December 16th, 2015
Find Yourself in the 2015 USTA Florida Tennis Year in Review
If you’re a Florida tennis volunteer, league sectionals champion, tournament player, coach, grassroots activist, teaching professional, college player, school tennis champion, Play Day or Play Event organizer, diversity organizer, or just plain tennis fan, you’ll likely find your name or home town listed in this year’s Florida tennis highlights.
From major awards to community grants to out-of-the-ordinary events like XGLOsive Tennis, here are some of the highlights that made Florida tennis special in 2015:
“Sorry, but you didn’t make the team.”
Perhaps the most cutting news an adult can deliver to a child, it is something Mark Noel, who has been coaching high school tennis for more than 10 years, has never told a player. Noel, the boys’ and girls’ tennis coach at Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, Fla., was named to the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) No-Cut Coach All-Star Team.
Escambia County (Roger Scott Tennis Center, Pensacola), South Miami-Dade County (Crandon Park, Key Biscayne), Marion County (Country Club of Ocala), and Alachua County (Jonesville Tennis Center, Gainesville) captured Florida state championship titles at the USTA Florida Combo 18 & Over (5.5/7.5/9.5) League Tennis Championships, held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
Tampa tennis leading lady Jeryl “Jerry” Townsend passed away at the age of 82 at her home in Tampa. “Jerry was one of the first managers of the Hillsborough Community College Tennis Complex, was the HCC women’s tennis coach, and a Tampa tennis legend in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, said friend Alan Williams. After coming to Florida to play tennis at Rollins College, she stayed to coach the HCC tennis team from 1976-1981. She eventually became the supervisor of the tennis facility at HCC, retiring in 1998. “I have fond memories of Jerry and all the efforts she made to grow tennis over the years in the Tampa community,” said USTA Florida Executive Director Doug Booth.
The City of Fort Lauderdale Parks & Recreation was part of a record $86,000 in USTA Wheelchair Tennis Grassroots Grants to 20 wheelchair tennis programs nationwide. Grants were awarded to local organizations that promote and develop the growth of wheelchair tennis and use the sport of tennis to build stronger, healthier communities.
The tennis women of South Miami-Dade County (Doral Park Country Club, Doral) won their third consecutive state title at the USTA Florida Combo 18 & Over (6.5/8.5) League Tennis Championships at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs. They were joined in the defending champion circle by the Marion County (Ft. King Tennis Center, Ocala) women, who won the Women’s Combo 18 & Over 6.5 Division state title for the second year in a row. Also claiming state titles were Tallahassee (Forestmeadows Park) in the Men’s Combo 18 & Over 6.5 Division, and Weston (Midtown Athletic Club) in the Men’s Combo 18 & Over 8.5 Division.
Under-30 tennis teaching professionals are the future industry drivers, and the USTA Florida Section and the USPTA Florida Division teamed-up once again in 2015 with a $5,000 partnership grant from USTA Florida to support the USPTA Florida Division’s U30 Project. The money was allocated to help young professionals participate in more workshops and conferences in 2015.
Tennis players at The Villages, the active adult retirement community in Ocala and the surrounding area west of Orlando, are enjoying a more social version of the game with friends, spouses or grandkids. Sandy Clark is the pied piper of bringing players back to tennis through Masters Tennis, and she was named the USTA Florida January Volunteer of the Month.
Special Olympics tennis participation experienced a 65 percent participation increase as of February across the state of Florida (and since then well over 100 percent), less than a year following grants from the USTA Florida Foundation and a landmark three-way agreement with Special Olympics Florida, USTA Florida and the USTA Florida Foundation to provide more tennis play opportunities to athletes in Florida.
USTA Florida Diversity Camps have helped produce such WTA luminaries as Sloane Stephens and Victoria Duval. In 2015 USTA Florida announced a new camp format, expanding from one state-wide camp to three one-day regional Diversity Camps in Daytona Beach, Weston (Ft. Lauderdale area) and Tampa. The USTA Florida Diversity Camps are for junior tennis players between the ages of 13-18, and are designed to help players to improve their game, learn about college scholarship opportunities, tournaments, and learn the latest in sports science and physical training.
