Llewellyn

Division B Draw



Division A Winner:  Ajay Patel
Finalist:  Navarro Jordan

Division A Draw


Division C Winner:  James Oh
Finalist:  Amanda Lean

Division C Draw

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Michael Hutsko - Speaking from the heart



        Michael Hutsko out of the Miami / Dade County tennis league took some time to reflect on what the league means to him.  We received permission to make edits but the story is mostly un-edited and was written after the 2014 End of the Year Tourney.

        Michael has basically secured the 2014 Miami Player of the Year prize: http://tennis-miami.com/player_of_year/2014
 
        After my match tonight at Crandon, I stopped by The Rusty Pelican.  I sat alone outside by the fire pit, enjoyed a cocktail and the view of the brightly-lit downtown, and took some time to reflect.

        I wanted to thank you and your team for the work with the 2014 EOY Miami Tourney.  From my perspective, it was a great success.  I knew going in that my stamina was going to be tested--I don't think I've ever played that many matches in a three-day period--but I came out with a much better game than I went in and, as I told you, I was satisfied with my trajectory.  The players were friendly but competitive.  The venue (Crandon Park Tennis Center) was great.  My group had great, close matches. Victor Chang did play excellent in the final. I am a little disappointed at losing my THIRD career final (as well as one USTA 4.0 tournament final), but I know why I lost. If I am going to win those matches, I need to spend more time working on my game.

        And, I also wanted to thank your team for the commitment to this business in general. 

        I'm happy I got to meet you and a couple of the team members when you were in Miami, but we didn't get to talk too much.  I don't know if you realize how much of a positive effect you have on people by leading this business and doing so with such effectiveness.  It's a tennis network in cities across the nation that includes people that are becoming more physically fit.  Without your league, I think a lot of people would either play tennis less often, or even quit it altogether.  I know you have to deal with competing organizations of the same type, so, yes, some players have options.  I suppose I'm speaking for myself when I say, without Tennis-Miami, it is extremely likely I would play sporadic tennis, and maybe an occasional USTA tournament (I played six, I think, last year, which I enjoyed, but I had to travel a decent distance for most of them, and they are not frequent).  I'm in better physical shape, and I now pay more attention to my health, and your program plays a big part in that.  

Madame Tussaud's in Vegas
        And, of course, there is what the game of tennis teaches us about how we understand ourselves.  I've always loved tennis because it's a game that pits me against one opponent that is a puzzle I have to figure out.  I will face adversity during the match. How will I react?  How will I deal with it?  What does that say about me?  How can I be better?  And how does that relate to how I handle other life situations?  Tennis is so much more than a game of running around, hitting a ball, and trying to win.  

        The program groups players by level very well, and that fair competition is integral to the experience of the players.  

        I guess what I wanted to say is this.  It's an awesome thing when you find something that you're great at and can bring value to others that you get to do for a living.  You and your program have an enormous positive effect on people.  I'm betting when YOU wake up in the morning, you can be proud of how much of a positive impact you make on others.

        So, thanks for all you do.   

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jeffrey Barr - His passion for the game burns so BRIGHT!



Player Profile: Jeffrey Barr - We recently reached out to JB to get his thoughts on tennis and the Philadelphia tennis league in general. Jeffrey's on court achievements include a 2014 National Semifinalist at the East Coast End of the Year Tourney in Key Biscayne in addition to 2 doubles and 1 singles final appearances in Tennis Philly.


Jeff's Player Profile Page:  http://tennisphilly.com/48494/profile?hh=1

TLN: Where are you from and tell us about your rating?
 

JB: I play in Tennis Philly and my rating is a 3.5. I play singles and doubles and I have been playing since Summer of 2012.

TLN: How did you hear about Tennis Philly?
JB: Great story. I had a few friends that would meet up for once a week doubles matches. One of the guys was in the tennis ladder program and invited another member to join us because we were one short that week and it was this kid named Tony Graziano. So during this friendly doubles match, we were on the same team. We won the match, and we all left and headed to the parking lot. I listen to rap music to get ready for matches and I was playing Meek Mill's Dream Chasers 2 which came out earlier that day in the car. He heard the tracks, which is straight fire, blaring from my car. He came over as he is also a rap fan and we just talked for a bit. He told me about Tennis Philly and they had a doubles league and that we should join. Tony is now one of my very best friends and the obsession of Tennis Philly bit me on that night.

TLN: Clearly you played tennis before that night. How did you begin playing tennis?
JB: Wow. Let's see....I became a fan of sport back in the early 80's watching those Borg-McEnroe classics at Wimbledon. I always followed the sport. I used to play with my friends in the 90's but nothing to serious. Actually, my niece Becki wanted to go out for her high school team in 10th grade back in 2007 and asked me to show her how to play. So all summer I worked with her on how to play...serving, returns..you know really basic stuff. We did this for weeks and weeks. So when she made the team in the fall, I said, I really MISS this sport. I never played in high school or college or anything like that. So you can say that I am "self made".

TLN: How often do you play?
JB: Never enough! Ideally I like to play two or three times a week. During the season, sometimes it goes over that with both singles and doubles season sometimes going on at time same time.

TLN: What do you like most about the league?
JB: The league is well run and organized. I love how competitive it is. The league is similar to a minor league baseball farm system. You start from the bottom level and have to EARN your way through that level to get PROMOTED to that next level. So you are truly in the level that you should be in. I have been DEMOTED and PROMOTED in divisions during the season. Being demoted sounds soul crushing, but it actually helps you build confidence and get your game back. Commish actually made the right call last spring when I got bumped down. But I got better and earned my way back up. It's a results oriented league, but end of the day you have to get BETTER. Plus, the league is a big family with some really good guys.

