Add one more Pinellas team to the four heading to the USTA Adult League State Championships this weekend.
A men's 5.5 squad that plays out of Isla Del Sol Country Club will join men's teams from Bardmoor Golf and Tennis (4.0), the Racquet Club of St. Petersburg (3.5) and Feather Sound Country Club (3.0) along with the women's 5.0 team from Safety Harbor Spa at the state championships beginning Friday on hard courts in the Orlando area.
Last year, five teams competed for a state title and the right to advance to national competition, but only the men's 5.5 team weathered its competition to qualify. At nationals, the team finished second.
"We're basically the same team from last year, except for a couple of players," said captain Ed Jagger. "There will be seven of us going to the state tournament and we have a couple more on the roster that will be able to go on to nationals if we qualify."
Jagger anticipates stiff competition. "The teams have seen us and know what to expect," he said. "It will be a battle."
At the 5.0-and-above levels, a team match includes one singles and two doubles positions. There are two singles and three doubles positions in the other levels.
"Neal Tourdo is our key singles player and is ranked third in the state in the men's 35s," said Jagger. "Most of us play age-division tournaments throughout the year, plus we've been practicing weekly together at Isla Del Sol."
Along with Tourdo, Jagger is third in the state in the 30-and-over division, Jeff Winkler is in the top 10 in the 40s, and Jeff Davis is No. 1 in the 40s.
Most of all, Jagger said, the players like the team concept and camaraderie of the 5.5 adult league, saying it's reminiscent of college days and team trips.
"This is the second year for the 5.5 division, which is essentially the retirement division for those of us that are no longer fresh out of college and are off the satellite circuit," said Jagger. "If it weren't for the 5.5 division, most of us wouldn't be playing in the open again."
Rounding out the 5.5 team are Hans Gallauer, John Kunnen, John Block and Dave Anderson, who will travel to state with Jagger, Tourdo and Winkler, as well as Davis and Scott Zaccaria, who will be available for national play.
State competition begins at 10 a.m. Friday for the men's 5.5 team and concludes Sunday.
JUNIORS AT NATIONALS: Competition in the USTA national championships for juniors continues through Saturday on hard courts across the country. Kyle Nelson, Michael Murray, Reinaldo Valor, Aleksey Bubis and Brandon Wagner in the boys 18s, and R.J. Murray, Sierra Sebring and Ryler DeHeart in the boys 16s are at historic Stowe Stadium at Kalamazoo (Mich.) College. The national event has been held at the Kalamazoo facility since 1943 and has seen champions such as Rod Laver (1956), Dennis Ralston (1959), Michael Chang (1987) and Justin Gimelstob (1995) go on to excel at the professional level.
Kelly Nelson is in San Diego, Calif., for the 16s national championshipsm, and Ryan Buchanan and Patrick Gleason are in San Antonio, Texas, for the 14s.
The boys 12 USTA Clay Court National Championships are this week in Greensboro, N.C., and include Belleair's George Navas and Wesley Chapel's Marc Spicijaric in the 128-player modified compass draw.
Bryan Lauer of Safety Harbor netted his first national title with a victory in the boys 14s division of the Texas Open Championships held in Austin earlier this month. The fourth-seeded Lauer played five matches and defeated Pembroke Pines' Adam Adler 6-2, 6-0 in the final.
A REAL SPORT: Michael Murray of Clearwater was named recipient of the 1999 Sportsmanship Award at the USTA Clay Court National Championships. He advanced to the round of 32 in the boys 18s division.
Murray has accepted a full, four-year tennis scholarship to Wake Forest University and will start this fall.
JUNIORS AT ZONALS: Members of Florida's team in last month's USTA Zone Team Championships for the 14-and-under age division finished first and second in boys competition and second in girls. Ryan Buchanan of Oldsmar played on the second-place, five-member boys team, and Lutz's Stacia Fonseca was on the girls squad.
The round-robin team competition was held in Delray Beach and included teams from the Pacific Northwest, Southern California and Texas USTA sections.
YOUR CALL: According to Frank Deford in the June 28 issue of Sports Illustrated, men's tennis is in a slump and without excitement, primarily due to the power of the serve. Deford offered a variety of solutions, from moving the server farther behind the baseline to making the service box smaller. Also, he suggests that shorter sets and more tiebreakers would create excitement.
What do you think? Fax your comments to (727) 445-4119 or send e-mail to namgammagte.net.
THIS WEEKEND: The St. Petersburg Tennis Center hosts its SPTC Junior Super Series for players 18 and under beginning Saturday. Singles and doubles competition, along with consolation play, are planned by tournament director Al Sarmiento. Call the center at 893-7301 for details.