April 14th, 2015

Tennis Briefs(5): Millennial Initiative ‘Brings Out the Best in People’; More

General News Adult Tennis News Youth Tennis News USTA Florida Foundation Tennis On Campus USTA Pro Circuit

New Millennial Tennis 30-Love Initiative ‘Brings Out the Best in People’

Florida State University fraternity students, players from the FSU men’s tennis team and volunteers came together in early April 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.

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“Service builds the foundation of good character for all true gentlemen, and the brothers of SAE at Florida State wanted to use tennis as a way to serve the Tallahassee community,” said USTA Florida Event and Sponsorship Coordinator and SAE alumnus Alex Gold of the event hosted at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center at FSU. “The 30-Love initiative is a way for young adults to exercise leadership and organize tennis events to give back to their communities and individuals with disabilities.”

The clinic was the inaugural 30-Love event, and will serve as the foundation for future events to be held and coordinated by FSU’s SAE chapter.

“The brothers of Florida Beta consider community service to be very important,” said Tico Machado, president of the FSU SAE chapter. “We believe that if an individual has the ability to help others around them, then it is that persons duty to do so. The brothers of Florida Beta believe this is only the beginning, and events like this should be done in schools and other facilities all around the nation.”

More than 40 members of Florida Beta participated in the clinic, and all volunteers and Special Olympics athletes were invited on court to be recognized during the National Anthem Ceremony prior to the start of the FSU men’s varsity match following the clinic.

ESPN coverage of the FSU men’s event featured interviews with USTA Florida’s Gold and other participants to discuss the 30-Love initiative and Special Olympics tennis using the USTA Youth Tennis modified equipment.

“I am most excited about the fact that SAE of Florida State and Special Olympics Florida want to continue the partnership and offer more programming to these individuals with disabilities,” Gold said. “30-Love really brings out the very best in people.”

For more information on the USTA Florida 30-Love initiative contact Alex Gold at gold@florida.usta.com.

Florida Club Schools Stymied at USTA TOC Nationals

Tennis on CampusThree Florida schools qualified, but none made it past the quarterfinals at the USTA Tennis on Campus National Championships, where the powerhouse University of Florida has typically had its way with the majority of the competition over the years.

UF and the University of Miami expertly navigated the round robin portion of play to qualify for the single-elimination Gold Bracket, but neither team was able to surpass the quarterfinals on April 9-11, 2015 in Cary, N.C.

After handling Stanford 27-22 in the first round of the Gold Bracket, the Gators were upset 28-26 by the University of North Carolina, which fell in the next round to eventual runner-up University of Minnesota. UM in the Gold Bracket lost in the first round to Minnesota 28-16.

The University of Central Florida after round robin play found itself in the third-level Bronze Bracket, where it regrouped to run all the way to the final before coming up short against the University of California-Davis 26-20.

In 2014 the UF squad lost in the final to University of California-Berkeley, the fourth year out of the past five that the Gators had finished as the national runner-up. In 2013 UF lost to the University of Georgia in the championship match.

This year’s national champion was the University of California-Berkeley, which defeated Minnesota 28-17 to repeat as national champs and claim their fourth title in the last six years.

USTA Tennis on Campus play uses World TeamTennis scoring, where a match includes sets of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles, with each game during matches counting as a point towards the overall team score.

The 2015 USTA Tennis On Campus National Championship brought together the top 64 co-ed intramural and sport club tennis teams from across the country.


2015 — University of California-Berkeley d. University of Minnesota
2014 — University of California-Berkeley d. University of Florida
2013 — University of Georgia d. University of Florida
2012 — University of California-Berkeley d. University of Virginia
2011 — University of California-Los Angeles d. University of Florida
2010 — University of California-Berkeley d. University of Florida
2009 — Duke University d. University of Wisconsin
2008 — University of Texas-Austin d. University of California-Berkeley
2007 — Texas A&M University d. University of Virginia
2006 — Texas A&M University d. University of Virginia
2005 — Texas A&M University d. University of Texas
2004 — Texas A&M University d. University of Virginia
2003 — University of Florida d. Texas A&M University
2002 — Texas A&M University d. University of Texas
2001 — University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill d. University of Texas
2000 — University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill d. University of Texas

For more information go to www.tennisoncampus.com/Events/USTATennisOnCampusNationalChampionship/USTATennisOnCampusNationalChampionship.htm.

Miami Tennis Coach Theodosios “Saki” Balafas Remembrance

Saki tennisA former Olympic athlete in Greece who came to become an integral part of the Miami tennis community, Theodosios “Saki” Balafas died on April 6, 2015 following a brief illness at age 91.