TLN: Who would you say are your biggest rivals in Tennis Philly?
JB: Hahaha! Wow, man...Tony is my closest rival and we call our matches 'El Clasico'. But Tony is so much better than me that you really can't call it a rivalry because I have never beaten him. Adam Hartzell would be my biggest rival. We are like 5-5 all time against each other in 10 matches, including his 2012 fall championship against me, which changed my physical and mental approach to the sport. We are friends and he is a good guy. We had some classic matches which are the equivalent of doing a mudder run. We literally had 50-60 to shot rallies. We played a one hour and 35 minute SET! On the doubles side, and Tony would probably agree, is the Saver/Hague team. This fall, we split 4 matches and all of them were hard fought battles. Again, I like those guys. That's what I like about this league. Nobody has any egos. We go to war with these guys and at the end of day we respect each other and respect the integrity of the league. That's important.

TLN: What are your most memorable matches?
JB: Wow: Great Question....again the 2012 Fall Championship, when I lost to Adam, it made me want to get in better shape and I lost 50 some pounds the following spring because I just wore down in that match. A 2013 match against Corey Raynes. I lost the first set Love-6 after losing 7 straight matches. That was when I was recently demoted and thought I was in danger of getting demoted, AGAIN! I was touched by an angel and grinded it out to come back and win that match. And this November 1st in Nationals in Miami, I beat a couple of really good players in a span of 4 hours on Super Saturday. Those two players went on to play in the finals the next day. On the doubles side, this fall in the semis Tony and I, beat Saver/Hague. It was our best performance in doubles. We were pretty happy with how well we played. But again, that is just off the top of my head. I have been fortunate to play in so many tough, competitive matches during my time in Tennis Philly.

TLN: You mentioned the national tournament in Miami. What do you like about the tournaments?
JB: The year end tournament is like no other. To make the field and fly down there is the best feeling. The Tennis League Network staff run a first class operation. And of course, Key Biscayne is one of top 10 tennis facilities on the planet. But what makes this tournament special and hard to win, is the physical torture of playing 6 or 7 matches in 3 days. It's a grueling, physical and mental test. Players get hurt, players cramp up....I have a lot of respect for anyone who wins the tourney. Tony was a physical and mental force when he ran the gauntlet this year. This tournament is absolutely amazing on so many levels.

TLN: Have you had any interesting experiences with the league?
JB: I don't know how Tennis Philly does it. It an ultra competitive and legit tennis league, yet it remains a league filled with good guys and keeps its decorum. It doesn't have that bombastic, stuffy feel to it. In addition to the competitiveness, the league has a big heart. We raised over 7,500 dollars for Cancer Research Institute. I love the dynamics of this league. It's done...right. I have some good friends in this league and the league continues to grow nationally. We keep on trying to grow the league.

TLN: Why do you love tennis?

JB: I love the physical and mental aspects of the sport. I love the physical gladiator grind of a three hour match in 95 degree heat, and you come to the side for a change over and you don't know whether to lay down for a minute because you can barely walk or puke so you feel better. I love the mental challenge of convincing yourself to make a change or challenge yourself to step up and make a play. To see how you react about blowing that first set. It's strategizing about how to play your next opponent...staying away from his strengths and attacking his weaknesses. This sport has it ALL. It's extremely satisfying and insane asylum maddening all at the same time, sometimes in the same day!!

TLN: Speaking of strengths and weaknesses, let's hear your honest assessment of your game at this time.
JB: Ok.....Strengths... First serve...I got my first serve percentage up big time in 2014. First serve variety has been good. I have my big gun first serve and my more reserved first serve and I can mix them up. Defense is good. I can chip and charge well. Backhand was a major weakness and that's improved big time. My good friend, Sara Pilic came over from Italy in 2012 and went to school in Philly for a semester. She has a big, thunderous game. She has this two handed backhand that is just a MASSIVE weapon. I have picked up that stroke, took her pointers and studied her grip and leg work. I have been practicing the hell out of it, and started to pull it out during matches. It's a confidence and repetition shot. That's improving. Weaknesses? 2nd serve needs work, net play, need to be more tenacious all around, everything. Everything needs work!!

TLN: How do you stay in shape in the offseason?
JB: I am playing in a mixed doubles league (non league), doing drills, working out, keeping the diet in check and will be scheduling friendlies indoors. That's about all you can do up here. Life in a northern town!

TLN: Goals for 2015?
JB: Win a damn championship! Losing my third combined finals really sucks! But winning a championship should be hard! That's what makes it so desirable to achieve..... Seriously, just continue to grow my game, get more in shape, stay mentally sharp and let the results fall where they may. On the doubles side, just continue to tear it up. Tony and I played really good doubles down the stretch and we will continue to get better. Tony and I are talking about putting together a Tennis Philly Charity tournament in 2015, where the winner donates the prize pool to their favorite charity. We would also like to play in some more tournaments during the year. Tennis is looking up in 2015.

TLN: Thanks JB.

JB: Take care. Godspeed.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Joshua Rey - Some time with a National Tourney Finalist

Joshua Rey - Some time with a National Tourney Finalist
Player Profile: http://tennisdc.com/46175/profile

1. Which league are you a member of?
Tennis DC - Metro DC, Montogomery County & No. Virginia Tennis League


2. How long have you participated in your league?
Fall 2013 and Fall 2014

3. How did you first learn about it?
I moved to DC in January 2012 and quickly registered on the Tennis DC website. But it took me a little while to actually join a league because I was playing with a few friends every week. After a little while and a lot of improvement, I was eager to play against others.

4. How often do you play?
Ideally at least twice a week.

5. What do you like most about the league?
I used to play in USTA leagues and tournaments but hated paying a fortune and feeling like a loss was the end of the world. There were doubles matches where I was the only one on the court who wasn't cheating -- including my partner!