The University of Florida won the 2014-15 USTA Tennis on Campus Florida Sectional Championship for the third year in a row and the eighth out of the last nine years, with the UF-“A” team defeating the UF-“B” team in the final 29-21 in Altamonte Springs, Fla. It was the first time a school advanced two teams to the top-level Gold Bracket final of the Florida Sectional Championship match. “Everyone from our school really enjoys spending a weekend away together and playing great tennis,” said UF captain Max Koller.
The Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association, Hebni Nutrition Consultants, Inc., in Orlando, and TEAM First PAL (Palm Beach Area Tennis Patrons) were among 44 organizations awarded $741,500 in grants from the USTA Foundation, the national charitable organization of the USTA. The rewarded organizations were recognized for their efforts in providing tennis and education to under-resourced youth and individuals with disabilities, as well those organizations with a need for program infrastructure support.
Gina Palombi noticed that the some of the older players hitting full-court tennis at her facility were not getting that much out of the game. The rallies were short, the large court was too difficult to cover, and more time was spent chasing balls than hitting them. “I thought Masters Tennis would be great for seniors, socially and physically,” said Palombi, the USTA Florida February Volunteer of the Month. “Our facility has the court indoors. It is used four times a week, and my seniors are loving their long rallies. It’s rewarding to me because they are loving it and getting exercise.”
From Altamonte Springs to West Palm Beach, in Kissimmee and Lacoochee, approximately 80 Tennis Play Events for the whole family were held across Florida as part of the celebration of World Tennis Day on March 10, 2015. These events, part of USTA’s commitment to improve the health and wellness of children by getting active through tennis, served as an opportunity to encourage families and children of all ages and skill levels to try the sport at local tennis facilities.
Whole families took to the court at the Miami Open as part of USTA Florida’s week-long series of Kids Days, Masters Tennis Day, Tenis para Todos (Tennis for Everyone), and other play opportunities. “I broke my wrist years back then I stopped,” said Harvey Wolintz, who tried the Masters Tennis short-court format. “I hadn’t been on a court since then. I think it’s a good idea. It can get people back into the game.”
Florida brought home a USTA League national championship when the USTA Florida Adult 65 & Over men’s team out of the Park Meadow Tennis Center in Ft. Myers, Fla., won the USTA Adult 65 & Over 7.0 National Championships in Surprise, Ariz. “I just couldn’t believe it,” captain Edmund Marcelo told the Ft. Myers News-Press. “At nationals, you don’t know what to expect. To get here, you have to be good.” Florida brought home another USTA League national championship when the men’s tennis team from Valrico, Fla., in Hillsborough County won the USTA League Adult 65 & Over 8.0 National Championships in Surprise, Ariz. Only six players from the team’s 11-man roster were able to make the trip to Arizona, so the squad persevered through six team matches in three days to capture the championship.
USTA Florida in partnership with PTR (Professional Tennis Registry) began providing scholarships for coaches of diverse backgrounds, or those working with diverse populations, to attend PTR Ace workshop and certification programs. The PTR ACE Program (Advancing the Commitment to Education), directed by Arthur Ashe, began 25 years ago in an effort to increase diversity among tennis teaching professionals in the U.S.
Physical education cut-backs in schools have left many K-8 kids on the sidelines, and relegated sports such as tennis that were once played in gym class. For Janet Raney of Deland, Fla., that was unacceptable. The after-school middle school tennis organizer was named the USTA Florida March Volunteer of the Month.
The national United States Tennis Association celebrated its arrival in Orlando, Fla., with a ground-breaking ceremony for the USTA National Campus, the New Home of American Tennis, in Lake Nona. The model tennis facility, expected to be completed in late 2016, will house the USTA’s Community Tennis and Player Development divisions to start.
Florida State University fraternity students, players from the FSU men’s tennis team and volunteers came together to host a new “30-Love” clinic for Special Olympics tennis athletes in Tallahassee. 30-Love is a debut initiative from USTA Florida where Millennial-age tennis supporters perform service initiatives across the state. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity headlined the clinic, joined by volunteers from USTA Florida and the USTA Florida Foundation.