Born in Greece, Balafas served in the equivalent of the Greek secret service and was a track and field athlete for Greece in the 1948 Olympic Games in London and at the 1952 games in Helsinki. He came to the U.S. upon an invitation from the University of California-Los Angeles campus to demonstrate his training regimen, and ended up settling in Miami where he had relatives.

Balafas took up tennis as a self-taught player then coach, dedicating himself to helping youngsters at Moore Park in Miami in his spare time.

“He became friends with the park director, Bobby Curtis, and together they created a tennis program for all ages,” said friend David Schull of the creation of what would become the nationally-adopted USTA Junior Team Tennis program. “Saki realized this was his calling, and it was here that he began to focus on the development of junior players. Saki would convince inner-city children who had never seen a tennis racquet to try their hand on his court. One of his prized pupils was Kim Sands, who went on to star at the University of Miami and then the pro tour, where she competed in Grand Slam events.”

Saki in his Olympic pole vaulting days

Saki in his Olympic pole vaulting days

In the early 1980s Saki met and married his second wife, Lois Kreger, who became his constant partner.

“They often traveled to Greece, where he was always greeted as a national athletics hero,” Schull said. “He continued teaching at Moore Park on the weekends. Often he drove his own van filled with his West Kendall students to provide them with an opportunity to compete with the kids across town. This pilgrimage continued until 1992, when Hurricane Andrew damaged the Moore Park courts.”

Schull added that Balafas’ students received comprehensive, and sometimes unique, training and life experiences both on and off the court.

“In his years of teaching, well before the popularity of cross-training, Saki required his students to exercise off the court,” Schull said. “He would require students to sprint as well as run long distances, take ballet classes, exercise on the beach, swim and lift weights. Most importantly, Saki taught his students to be champions off the court. He taught them about patience, understanding, love, family and religion. Saki always demanded perfection no matter a student’s abilities.”

He is survived by Lois, his wife of 32 years, and one son, George. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 2, at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall, 9501 SW 117 Street, Miami. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Lois Balafas for use in development of a Miami tennis tournament that will be named for Saki. The mailing address is 6723 SW 113 Place, Miami, Fla., 33173.

Venus Out of U.S. Fed Cup vs. Italy This Weekend

venus sittingThe U.S.’s chances to regain a spot in the Fed Cup World Group for 2016 took a hit on Tuesday when it was announced that Venus Williams, originally scheduled to team with sister Serena this weekend, had withdrawn from the tie for personal reasons. The U.S. will play at Italy this Saturday and Sunday in the Fed Cup World Group Playoffs round.

Venus is replaced on the team by No. 57-ranked Lauren Davis. World No. 1 Serena Williams will lead in the No. 1 singles spot for the U.S., and American captain Mary Joe Fernandez will determine whether Davis, No. 45 Alison Riske, or No. 65 Christina McHale will take the No. 2 singles spot.

The best-of-five match series, with the doubles following the four singles matches, will be played outdoors on red clay at the Circolo Tennis Brindisi.

Italy has won the four most recent meetings between the two teams over the last six years, most notably beating the U.S. in back-to-back Fed Cup finals in 2009-10. None of those U.S. losses occurred with a Williams sister on the U.S. roster.

The Italian team includes No. 15-ranked Sara Errani, No. 26 Flavia Pennetta, No. 36 Camila Giorgi and No. 55 Karin Knapp, but is without mainstay Roberta Vinci who is suffering an inflamed right elbow.

The U.S. leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup championships, but a U.S. win over Italy would end a 16-year winless drought against the Italians.

State College of Florida-Sarasota Wins JuCo State Crown

SCFA State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota women’s sports team won back-to-back state titles for the first time in school history when the SCF-Manatee-Sarasota women’s tennis team won the junior college FCSAA State/NJCAA Region 8 Championship for the second year in a row on April 11, 2015 at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.

It was the third year overall that the SCF-Manatee-Sarasota women’s tennis team has won the Florida state title.

They will next advance to the 2015 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Women’s Tennis Tournament on May 3-8 in Tucson, Ariz.

In singles the SCF-Manatee-Sarasota women won five of the six individual tournaments, and two out of the three doubles championships.

Winners in singles for SCF-Manatee-Sarasota were Natella Nabieva, Sarah Peek, Amiena Houston, Mikala Lowrance and Casey O’Toole. Doubles champions were Nabieva/Houston at the No. 2 spot and Lowrance/O’Toole at No. 3.

The team finished with a 14-2 record and went 10-0 in conference play, ranking No. 3 in the nation. Nabieva was named FCSAA Player of the Year, and SCF-Manatee-Sarasota coach Clayton Taylor was named FCSAA Coach of the Year.