Two men's teams leave this week to compete in the USTA Adult League National Championships. The men's 4.0 team, based at the McMullen Tennis Complex in Clearwater, travels to Palm Springs, Calif., and the men's 5.0 team from the St. Petersburg Tennis Center journeys to San Antonio, Texas.
This is the first trip to the national championships for most of the players, but captain Norm Sidnell and Rob Williams from the Clearwater team have been once before. It's the third trip for St. Petersburg's captain Walt Mazurek and Jeff Winkler.
Competition begins Friday with Clearwater facing Southern California, Seattle, Wash., and Texas. St. Petersburg will play Northern California, Virginia and the Carribean.
The team with the best record within each group of four advances to Sunday's semifinal rounds. The championship matches are scheduled later that day.
According to Sidnell, Clearwater is a working man's team and has been limited to mostly Saturday morning team practices. In contrast, Mazurek, a 16-year veteran in the USTA adult league, has scheduled frequent practices.
For the past eight weeks, St. Petersburg has practiced at the Stouffer Vinoy on both hard and soft court surfaces. According to Mazurek, the team hasn't lost a match on hard courts in three years but is mainly a soft-court team.
"I really feel all the team has peaked at the right time," said Mazurek. "The team has such good depth and flexibility, along with tremendous compatiability."
Ralph Howe, Michael Reilly and William Funk will share the singles position and John Block, Clinton Davis and Winkler will play doubles, along with Reilly. Block and Winkler are undefeated in doubles.
"We were undefeated in the regular season and have had no team losses in post-season play," Mazurek said.
If Sidnell were to give his team advice, he'd tell them to never give up. However, this team has proved match after match that it is a come-from-behind team.
"Sometimes I don't think we should even be here," said Sidnell of the team headed to nationals. "We are just really able to come from behind."
In the first match at state _ the qualifying tournament needed to advance to nationals _ Clearwater was tied 2-2 in positions with singles player Clay Hale behind 4-2 in the deciding set. Hale rallied to win his match.
"Our singles usually win easily," said Sidnell. "Clay, Paul Dunham and John Zitello have lost only a match among about nine."
Zitello is unable to go to nationals, leaving Hale and Dunham in the two singles positions for Clearwater. Playing doubles will be Williams and Chuck McPherson, Bob LaPointe and Pete Viggiano and Bill Bowling and Ray Paddyfoot.
Junior singles deadline: Today is the deadline for this weekend's junior singles tournament at the Kent JCC in Clearwater. Divisions are A, super B and B, with consolations in each. For more information, call 736-1494.