Florida tennis volunteers were honored at the national 2015 USTA Annual Meeting & Conference in Boca Raton, Fla., where former Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington received the NJTL Founders Service Award. Also recognized for 20 years of volunteer service were Maria Cercone and Carolyn Nichols, and for 10 years of service former USTA Florida Presidents Dan Casey and Donn Davis, current President Nancy Horowitz, and former age group world No. 1 Larry Turville.
The Atlantic Condo Association in Key West and the YMCA of Central Florida in Titusville were announced as Florida recipients of USTA Facility Assistance Program grants. The Atlantic Condo Association was awarded a $6,000 grant to support the resurfacing of two existing tennis courts at Paradise Tennis. The YMCA of Central Florida was awarded a $10,000 grant to support the resurfacing of six existing tennis courts at the YMCA Tennis and Racquet Center.
USTA League tennis teams from Collier, Duval and Hillsborough counties claimed Florida state championships and berths to USTA League Nationals at the 2015 USTA Florida Adult 55 & Over (3.0/4.0) League Sectional Championships, held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach. Championship teams hailed from Collier County (Pelican Bay South, Naples), Duval County (independent team), and Hillsborough County (Buckhorn Springs Tennis & Swim Club, Valrico).
The Montessori School of Pensacola — with help from the USTA and USTA Florida Foundation — expanded recreational opportunities for area children and the disabled. The school debuted two new tennis courts, expanding its tennis offerings from a robust youth program to include play for seniors and the disabled. The courts, which were made possible by $17,000 in grants from USTA national and the USTA Florida Foundation, are designed specifically for children aged 10 and younger with accompanying age-specific equipment for kids.
Pinellas County (McMullen Tennis Center in Clearwater and Shipwatch Tennis Club in Largo) was the big winner with two titles among five men’s and women’s division winners at the 2015 Adult 65 & Over League Sectional Championships, held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach. Claiming titles for the second consecutive year were Duval County (Florida Yacht Club, Jacksonville) in the Women’s 6.0 division, and Lee-Charlotte (Heron’s Glen Tennis Club, Ft. Myers) in the Men’s 7.0 division. Indian River County (The Boulevard Tennis Club, Vero Beach) was also a winner.
Linda Dubsky Peters was born a volunteer. So says the Sanford resident, who takes community involvement to a new level while spreading her love of recreational tennis across the Orlando area. She first assisted USTA Florida in a partnership with Women Playing for T.I.M.E. to raise money for breast cancer and other cancers affecting women through tennis events. “We have raised over $20,000 for the fight against breast cancer in the past four years.” She was named the USTA Florida April Volunteer of the Month.
The Tallahassee Tennis Challenger, celebrating its 27th year, hosted community events for kids representing Boys Town, City Community Centers, Grace Mission, four elementary schools, and Special Olympics. More than 783 kids attended just one of the five community events with the help of over 200 volunteers consisting of local tennis enthusiasts, teachers, USTA Florida staff, City Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Affairs’ staff, players from both the FAMU and Florida State University men’s tennis team, and local tennis professionals.
Teams from Volusia/Flagler counties (Debary Golf & Country Club, Debary), Pinellas County (St. Petersburg Tennis Club), Orange/Seminole counties (Ft. Gatlin Tennis Center, Orlando), and Escambia County (Club II, Gulf Breeze) captured USTA Florida Section titles and advanced to USTA League National Championships from the USTA Florida Mixed 40 & Over League Sectional Championships, held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
Evening things up in the annual men’s team tournament that has over the year been dominated by the West team, the East beat the West 35-15 for the 2015 Florida Cup title. The 12th annual contest was held at the Mirasol Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The event features East vs. West team play in men’s 35-80 age divisions. The West holds a 9-3 advantage in the history of the event.