But as I've moved, I've found way-better alternatives that provide incentives for players to compete as much as they want (Connecticut Tennis Circuit, ALTA and Tennis DC). Tennis DC is great for those reasons -- I can play singles, doubles or mixed and I don't have to rely on anyone else to schedule my matches. And for less than $30, it's a no-brainer.


6. Tell us about your most memorable match(es)

I started pretty nervously in Fall 2013 -- losing three-setters in my first two matches to Richard Hencke and Vipul Chawla. I got the chance to play both again during the season and lost just seven games combined. That definitely gave me confidence going into the final against Stephen Gilson, who was beating me 5-1 in the first set before I won 7-6, 6-2.
This season, I've been playing mixed doubles with my girlfriend Kendra Mills. We decided to challenge a few men's teams and lost a really entertaining match against the No. 1s from the other division, Louis Velasco and Abner Garcia. Playing well can be fun, even in a loss.

7. Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?
Stephen Gilson and I played twice last season with the exact same score -- but two totally different matches. I enjoy playing him because we both have unique styles. He slices his backhand a lot and I try to surprise opponents at the net. It makes for a fun match.
I also faced Jeremy Sobeck twice at the 2014 End-of-the-Year Tournament. I probably played the best match of my life to beat him in the round robin. Serves, strokes, volleys, lobs -- everything was working. But when we met again for the championship, he overpowered me.

8. How did you get started playing tennis?
I began playing as a high school freshman in Miami and I got double-bageled more times than I can remember. Alex Bogomolov Jr., who went on to reach the Top 40 as a pro, was in my team's district. Two of his teammates played at the University of Miami as well.

9. What level player are you? (NTRP rating)

4.5
10. What do you love about tennis? 

Unlike many other sports in America, tennis has a way of uniting people. I've made lifelong friends throughout the years, including an umpire who helped me get Wimbledon tickets and a journalist who housed me while I was there. Then, I hit it off with someone at Wimbledon who has since stayed with my family in Miami. I don't think that kind of thing happens with baseball, basketball and football.


11. What are your tennis goals this year?


After winning the Fall 2013 DC title, I knew that I wanted to be part of the 2014 End-of-the-Year Tournament in Key Biscayne. It felt like a homecoming because I was a ball-boy there for eight years at what's now known as the Miami Open.    http://tennisdc.com/3015/tournament_report

My mom and dad, whom I was too nervous to invite to my high school matches, came out to watch. I wound up playing seven matches in less than 48 hours and finishing 5-2.
Going in, I was hoping that I wouldn't get crushed by the competition. Making it all the way to the final was a big surprise and now it's on to the DC mixed doubles playoffs!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Marissa Carlson - Have you played a playoff match that ended in a thunder storm?

 Marissa Carlson's Tennis NorthEast Story: http://tennisnortheast.com/30525/profile

1. Which league are you a member of?
Tennis Northeast, the Metro Boston Tennis League


2. How long have you participated in your league?
5 years – Spring 2010 thru Fall 2014, playing all the seasons except winter

3. How did you first learn about Tennis NorthEast?
When I moved to Lowell from Western Mass., I looked around online for a league that could possibly fit my incredibly varied work and theatre schedule, and Tennis Northeast seemed perfect!

4. How often do you play?
It depends on my work schedule, but during the weeks I’m able to play, I typically play 1-3 times per week.


5. What do you like most about the league?
What I like most, and is most important to my participation, is having the flexibility to schedule matches based on my schedule.  I run a youth leadership development nonprofit, and my schedule depends on our programming schedule. So although I’m a full-time employee, some weeks I work 100 hrs and some weeks I work 20!  There’s no way I could be part of a league that met, say, every Wed. at 6 the way I could in my previous 9-5 job.

6. Tell us about your most memorable match(es)
I’ve had a bunch of fantastic and fun matches, but one that sticks out as memorable for being both fun & strange was very recent: my Summer 2014 playoff match against Annalisa Tammaro.  We were playing in the evening on the Tufts campus, on what turned out to be the first night of freshman orientation for the Tufts Class of 2018.  Their well-amplified opening presentation was across the street, so we had a soundtrack of every campus musical group – along with adorable cliché residence hall staff announcements.  On top of that, the weather, which had started off hot & sunny, changed dramatically through the match: hot & cloudy, hot & rainy, hot & windy, colder & windier & rainier, until finally a thunder storm began during the last game of the match!

7. Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?
There are a lot of folks I love playing, but it’s always a treat to play Tracy Conlon & Annalisa Tammaro – they’ve both been playing with the league throughout my years here, and we tend to go back & forth with wins/losses through long, hard-fought matches!


8. How did you get started playing tennis?
My mother played tennis in college, so she took me out to play starting as a toddler.  At that point, I think I lasted about 10 minutes on the court before running over to the adjacent playground…!  But by the time I was in mid-elementary school, my mother had started teaching youth tennis group lessons in the summers, so I joined in at those and started to really love the game.

9. What level player are you? (NTRP rating)
3.25



10. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a tennis player?
One of my strengths is my serve, and one of my weaknesses is that I’m not as consistent a player as I would like to be.

11. Does any of your family members play tennis?
Both of my parents play tennis – my mother played growing up and for the team at Georgian Court University (then College).  Later on, she taught youth tennis as part of our city’s summer playground programming. My father plays recreationally as well, and for a while, all 3 of us played in the same local league in the Northern Berkshires.


12. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from North Adams, MA, and have lived in MA for most of my life, with the exception of 5 years in CA, where I went to Pomona College and was also part of the Young Americans, a musical theatre group that does international performing arts workshops for students in grades 4-12.  I now run the NH Teen Institute, a 31-year-old nonprofit that runs fantastic programs for middle & high school students around peer mentoring, community engagement, building positive & safe school climate, and substance abuse prevention.  And when I’m not doing TI things or playing tennis, I’m the Associate Artistic Director for Mill City Productions, a theatre company in North Adams, and love to travel.

Friday, September 26, 2014

7-6, 6-7, 7-6 for the Summer Season 3.25 Championship



        I personally love the max score, actually it's happened over 25 times in the 128,750+ matches during Tennis League Network's existence.  But never in a finals match, until now . . .

For the Championship:  Saro Getzoyan beat Curtis Poole: 7-6, 6-7, 7-6  for the Tennis North East ( Metro Boston Tennis League's Summer Championship:  http://tennisnortheast.com/2873/tournament_report

It took 2 days and 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete the match.

      Saro's Comments on the Match:   "Thanks, a great match was played by Curtis as well. He was very consistent in returning all of my shots which made for some very long
rallies and games. I am still recovering from the workout as I had to
sprint around the court to keep up."


 


     Curtis mentioned:  "Yes indeed, epic is the word. Fortunately we were able to split the
3.5 hours over two days, with the MIT varsity team bumping us off
after two hours on Saturday. Saro was the come back king in the first and third sets. He pulled a
"Federer" on me in the first set (as in, Federer vs. Monfils) coming back from set point at two games down to win the tie break. Similar come back from deficit in the third set to win the tie-break 7-5. Ugh!  As close as it gets..."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shantanu Sirsamkar - He loves his Tennis-Austin.com Tennis League



1. Which league are you a member of?
I am a member of the Austin Tennis League playing from North Austin region.



2. How long have you participated in your league?
Spring#2 2014 was my first tennis league season ever. I reached the Semi-Final stage. Quite a good start :)
Summer 2014 is only my second season in the league. Having qualified for playoffs again, I am looking to improve upon my last performance. Admin Note: Shantanu ended up losing in the Semis. Playoff Tournament Link.  Fall 2014 will be my third. Making it to the last four of both previous seasons, I am excited and looking forward to a action packed Fall season with record number of people participating this time around.



3. How did you first learn about it?
I started as a beginner by going to tennis meet-ups around the city. Looking at my game and level of competitiveness some guys suggested trying out a league to take it to the next step. I googled and found ATL.



4. How often do you play?
I play outside the league as well with people from meet-ups and friends made through tennis from all over Austin city. I played more than 7 times a week till about a month or two ago. Currently I play 4-5 times a week.



5. What do you like most about the league?
First of all there is just the love of the game that you can share with like-minded people. That is so crucial in building up a good attitude towards the game and carrying that over to other aspects of your life.
Secondly, the level of competition is amazing in most players. Lastly, stats like division standings, game W-L percentages, and the pursuit for #1 ‘Player Of The Year' (POTY) rankings help improve your game all the while giving you an aim to go after.



6. Tell us about your most memorable match(es)
My most memorable match would have to be against S. Farooq on 05/16/2014. The conditions were very windy and this was my first experience of playing in winds which made me nervous. My opponent might have known this scenario all too well as he seemed pretty relaxed. I had been unbeaten in the league till that match. With wind speeds nearly 10-12 mph, I lost the first set (3-6). I didn't realize quickly enough the need and extent to which I had to calibrate my shots according to the wind direction when sides were changed. Learning from the first set, my game improved but I was still (3-5) down in the second set receiving serve to stay in the match. To win the second set (7-5) and then to make a comeback win by winning the last set (6-2) felt like the greatest achievement for me at that time and gave me complete satisfaction of playing my best tennis.



7. Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?
Favorite rivals would be the ones who love tennis just as much as I do, are just as competitive as I am and from whom I can learn the game. Matt Laakso, Cesar Montalvo to name a couple.




8. Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?
The first time I picked up a tennis racquet was October 2013. I joined the league around March 2014 and ATL literally made me fall in love with tennis. So much so that in the early days when I didn't own a car, I used to rent from enterprise for a day or two just to travel to different locations and play these guys. Some were as far as 15 miles away from my place.



9. How did you get started playing tennis?
I have always been into sports since childhood having played Badminton, Cricket, Basketball in school/undergrad representing various teams; then Racquet-ball during Grad college @ USC (SoCal). This helped me pick up the game faster than others. Interestingly, I actually went searching for badminton in Austin but didn't find much response. This helped as I ended up choosing: TENNIS!



10. What level player are you? (NTRP rating)
I am currently a 4.0 NTRP player working hard to improve further.



15. What are your tennis goals this year?
My tennis goals for the year are:
 + to win at least one season in 2014 league
 + compete in end-of-the-year tourney in Miami
 + be the #1 POTY from Austin 



16. Does any of your family members play tennis? If so, tell us a little bit about them.
My dad has been a champion at various racquet sports like  Badminton, Table-tennis, Tennis during his college days. That's where all the credit in making me an athlete goes to. He was my first coach in badminton and to this day along with my mom supports me in sports, critiques my game and celebrates in my success.



17. Tell us a little bit about yourself, for example: What do you do? Where did you grow up? What are your hobbies (besides tennis)? (Feel free to share any interesting details about your life.)
I am a Software Engineer at Alcatel-Lucent's R&D division located in North Austin. Born in Mumbai (Bombay) on the west coast of India and brought up in Aurangabad, I have been blessed with parents who always emphasized the importance of extra-curricular activities along with academics. This helped me excel in various fields whether it be in sports, robotics, co-editing my college annual magazine or helping me get a Masters’ degree from USC (SoCal).
As of now, tennis, traveling and photography take up most of my time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Geoff Gohacki - A New Yorker for Whom Winning is Worth the Pain

Our featured player this week is yet another New Yorker, Geoff Gohacki. Geoff plays in the Brooklyn/Queens Division A as a 4.0 player and has been a member of Tennis New York since Fall 2011. Enjoy our Q&A with Geoff! 

