USTA Florida is proud to announce the winners of the 2021 Winter/Spring Local Awards. The USTA Florida Awards Committee recognized six members of the Florida tennis community for their outstanding drive, commitment, and contributions to the sport.
Jimmy Gantt Memorial Award
This award recognizes a tennis player who has overcome a physical impairment or injury. Tournament players, league players, recreational players, adaptive players, and wheelchair players (junior and adult) are included. The player competes to the best of his/her ability and exhibits strong character and sportsmanship.
Winner – Antoine de Cuba, Riviera Beach
Antoine de Cuba has been an active tennis player since 2017 and participates in Love Serving Autism programs at the Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center. Despite the pandemic shutting down in-person sessions, Antoine continued to participate in LSA virtual classes. He is now playing green dot tennis and is improving his serve, return, and score-keeping abilities. His language skills have also greatly improved during conversational exchanges during tennis and he is better able to self-regulate his emotions during classes. Love Serving Autism’s goal is for Antoine to join inclusive tennis programming.
“I enjoy teaching tennis to Antoine, both virtually and in person,” shared Love Serving Autism Founder Lisa Pugliese-LaCroix. “He demonstrates great perseverance and a positive attitude for every practice session and event!”
Winner – Sydney Phelps, Saint Augustine
Playing out of the Saint Johns Tennis Academy, Sydney Phelps has been participating in tennis since 2016. She started with red ball during a summer tennis camp and now plays green dot ball on a full-size court in the academy’s junior program. Sydney learned to play tennis with a prosthetic on her leg and has continued to push through many years of on-court training to rise to every challenge thrown her way. She has developed her game just like every other player in her class, carries a positive attitude, shows good sportsmanship, and is confident and committed to her game. Despite needing to have her prosthetic refit as she grows and the recovery time that comes after each refitting, she continues with tennis without skipping a beat.
“Sydney is a girl who has tremendous courage. A girl who accepts what she has to deal with and gets on with it,” said Coach Patrick Diegan. “She has the ability to just get out there and do it like everyone else in her group. She’s extremely respected by her peers and is playing junior team tennis along with her peers!”
Winner – Brittany Tagliareni, Sanford
Champion Special Olympics athlete Brittany Tagliareni has been involved with tennis for 14 years and plays out of the Fort Gatlin Tennis Center in Orlando. Tagliareni, who was born with Autism, has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 9 years and, despite facing obstacles throughout her journey, has been exceptionally successful on the court. An accomplished tennis player, Tagliareni has taken home gold medals in the Special Olympics Florida State Games, a gold medal at the Special Olympics USA Games, a silver medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Greece, and was a 2017 ESPY Honorary Award winner.
Tagliareni also volunteers every Saturday with Special Olympics Florida of Seminole County, helping students develop their skills as they work toward reaching her level of play.
Champion of Tennis Award
This award recognizes an individual(s), a community or program partner(s), who may or may not be a volunteer(s) for USTA Florida. Their contributions result in the promotion and/or development of tennis in their community and/or throughout Florida. These contributions may be defined in time, accomplishments, skills, resources and/or efforts. This award includes nominees from the following categories: Adaptive Tennis, Adult Programs, Family, School Partners, Community Partners, Coaches, Wheelchair Tennis, Youth Programs, Facilities.
Winner – Michelle Sirounis, Cocoa Beach
A passionate tennis player, Michelle Sirounis is also the Physical Education teacher at the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Cocoa Beach. Sirounis is committed to keeping her students active and engaged and over the years developed a children’s tennis club at the school following USTA Florida guidelines. More recently during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked with her school to develop safety guidelines in an effort to continue offering after-school tennis to students. Sirounis has also partnered with the Racquet Club of Cocoa Beach to lead the pilot test for a schools team challenge event and has proved to be an influential and beneficial schools partner for USTA Florida.
Winner – Jim Tierney, Deerfield Beach
Jim Tierney, a USPTA and PTR certified tennis teaching professional, has been actively involved in the Florida tennis community for more than 35 years. Beyond serving as the city of Boca Raton’s Tennis Centers Administrator for the past two decades, he actively hosts wheelchair tennis programs at several facilities across South Florida including the Deerfield Beach Tennis Center, the Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center, Patch Reef Tennis Center and Flamingo Park. In April 2021, Tierney assisted USTA Florida in organizing a wheelchair team tennis event at the USTA National Campus that brought in 16 players and sparked plans to make it an annual event.
Wheelchair tennis continues to grow in stature and popularity in the United States, and Tierney is credited for helping increase wheelchair tennis participation and programming throughout the years. He is a member of the USTA National Wheelchair Committee and has been honored by the USTA and USPTA for his efforts.
“Jim deserves to be recognized for all he has done and continues to do for the wheelchair tennis community,” said USTA Florida Board Member Adam Ross. “He is an amazing person that gives of himself to enrich the lives of others. A true champion!”
Winner – Barb Lancer, Sarasota
Nicknamed the “first lady of tennis” in Sarasota, tennis is a way of life for Barb Lancer. She has an unparalleled love for the game and uses the sport as a fundraising vehicle to not only promote tennis, but to help nonprofits in the county. The Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota County is without a doubt the largest recipient of Lancer’s charitable activities. She has served on their board for a number of years and has been named Board Member of the Year, but has been involved with them in some capacity for nearly two decades. When the organization had four local tennis courts in disrepair, she raised $50,000 at a single board meeting to refresh the courts – just one example of the many times Lancer has helped make a difference in her local community.
Lancer is also a Board Member of the Joey Gratton Foundation and Chairman of the annual Joey Gratton Tennis Tournament, which has raised more than $1 million dollars over the past several years for the Boys and Girl’s Club of Sarasota. The money raised at the event, which honors the late Joey Gratton, supports career readiness and vocational training programs. She has also served as the former chair of the Make a Wish Foundation Charity Tennis Tournament.
USTA Florida extends a big congratulations to all the winners recognized for their outstanding dedication to Florida tennis. For more information about USTA Florida awards, please visit www.USTAFlorida.com/Awards.