The women’s team from Indian River/Martin/St. Lucie counties (Buttonwood Tennis Club, Stuart) won the 3.5 level for the second year in a row, and squads from Broward (Weston Tennis Center), Duval (Eagle Harbor Tennis, Orange Park) and Sarasota (Palm-Aire Racquet Club, Sarasota) counties were also winners at the 2015 USTA Florida Adult 55 & Over 3.5/4.5 League Sectional Championships, held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
Palm Coast and Heritage Isles communities kicked off the fun short-court tennis option for the first time, hosting Masters Tennis Socials, kick-off events for weekly Masters Tennis play and programming. The Masters Tennis format is played inside a 60-foot-lined court (within a regulation-size 78-foot court), using slightly slower and lower-bouncing “orange balls” that are not as difficult to get to. Easier on shoulders, elbows and wrists, Masters Tennis is bringing former players back to the game and introducing new players with the easy-to-learn yet competitive format.
Elizabeth Adkison Seay played high school tennis in Tallahassee, and always thought there would be a day when she could return to the area, and return the joy she received from playing as a youth. The USTA Florida May Volunteer of the Month is now in the second year of volunteering with the City of Tallahassee’s 10 and Under Tennis program.
Florida announced a new era of tennis development for tournament players age 10 and under with the introduction of the USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway, a graduated development path with established benchmarks at each level to guide parents and coaches through junior tennis. From beginning “red ball” play on 36-foot courts, youth progress through “orange ball” and “green ball” at various tournament levels before graduating to full-court “yellow ball” tennis. Each level contains appropriate kids-sized racquets, balls and court sizes, along with participation or achievement benchmarks to progress between age groups or tournament levels.
Eight players, four from Florida, saw their tennis dreams of competing in the US Open continue after winners were crowned at the 2015 US Open National Playoffs-Florida Section Tournament, held in Tallahassee on the campus of Florida State University.
USTA Florida brought tennis to Miami parks through a new partnership with the City of Miami as part of the section’s Diversity Outreach initiative in 2015. The initiative is designed to bring programming to diverse populations and provide the opportunity to learn and play the sport of tennis for a lifetime. As part of the partnership, the USTA Florida Foundation provided an equipment grant to the city for $5,606 to be distributed among 16 parks.
The Southside Tennis Complex in Jacksonville, Fla., was one of 13 winners in the 34th annual USTA Facility Awards Program, which recognizes excellence in the construction and/or renovation of tennis facilities throughout the country. “Tennis is a big here in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, as evident by the strong support for Team USA in their Davis Cup tie against Brazil in 2013,” said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. “The sport’s popularity is also bolstered by the more than 10,000 players who play at the Southside Tennis Complex every year.” Friends of Miami Tennis, Inc., was also named the recipient of a $4,000 USTA Facility Funding grant for the purchasing and installing of windscreens at the J.D. Redd Tennis Center in Homestead, Fla.
Only two No. 1 seeds triumphed, while an unseeded player captured the Girls’ 18s title at the USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Singles Championships. The 67th edition of the tournament, Florida’s top junior singles tennis event, was held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach and three other Central Florida locations.
Florida’s Doris Hart, one of the most prolific champions of the 1940s and ’50s, died in May at her home in Coral Gables at the age of 89. Hart is one of only three women’s players (with Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova) in history to win the “box set” of Grand Slams — every Grand Slam title in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Ranked No. 1 in the world in 1951, she won 35 majors, including consecutive U.S. National Championship (forerunner to the US Open) singles titles in 1954-55, and four straight doubles titles at Forest Hills in 1951-54.
Kathy Lanzalotta of Fort Myers, who has volunteered with Special Olympics tennis in her area for nine years, was named the USTA Florida June 2015 Volunteer of the Month. Lanzalotta works with the most-challenged participants in the program at the Rutenberg Park Tennis Center, where play is free to all eligible participants every Tuesday from October through May.
Palm Coast 6-foot-10 junior Reilly Opelka came out of nowhere to win the Wimbledon boys’ title as an unseeded player, catapulting him onto the ever-growing slate of top U.S. junior boys and pro prospects. His father and mother had scheduled their flights back to Florida for Saturday before the final, then had to rearrange their plans. “They really weren’t believing in me,” Opelka joked with a smile. “They just didn’t have confidence, I guess.”
The MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation in Jacksonville was named as one of the recipients of $110,000 from the national USTA Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to go toward year-round tennis and education programming.
Last year recognized for 15 years of volunteer service to the USTA Florida Section and the USTA national body, tennis trailblazer and volunteer Margaret (Peggy) Welch Beard died on July 9 at age 75 after a battle with lung cancer. Beard’s most recent service in Florida was as a board member for the USTA Florida Foundation, the official giving arm of USTA Florida.
Pinellas County (Innisbrook, Palm Harbor and the St. Pete Tennis Center) won two titles, with Escambia County (The Club II, Gulf Breeze) and Hillsborough County (Harbour Island Athletic Center, Tampa) also victorious during the 2015 USTA Florida Adult 40 & Over 3.5/4.5+ League Sectional Championships at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, and at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
Teenager and decorated Florida junior Star Makarome of Wesley Chapel received the national 2015 Bill Talbert Junior Sportsmanship Award, presented by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., during their annual induction ceremonies. Watch the video.
Marion County (Ft. King Tennis Center, Ocala), Leon County (Forestmeadows Park & Athletic Center, Tallahassee), Pinellas County (St. Pete Tennis Center), and South Miami-Dade County (Alper Jewish Community Center, Miami) were winners at the 2015 USTA Florida Adult 40 & Over 3.0/4.0 League Sectional Championships.
Miami’s Carolyn Gibson, who in her parks and recreation position worked to get tennis into schools and after-school programs, continues her work in volunteering at numerous tennis events, earning the July Volunteer of the Month recognition.
Tennis for the blind?
Yes, utilizing the Masters Tennis short-court format and sound-emitting balls, held at Rotonda Community Park in West Charlotte County, just south of Sarasota, Fla. “Understanding that visually-impaired players, new to the game, returning or experienced, can play with the able-bodied allows all to mix and enjoy the challenges of the game,” says organizer Dick Richards. “Especially in impaired juniors sharing a sport with their parents. Tennis is truly the sport for a lifetime.”
Nine-year-old Kelly Mejia Solares of Delray Beach and 12-year-old Alfredo Reyes of Jacksonville were two Florida winners announced among the 10 national winners of the 17th annual NJTL (National Junior Tennis & Learning network) Arthur Ashe Essay Contest. Solares attends the Delray Beach Tennis Patrons NJTL, and Reyes the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation NJTL in Jacksonville, Fla. Each winner received round-trip airfare to New York City to the US Open and more…
A USTA Community Tennis Association (CTA) in Gainesville is showing how partnering with school districts and federally-funded programs can produce middle school tennis leagues, and now for elementary after-school programs. “We hope that by introducing tennis to hundreds of low-income elementary school kids each year, they realize that tennis is a sport they can play,” says organizer Anne Koterba.
Ten community tennis organizations received community tennis grants totaling more than $10,000 in the month of August from the USTA Florida Foundation, the charitable arm of USTA Florida. Recipients of grants were organizations in Coconut Creek, Daytona Beach, Deland, Gainesville, Orlando, Ormond Beach, Pembroke Pines, Tallahassee, and Wellington. USTA Florida Foundation grants offer funding for youth tennis programs, adaptive tennis programs for those with special needs, community tennis programs in economically challenged areas, along with facility assistance in the renovation, refurbishment and building of quality public tennis facilities.
Three teams successfully defended championships from last year, and Broward County took home two titles among the highlights at the 2015 USTA Florida Adult 18 & Over 3.0/4.0/5.0 League Sectional Championships. Repeating as champions were Orange/Seminole counties (Red Bug Lake Park, Casselberry), Volusia County (Oceanside Country Club, Ormond Beach), and Miami-Dade County-South (Ron Ehmann Park, Miami). Broward County won both the Women’s 4.0 (Dillon Tennis Center, Oakland Park) and Men’s 5.0+ championships (David Park Tennis Center, Hollywood), while Hillsborough County (Harbour Island Athletic Club, Tampa) was also a winner in the Women’s 5.0+ flight.