First, tell us a bit about yourself, Geoff.
I currently work as a CPR instructor. I’ve had many occupations in the past, including, but not limited to: an organic farmer, cook, chef, culinary school instructor, caterer, and even house builder. I find my current job to be rewarding and much less stressful than my other professions. Outside of work, I enjoy lots of various pursuits. Most importantly, I have two boys who live with their mother in Vermont. I see them twice a month and make the most of my time with them. I also enjoy drinking great Belgian beers with my girlfriend. When I’m not playing tennis, working, or spending time with my loved ones, you can find me in the gym where I will be heaving kettle bells, working on my conditioning, or taking a spin class. 

How did you get started playing?
I started playing as a teenager, while living with my parents. In our neighborhood, there were three courts, and everyone was always trying to get on them. I always appreciated the time I could be on court, and most times I would have to play late at night. I developed my game as a sixteen-year-old after Andre Agassi’s power and brutish style. 

What do you love about tennis?  
Being outside and testing my physicality. The mental strength that it requires. And most importantly, meeting new people. 

How often do you play nowadays?
I try to play at least three times a week, but sometimes life takes over, and I only make it on to the court once a week. 

Do you play with anyone in your family?
My girlfriend, Vanessa, took up tennis about three years ago when I moved in with her. She is much better now, obviously, and she has the most style I have seen on the court. Her normal attire is black top, black skirt, hot pink calf sleeves, and black and pink shoes. She finishes the look with her signature head full of beautiful curly locks. I have also been trying to get my kids into tennis, but they are a harder sell. 

How did you first learn about the league?
I found out about it while searching online for people to play with in New York City. 

Tell us about your most memorable match.
One of my most memorable matches was with a player who is no longer in the league. We played our match, and after two and half hours, we were only through two sets. We had to stop the match and continue it at another time. So, we resumed the following week, finished that match, and we decided to play another one. That match turned out to last another two hours! The result of the second match was a draw, and yet we both suffered muscle cramps, dehydration, sore joints, and I lost a toenail. It seems masochistic to find pleasure in physical abuse, but it was an evenly contested match, and we were both really fighting for the win! 

Any favorite rivals in the league?
It seems like most of my favorite rivals are no longer in the league. Many have moved or had kids, which prevents them from playing regularly. I enjoy playing Artie Wood because he is always eager to play. I think he also has this incredible determination to beat me just one time.  I’m not going to give it to him that easily though. I am also looking forward to meeting OJ Jones on the court again. He has beaten me twice, and both times I felt like they were decent matches. I would like to think that my game has improved—not that his has not—and that I have a better chance to beat him now. 

Any complaint?
I have found that the option of a ten-game pro set is not appealing to me. In tennis, momentum can swing so quickly and wildly. If a player gets in a rut for four games, that could change the entire match. I always strive to play a two-out-of-three-set match. 

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a tennis player?
My number one strength would be my speed. I know that I am fast. Everyone tells me this, and I impress myself sometimes with balls that I’m able to retrieve. I also have a lot of strength, decent conditioning, above average hand-eye coordination, and my footwork is always improving. My biggest weakness is my mental conditioning. I get down on myself too much and carry my negative emotions on my sleeve. I am getting better at this though, as I have definitely toned down my outbursts. Again, trying to be more like Roger Federer. 

What are your tennis goals this year?
My goal is always to get better. I don’t know if I have the time, but I think that I would like to become a certified coach/pro through either USPTA or PTR. I am also always looking to improve my NTRP rating, I guess the next one would be 4.5. 

What do you do to try to improve, besides playing more?
I am somewhat of a gym rat when it’s not the summer, so I’m always trying to improve my physical conditioning. I go to tennis camp three times a year where I work on various parts of my game. Last time I was there I focused on sliding on Har-Tru. That’s probably one of the sexiest maneuvers in tennis today, when someone can slide effortlessly and hit a winner. I see some guys doing it on grass and hard courts. That looks painful! 

Who’s your favorite pro player?
My absolute favorite active player is Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. I love his speed, power, and athletic ability. I just wish he could keep it together mentally. 

If you could emulate a pro, who would it be and why?
As I age, I come to appreciate more the attributes of the G.O.A.T., Roger Federer. He makes the game seem effortless and efficient. It is absolutely beautiful to watch, and I don’t find myself wincing at some of his movements as I commonly do with others, like Djokovic and Nadal.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Exciting League News: New Rewards and National Tourney Info

       Players, do you know what the philosophy of the Tennis League Network is? If you’ve been diligently reading our player profiles, then you know that the league is, first and foremost, about playing as much tennis as possible. Consistent with this philosophy, as the league continues to grow, we try to give back to our members by adding rewards that encourage even more playing. 

       (It's true that playing is already its own reward, but a trophy or two will give you solid bragging rights, and new gears from Tennis Warehouse can only enhance your dashing good looks on the court!)

       This season, we are happy to announce an increase of some of the league rewards: The first place player in Prize Pool Level 5 (that is, when a division has 17 to 25 playoff participants) now gets a trophy, a free season, a $150 Tennis Warehouse gift card (a $50 increase), and a National Tourney entry. In addition to a free season and a gift card, the second place players in Prize Pool Levels 5 and higher now also receive a National Tourney entry. (Click here to see the complete list of league prizes.)

       Furthermore, the hurdle to entering the playoffs has been lowered for the SUMMER SEASON ONLY; players in each division now have to win only 3 matches in the regular season. But, players do need to play a minimum of 4 matches to qualify. Our goal is to make the playoff brackets larger overall and therefore increase the number of divisions in Prize Pool Levels 5 and higher. 

