April 26th, 2016

USTA League Florida ‘Road to Vegas’ — How Tennis Players Are Curing Cancer

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league-open-and-55-champs-vegasHow can one both play high-level tennis and help cure cancer? In only one weekend?

Former college players, teaching pros and other players can still put a team together for the new “one-weekend USTA League,” the 2016 USTA Florida League “Road to Vegas” Open Sectional Championships on July 8-10 at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, featuring 18 & Over Open and 40 & Over Open team play.

This USTA Florida League lasts three days — July 8-10 — and the men’s and women’s winning teams will receive a $500 team entry stipend to represent the USTA Florida Section at the 2016 USTA National Open League Championships in Las Vegas, Nev., on Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

Along with the camaraderie the event has engendered, it also has a strong link to helping cure cancer.

The national event in Las Vegas, and its subsequent USTA Section feeder events, were put on hold years back when the USTA lost a key event sponsor. Then Rob Kinas, a mantle cell lymphoma survivor, sponsored the event and formed the group Cancer Research Racquet, which has grown to become a collective of people sponsoring tennis events from coast to coast in the U.S. (Indian Wells to the US Open), and throughout Europe and in Asia, with the proceeds benefiting cancer research.

Open-National-Team-Championship“These are the players that do so much nationally for beginners, getting them started and into leagues, and these are the players who have played on teams themselves at least through college, so we wanted to keep it going,” said USTA volunteer organizer Susan Johnson-Maurer of starting the event back up years back. “Rob Kinas was willing to sponsor, benefiting the American Cancer Society, and since I had run the USTA open nationals for USTA for a few years, I was lucky enough to be asked by Rob if I’d volunteer to continue running the national open. It’s great people, great competition and a great cause.”

Many involved with Cancer Research Racquet have themselves fought the battle with cancer. When Kinas was diagnosed, no effective treatment existed for his blood cancer, and he had a life prognosis of 12-18 months. In the end he was the beneficiary of cancer research donations, and he is now a 10+ year cancer survivor.

“We are an international group of tennis players and business professionals, many who formerly played in college or on the tour, who love the game of tennis and who raise money for cancer research,” Kinas said. “We are part of the American Cancer Society’s ‘Pay-If’ program. When our collective donations reach $150,000, our group selects and funds an approved cancer research project.”

Tampa resident Chris Henderson has played the event every year since 2003, and wouldn’t miss “the best event in terms of competition, location and team comradery that I have experienced.”

Henderson puts together a formidable team that has collectively won more than 75 USTA Gold Balls.

“It’s the only event that I am aware of that hosts such a high level in three categories — [NTRP] 5.5, Open, and Open 40 & Over,” he says. “Anyone who is still interested in competing at the highest level with USTA are encouraged to sign up and play. Vegas is probably the location that allows me personally to recruit such a strong team, because of the social appeal, shows and entertainment. It appeals to everyone looking to have fun and compete.”

Registration for the Florida Section event is now open, with a deadline of June 24 for team commitments. To register or for more info go to www.ustaflorida.com/florida-open-players-on-road-to-vegas-one-time-usta-nationals-team-qualifier.

To learn more about the mission of Cancer Research Racquet visit www.cancerresearchracquet.com.