At the 2015 USTA Florida Adult 18 & Over 2.5/3.5/4.5 League Sectional Championships, six men’s and women’s divisions produced six different Florida county champions: Broward County (Lauderdale Tennis Club, Ft. Lauderdale), Duval County (Southside Tennis Complex, Jacksonville), Leon County (Forest Meadows Park & Recreation, Tallahassee), Marion County (Fort King Tennis Center, Ocala), Miami-Dade County-North (North Miami Beach Tennis Center), and Orange/Seminole counties (Red Bug Park, Casselberry).
“My mother graduated high school in 1971 — one year before the passage of Title IX. She didn’t play a sport in school, and many colleges at the time still did not accept women. Fast-forward 23 years to 1994. I graduated high school with seven varsity letters in three different sports.” The USTA Florida Game Changer Blog takes a look at tennis’ part in changing the landscape of college sports for women with Beyond Title IX: Tennis Leads Women in Pro Sports.
Miami’s Kara Borromeo and Leroy Pettis are a package deal in delivering Junior Team Tennis play opportunities to kids in Miami-Dade County. Last year Kara was the recipient of the year-end USTA Florida Tennis Team Volunteer of the Year award. The two teach tennis at the Truth N Tennis Acadame program for the Village of Palmetto Bay at Coral Reef Park, where juniors in the program receive top travel opportunities with Junior Team Tennis, be it local, regional or national. For the past five years they have registered 5-10 teams per year, and in August were named the co-Tennis Volunteers of the Month.
The future of U.S. tennis via Florida looked strong as Florida players Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines and Boca Raton’s Tommy Paul both came within a match of claiming maiden US Open juniors titles, with both falling respectively in the girls’ and boys’ finals at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
In the case of former ATP World Tour player Bryan Shelton, the fruit hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. Shelton, the current head coach in his fourth season for the University of Florida men’s tennis team, had two of his children bring home titles from the 67th USTA Florida Bobby Curtis Junior State Doubles Championships. The event was held on at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs (18s-16s age divisions), and at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach (14s-10s divisions).
Three U.S. teams, all containing Florida players, took home titles out of eight age-division events at the 35th International Tennis Federation (ITF) Super-Seniors World Team Championships in Umag, Croatia. The U.S. won all three of their titles on the women’s side, capturing the Kitty Godfree Cup (65 & over), Queens Cup (75 & over) and Doris Hart Cup (80 & over). The Americans had two runner-up showings on the men’s side in the Britannia Cup (65 & over) and Bitsy Grant Cup (75 & over).
USTA Florida celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with new tennis programs in Miami and events in Central and South Florida. The ongoing “Tenis para Todos (Tennis for Everyone)” campaign, in addition to year-round tennis programs for children and adults of all ages and levels of play, included social media promotion (@USTAFlorida, #tenisparatodos), with Hispanic player and providers profiles and Spanish-language posts. Check it out at www.ustaflorida.com/diversity/tenis-para-todos.
The Eagle Ram Tennis Center opened its gates in Niceville, Fla. in September of last year behind $10,000 in funding from the USTA Florida Foundation and $15,000 from the USTA national body. This September the USTA national body announced another grant for $5,000 toward the center’s Lets Light it Up Campaign to fund lights for four courts. The facility is a joint venture between Niceville High School and Ruckel Middle School, two schools with a history of producing championship teams and players, but schools that had previously never had tennis courts to call their own.
Many tennis players have won local league championships and reached the USTA Florida Leagues pinnacle of advancing to sectionals — but how many players have also worked at league sectionals? Blaine Roseberry of Oviedo, Fla. (just northeast of Orlando) is the rare USTA League player and frequent team captain to have done both. He was named the September Volunteer of the Month.