       So, what is this National Tourney we speak of? In late fall each year, season champions and players who during the year finished at the top of the season playoffs or played 30 or more league matches are eligible to play in a weekend national tournament. At this event, they have the opportunity to meet fellow tennis enthusiasts from all around the countrymaybe to compare tennis tips and exchange tennis gossips. Prior participants of the National Tourney are always invited to come back, so it only gets more festive each year.  

       According to Steve Chagnon, our league director, “It was always our goal from the very beginning to wrap all the cities together with an annual national tournament. A good friend of mine originally from the Miami league, Brian Beno, did some research and found that the Crandon Park Tennis Center was about perfect to run a tournament in early November. Perfect weather, beautiful facility, and a local tennis league to help fill out the line-up. Most of the Northerners get to experience why professionals practice in the area in preparation for the upcoming year. There is nothing better than Miami in November as long as the hurricanes have already passed by. This year’s Miami tournament will be our 6th annual, and it will take place from October 31 to November 2. We expect 50 to 60 players to show up for a weekend of fun, exciting tennis.” 

       For the first time ever, we will also be organizing a West Coast tournament from December 12 to December 14 this year at the Warner Tennis Center in Woodland Hills, just outside of Los Angeles. Our West Coast players now don’t have to travel cross-country to play in the National Tourney. We hope that this is only the first of many future West Coast tournaments. 

       If you’ve ever fantasized about the life of a jet-setting pro, the National Tourney is a unique opportunity to live it. It’s still mid-summer, so dust off that racquet of yours, and get yourself to qualify!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Buddy Koehler – New Yorker Won Three Championships with Plenty of Speed and A Quirky Backhand

      Our featured player this week is Buddy Koehler, whose reputation precedes him among Tennis New Yorkers. Buddy won the league championship in three seasons: Spring 2011, Spring 2012, and Summer 2012. Not only that, he was named Player of the Year in 2011. Buddy recently surpassed the impressive milestone of having played 200 matchesas of July 17, 2014 his record is 148-57so naturally we celebrated by interviewing him. Enjoy!

How did you get started playing tennis?
      I started playing tennis in high school back in New Jersey when my friends and I would play recreationally at the local courts. We all decided to join the high school tennis team as a goof, but I'm the only one who actually followed through! I was really bad then, I didn't even know what it meant when my opponent would put up his finger to signal the ball was out.  

And how is your tennis now?
      Fourteen years later, I now consider myself a 4.5, at least according to NYC standards—I hear the criteria for warmer cities are tougher. I’m trying to get to the next level by the end of the season. It's tough to do this without lessons though. And I’ve actually never had lessons, which led to a very awkward-looking but effective one-handed backhand that I get asked about constantly. I was even told once it was illegal!

What is the appeal of tennis for you?
      Well, I grew up playing soccer, but I decided to stop in high school because I hated the long distance running during practice. Physically, I love the short sprinting in tennis, especially since speed is a big weapon of mine. I also like that it's not a team sport. I randomly joined a baseball league a couple years ago, and after playing tennis, it seemed so boring since 90% of the three-hour game is just waiting. I won't even play doubles since I hate not having full ownership over a match and feeling like I need to apologize to my partner when I make an error.  

Where do you usually play?
      I'm a five-minute walk away from the thirty Central Park courts so I play there very often.

Which division are you in, and how did you first learned about the league?
      I'm in the advanced division and have been in the league for five years already, which I only recently realized by looking up my first match in the records. I'm sure I first found out about it from doing a Google search of "NYC tennis league." There was another one that came up but I remember there was a mandatory trip to Florida so it seemed like more of an expensive social club than a tennis league, so New York City Tennis League was the obvious choice. I also tried a USTA flex league once and was disappointed to find that no one really played. The playoff system and prizes are the other things that separate Tennis New York from other flex leagues. I remember the USTA league just ending anticlimactically when the following season started. 

How much do you play nowadays?
      I'm playing more than ever now, probably twice or three times a week. I even bought my own stringing machine since I was going through strings so quickly. I always recommend for any semi-serious player to do the same. It saves so much time and money, plus it teaches you a lot about the importance of strings and tension. It was a little intimidating at first since I had no idea what I was doing, but I quickly learned from watching Youtube videos. 

Any favorite rivalries?
      A couple of my favorite rivalries have been Frank Poerio and Orlando Jones. Frank and I played really close matches when I first started and then he took a few seasons off. I've improved quite a bit since I've been playing consistently, so it's interesting to play him now because it gives me an idea of the progress I've made. Orlando and I have had some great matches. Every time we play each other, we know we're in for a marathon. I can also tell I've got a budding rivalry with Marc Gibber, who nonchalant winners drive me crazy. I outlasted him in a three-setter yesterday though and have a finals rematch against Mathieu Brossard this Sunday so hopefully I'll get my 4th title! (Update: Sadly, Buddy ended up losing to Mathieu in the finals. But he didn't go down easilythe final score was 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. There’s always next season’s championship, Buddy!) 