Two Florida USTA League teams finished with national championships, and one team as runner-up when USTA League National Championships were held in Indian Wells, Calif., and Surprise, Ariz. The USTA Florida League Sectionals-winning team out of Pelican Bay in Naples won the USTA League Adult 55 & Over 6.0 National Championships in Surprise, Ariz., rolling over the team from the USTA Pacific Northwest team (Seattle, Wash.) 3-0 in the final. Also both the Florida 18 & Over 3.5 men’s and women’s national-qualifying teams placed in the top four at the USTA League 18 & Over 3.5 National Championships in Indian Wells, Calif. And at USTA League National Championships in Arizona and California, the USTA Florida League women’s teams placed in all three divisions, bringing home 1st place, 2nd place and 4th place finishes. The 18 & Over women’s 3.0 team out of Casselberry, Fla., won the championship at the USTA Adult 18 & Over 3.0 League National Championships in Tucson, Ariz., in the final defeating the team from the USTA Southern California Section (Coronado, Calif.) 3-2.
The USTA national body announced its 2015 No-Cut Coach All-Star Team, recognizing 12 exceptional middle- and high-school coaches throughout the nation who implement a no-cut policy, which welcomes all interested students to be a part of their schools tennis team. Named to the USTA No-Cut All-Star Team team was Teresa Cunningham of Winter Park High School in Winter Park, Fla. Cunningham, who coaches both the boys and girls teams with a no-cut policy, says her inspiration for a no-cut program was provided by her high school basketball coach who kept all kids who participated in try outs on the team.
Clay (Fleming Island Plantation) and Brevard (Lake Wales Country Club) counties claimed their first USTA Florida League Sectionals titles of the year, and a team from Indian River/Martin/St. Lucie counties (Hidden Palms Tennis Club, Vero Beach) also advanced to USTA League Nationals after the completion of the 2015 USTA Florida Mixed 18 & Over 6.0/8.0 League Sectional Championships, held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
Teams from Alachua County (Westside Park, Gainesville), Marion County (Fort King Tennis Center, Ocala), and Sarasota/Manatee counties (Payne Park, Sarasota) went on to represent the USTA Florida Section at USTA League Nationals after capturing titles at the 2015 USTA Florida Mixed 18 & Over 2.5/7.0/9.0 League Sectional Championships, held at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
Newly-retired Carol Gibson of Palm Beach Gardens has undertaken a new job, albeit part-time, and one with much less stress than her former high-level corporate accounting and controllership responsibilities. It’s tennis volunteer. She was named the October Tennis Volunteer of the Month. “I love tennis and since I retired last year, I’ve wanted to help bring that enjoyment to others,” she says.
The 66th edition of the USTA Florida Annual Awards & Volunteer Celebration Weekend honored Florida’s top tennis volunteers and players, and offered some XGLOsive Tennis action, at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla. “I want to thank you for making tennis possible for this community,” said Gloria Rosas through an interpreter. The USTA Florida Outstanding Diversity Achievement Award winner was honored for bringing tennis to the socio-economically-challenged, predominately-Hispanic community of Fellsmere, Fla., and growing the program after applying for a grant from the USTA Florida Foundation. “Tennis has provided a great many opportunities for children and parents in the community.”
Florida teams captured two of the six age group championships at the 2015 USTA National Women’s Intersectional Team Event in Boca Raton, where the Florida 45s women defeated USTA Southern 3-2 for the championship, and the Florida 65s women likewise rolled past USTA Southern California 5-1 in the championship match.
Nineteen youth players benefited from the expertise of four high-performance coaches and USTA Florida staff during a regional USTA Florida Diversity Camp held at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla. It was the final regional diversity camp of 2015 in Florida, with more than 80 players attended USTA Florida Diversity Camps in 2015.
Pinellas County secured its stranglehold on USTA Florida League tennis championships in 2015 over the weekend by repeating as winners at the USTA Florida Mixed 55 & Over League Sectional Championships, held on Nov. 13-15 at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach. Pinellas (St. Pete Tennis Center) won the 55 & Over Mixed 8.0 division championship, its USTA Florida Section-leading seventh league sectional title of the year, while Volusia/Flagler counties (Trails Racquet Club, Ormond Beach) won the 55 & Over Mixed 7.0 division.