Who are your favorite pro players? 
      My favorite pros to watch are Nadal, Federer, and randomly, Dustin Brown. I love the relentless nature of Nadal, which I try to bring to the court myself. My opponents frequently tell me that my speed pressures them into going for more, which lead to more errors. So, I could only imagine how Nadal's opponents feel. Federer has always seemed like a tennis magician to me. The shots he comes up with sometimes are ridiculously angled or really clever, not to mention how gracefully he moves. And of course his accomplishments are extraordinary. I just discovered Dustin Brown recently at the French Open, and I think he's the most exciting player to watch. He's got the same devil-may-care attitude as Gael Monfils, and nearly the same speed too, but the difference is that Dustin Brown is a serve-and-volley player with incredibly soft hands, which makes each point really fun to watch.   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tom Trotter – Fort Lauderdale Tennis Warrior with Inextinguishable Passion

        When we first approached Tom Trotter about this blog profile, the 66-year-old Tennis Fort Lauderdale player was a bit reluctant. He claimed that he lost more than he won matches and therefore unsure if he’d make the cut. Since we had access to Tom’s playing records, however, we knew he was being way too modest. First of all, it should be said out loud that the league is not about winning—IT'S ABOUT PLAYING. And Tom sure does play a lot. These days, he gets on the court four or five times a week, sometimes twice a day. Since Spring 2012, when he joined the league for the first time, he’s played close to 200 matches. And this year, Tom is leading the race for Player of the Year (POTY) with 471 points, which is more than triple the number of points that his closest competitor has amassed. One secret weapon in Tom’s campaign is referrals—he’s made 9 so far, and keep in mind we are only about halfway through the Ft. Lauderdale year. In short, Tom is as close as it gets to the perfect league player: someone whose passion for the game is so strong that it’s irresistibly contagious.

        Before joining the league in 2012, Tom had only played tennis for about a year back in 1975. At the time, tennis enjoyed an upsurge in popularity—this was when the US dominated the Davis Cup for a good part of the decade. Tom never picked up the racquet again until two years ago, when he spotted a flyer about the league at his home court in Hardy Park, and so his recent dedication is even the more impressive. Or perhaps this is also a testament to the league’s effectiveness in getting people to play. As Tom points out, the league provides the right balance between structure and flexibility. Plus, it’s fun to record match results and reference the stats. And not to forget, a big bonus of being on the league is having the chance to connect and compete with other tennis players from all around the country by participating in the End of Year National Tournament at Crandon Tennis Center on Key Biscayne (the same venue where Sony Open is held annually).

        Tom rates himself as a 3.0 player whose primary strengths are his serve and overall sound mechanics: “When I'm practicing my serve sufficiently to keep it fluid and grooved, and I’m getting a high percentage in, it becomes a reliable weapon. Same with my strokes: When I'm practicing them sufficiently, I'm a somewhat more fluid and effective ball striker than most of my opponents at my current level of play (3.0 - 3.25).” 

        Tom nevertheless humbly acknowledges that strong serving and ball striking are just two aspects of competing at tennis. Reflecting on his weaknesses on the court, he says that he often has poor movement due to a lack of energy and stamina. He has Crohn's disease, which can become active for over a year at a time. It often gives him sub-par recovery capability, which can negatively affect his mental state during a match. Despite these challenges, which Tom tries to mitigate by taking iron pills, vitamin B-12, and folic acid supplements, he is still upbeat: “The league provides motivation to play, and the playing keeps me healthy. So, even when I lose a match, I win.”  

        Among the players who have given Tom a hard time (or a great time, if you ask him) on the court are Tatz Tanaka, John Hernandez, and Dan Kerness. Tom’s records against them, respectively, are 1-20, 4-9, and 3-6. According to Tom, Tatz is a 3.5 player who is “good ball striker with nice fluid strokes. He often hits with a lot of topspin, but can flatten the ball out or hit effective slice off both sides. He’s 50, but is very quick, fast, and athletic." John is a 3.25 player who has “a great first serve, and is very hard—pretty much impossible—to beat when he’s getting a high percentage in.” Dan is a 3.0 player and “a tenacious fighter who makes up for somewhat unorthodox form with great quickness.” 

        Did you notice that one win that Tom has against Tatz? It certainly made it onto Tom’s list of most memorable matches. At the time, Tatz had beaten Tom seventeen straight times (!). He won the first set 6-0, then Tom won the second 6-4, and in the tiebreak he hit three service aces to win it 7-3. The glory, however, was short-lived. Since then, Tatz has beaten Tom three times, but there have apparently been enough close points to keep Tatz on his toes! 

        When asked about his favorite players, Tom spewed out a long list of players. Among the retired ones are Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Năstase, Bjorn Borg, and John McEnroe. And among the current ones are Alexandr Dolgopolov, Grigor Dimitrov, Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Andy Murray. Given this packed list, we asked Tom what he appreciates about them: “The common denominator among these players is that each has a very unique style of play. What I like the most about the game are the unique nuances of players' stroke mechanics, which are often very subtle. A particular stroking style that results in consistently good, effective shots is for me the most beautiful aspect of the game. But I also pay attention to players' movement and footwork, shot selection, point construction, and attitude. I try to develop an appreciation for and derive the same level of joy in watching these things as I do the way a player hits the ball.” 

        This season, Tom’s goal is to play 30 matches, to learn something from each one, and to win enough matches to get into the playoffs. He currently has played 11 matches (36 percent there) and still looking to win 3 that are needed to make into the playoffs. He has, however, learned something from every single match, and is therefore on pace for a 100 percent success rate in one of his goals. We wish you the best, Tom—those wins are not going to be elusive for much longer! 

Tom's video from the 2013 End of Year National Tournament

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Martin Rubeo - A Pittsburgh Native's Quest for Stat-Driven Improvement

        What feature of the league is the most appealing to you? If you ask Martin Rubeo, a player in the Pittsburgh Tennis League who leads a double life as a history teacher and a musician*, it’s the neat record-keeping that the site maintains online. For Martin, the ability to quantitatively track progress ranks among the most exciting aspects of playing in the league. The most memorable matches are not necessarily the ones in which he blew out the opponent or staged an impossible comeback, but simply the ones that demonstrate improvement over past matches.

        Martin joined the league in Fall 2012 and won the championship only two seasons later in Summer 2013. This accomplishment is quite impressive, considering that Martin had just started playing tennis right before joining the league. (All that love for stat tracking seems to pays off!) Before tennis, Martin’s sport of choice was ice hockey, but he started to feel a tad too old for all the skating and body-checking. That's when he decided to put down the blades and pick up the racquet. As he explains, “Tennis is a nice exercise. It’s fun to chase a ball, as opposed to chasing nothing as a runner.”

        Martin is currently a 3.5 player, and he tries to play 2 or 3 times a week. In the past two years, he has put together a nice list of favorite rivals: Justin Macuga, Kent Jones, Justin Linette, and Gabriel Pascasu. Justin Macuga has a special place on this list—he was Martin’s first opponent ever in the league. Not surprisingly, they have compiled quite a history of matches, but Martin is comfortably leading the head-to-head 10-5 at the moment. Martin also remarks that each of the other three players has unique strengths: “Kent is a great athlete and gamer who never gives up a point. Justin Linette has a power game, and when he’s on, his topspin is intimidating. Gabriel has a tough mental game that makes you stay on your toes.”

        Reflecting on his own game, Martin describes himself as a defensive player—a pusher who can get a lot back. Not content with this, he wants to be more aggressive and maybe even channel Stefan Edberg’s serve-and-volley game. This year, he's promised himself to take more chances and hit winners rather than wait for the opponent to make unforced errors. Martin also aspires to be more consistent and self-aware, both of which are qualities he most admires in pro players. To get a step closer to reaching these goals, he practices with a ball machine, watches tennis lessons on Youtube, and occasionally trains with a coach. 

        Martin draws a lot of inspiration from the mental aspect of tennis: “Focus is required in tennis, and it translates into life in general. It’s important to practice being even-keeled and not let emotions—both positive and negative—guide our actions.” He also notes that while he's struggled a little bit with his technique recently, he still loves getting on the court: “Not losing sight of that love is crucial. It’s what makes things fun and worth persevering for.” 

       Martin is currently leading the 2014 Player of the Year competition in Pittsburgh:  http://pittsburghtennisleague.com/player_of_year/2014

        *Check out Martin’s band, Gramsci Melodic: www.youtube.com/gramscimelodic. They are on Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify. They played alongside Elvis Costello recently!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jherson Baylon – A Future Champion's First Match Jitters

        As one of the newest members on Tennis-Orlando.com, only joining in June 2014, Jherson Baylon still vividly remembers the butterflies in his stomach before his first match: “While I was on my way to the tennis court, I felt so excited to play. But when I got there and saw my opponent, my legs felt stiff, and I started sweating profusely. Suddenly my excitement went away, replaced by a feeling of seriousness. I tried to reduce my anxiety by joking around with my opponent. I could tell that he was a really nice person, but also that he was determined and ready to play. I felt scared and intimidated. We then started playing, and I lost the first set. I told myself to just have fun and enjoy each rally. My opponent was giving everything, so I should too.” 

        It turns out the story has a satisfying ending: Despite losing the first set, Jherson won the match 4-6, 7-6, 14-12 (tie-break). In fact, Jherson is actually still unbeaten this season—he has a 4-0 record so far (as of July 9th). 

        Tennis-Orlando is Jherson’s first experience playing tennis in a league. He first learned about it from a fellow league player and good friend, Ernesto Mariquit, whom he likes to call Uncle Ernie.  He is very excited about this new experience, eager to demonstrate his tennis skills and to meet different people with various personalities and playing styles.

        Jherson considers himself an athletic person. He loves to play other sports besides tennis, such as basketball and volleyball. He is quite serious about maintaining his skills in all of his sports, making sure to allocate enough time to practice in each. Nevertheless, he does have a special fondness for tennis, “Tennis stands out among all the sports I know. It looks so classy and professional—definitely a gentleman’s game. I also like the fact that there’s no contact with the opponent, so there’s less of an injury risk. Plus, tennis makes for great socializing. You could easily start good friendships with your opponents.”

        Jherson has his dad to thank for introducing him to tennis while growing up in the Philippines, and his dad is apparently very good! As Jherson says, “He is the best example of a man who has great fundamentals in his game. A lot of what he does is actually very basic, but those things have brought him many championship titles. He let me start by just being a ball boy at first, and then he started training me when I was seven years old. Unfortunately though, I had to stop at age nine due to some financial problems in our family.” 

        Thankfully, Jherson was able to pick up the racquet again in college. It wasn’t easy to get back into it, “I had to learn everything again pretty much from zero. It felt as if I had never played tennis in my life before. I struggled a lot with proper form and positioning, but I kept on going, and I kept on playing because I knew someday it would all pay off. I was driven by the belief that I’d end up playing better than everybody else.” 

        Evidently, Jherson is not shy about setting ambitious goals. After all, his motto is “Always strive for the goals that you never thought were possible.” This year, he hopes to win the championship and get promoted to a higher division. Jherson is not just being dreamy, mind you. He actively takes the steps to reach those goals not just on the court but also off it: He carefully watches his weight, maintains a pescetarian diet, eats lots of fruits and vegetables, and does fitness training—all in the name of improving his game. This concerted effort is partly inspired by his new realization, “My recent games opened my eyes that in order to become a champion, I need to conquer my fear. I need to improve every day because there are many very good players out there who are not just going to let me be the champion. I need to earn and deserve it.” 

        Jherson’s inspirational goals don’t just end there. His ultimate wish is to play as beautifully as his favorite player, Roger Federer, whom he considers the best example of a gentleman on the tennis court: “I want to have good form all the time like him.” Hmm, Jherson, we love your passion and tenacity, but wanting to be the Maestro himself might be a little out of reach! ;)