Rain created an unusual situation as Florida teams finished in 1st, 3rd and 4th places at USTA League National Championships held in Tucson and Surprise, Ariz. Heavy rain in Surprise, Ariz., led to the Florida (Gulf Breeze) and Southern California (Fountain Valley) section teams being named co-champions at the USTA League Mixed 40 & Over 8.0 National Championships. Also the USTA Florida League women’s teams finished in 1st and 3rd place at USTA League National Championships held in Surprise, Ariz. The 55 & Over 9.0 women from Weston, Fla., took the top prize at the USTA League Adult 55 & Over 9.0 National Championships, in the final edging a team from USTA Middle States (Newton Square, Pa.) 2-1.
The University of Florida and University of Miami club tennis teams separated themselves from the pack in the beginning of the 2015-16 Tennis on Campus season — UF by winning the first three tournaments of the year at the UF Gatorbowl, FAMU/FSU Battle in the Capital, and the USF Bull Run — and UM by finishing runner-up at all three events. UM did win the fourth tournament of the year, the UT Spartan Challenge, where UF took a week off to gear-up for the Knitro Cup in Orlando.
Seventeen community tennis organizations received community tennis grants totaling more than $17,000 in the month of October from the USTA Florida Foundation, the charitable arm of USTA Florida. Recipients of grants were organizations in Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Deltona, Ft. Lauderdale, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Lehigh Acres, Miami, Miami Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Orlando, Palm Beach Gardens, Pensacola, Vero Beach, Wellington, and Winter Springs.
Steve Dixon, director of tennis at Oceans Racquet Club in Daytona Beach, was first on the baseball field when they rolled out the USTA 10 and Under Tennis mini-nets onto the outfield grass of the Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach. “It sounded like a lot of fun,” said Dixon of working with USTA Florida to bring tennis to baseball fans and kids. Dixon was named the November Volunteer of the Month.
Teams from Apollo Beach (independent team from Hillsborough County), Bradenton (Lakewood Ranch Country Club, Sarasota/Manatee counties), Gainesville (Gainesville Country Club, Alachua County), Marco Island (Greater Marco Family YMCA, Collier County), Punta Gorda (Punta Gorda YMCA, Lee/Charlotte counties), and Stuart (Buttonwood Tennis Club, Indian River/St. Lucie/Martin counties) took home Florida state titles in their respective divisions over the weekend at the 2015 USTA Florida Combo 50 & Over League Sectional Championships, held Dec. 11-13 at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
With the number of events Orlando’s Hoku Purcell volunteers at throughout the year, one might forget her “day job” — instructing kids and adults at the Lake Cane Tennis Center. “Hoku volunteers for every event in my area,” says USTA Florida Tennis Program Coordinator for the Orlando area Shelly Licorish. “She is wonderful with the kids. She is great at getting sponsors to help us save on cost. She is always checking to see if help is needed anywhere.” And she was named the December Volunteer of the Month.
The year ended on a high note when the USTA Florida Section was named the 2015 USTA Section of the Year by Tennis Industry magazine in the publication’s 15th annual “Champions of Tennis Awards,” which honors people, businesses and organizations dedicated to improving the sport and business of tennis. “Sometimes, you just have to go back to the well for another drink. Such is the case with our 2015 USTA Section of the Year, which is USTA Florida — the third time Florida has won TI’s Section of the Year honors (it won in 2005 and 2007),” reads the article in the publication’s January 2016 issue. “Florida again continues to lead in so many areas, it’s hard to highlight them all.”
WANT TO GET TENNIS OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT IN 2016?
* Nominate a deserving tennis volunteer as a future USTA Florida Volunteer of the Month
* Investigate USTA Florida grants and USTA national grants to bolster tennis in your area
* Start a Masters Tennis short court program or league in your area for seniors new or returning to the game
* Find a tennis event in your area with the USTA Florida event calendar
* Captain a Junior Team Tennis team in your area
* Get out and play tennis!