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Christensen can't get enough of the game

Published Sep. 28, 2005

Tennis is a way of life for Bill Christensen.

Whether it's planning a weekend's activities or scheduling a vacation, the Clearwater resident incorporates his favorite sport into a time slot. Even his work schedule is fitted around playing.

"I really love the competition," Christensen said. "The opportunity to play in different parts of the country and to meet a lot of different people only adds to the overall benefits."

Christensen _ who grew up in the Chicago area and played hockey, baseball and football _ became serious about tennis when he was 31 years old. Since then, the sport has been his only game.

"I guess it was after I saw Jimmy Connors and Rod Laver play about 27 years ago that I got hooked," said Christensen, 54.

"I played a little tennis when I was in the Air Force, but it was only after I came to Florida that tennis really became my lifestyle," he said.

Following a stint in Alaska, Christensen came to Florida to attend a course in driving heavy construction equipment in the Homestead area.

A visit to his grandfather's home in Clearwater convinced Christensen to relocate.

In 1984, he established Two Guys and a Van, a local moving service, and settled into his new lifestyle.

"It's great being self-employed," Christensen said. "I get to call my own shots, and that's afforded me the opportunity to get out and play."

Christensen said he's sacrificed to compete, but a good lifestyle has been the result. Concern for health and physical preparedness for competition transferred to a sense of stability.

Since their marriage nearly 25 years ago, Christensen and his wife, Joan, have shared their love of tennis.

The two were No. 1 in the state mixed doubles in the 45-and-older division a couple of years ago. They're competing on a team in this season's USA Senior Mixed Doubles League.

"Joanie's been like my sidekick in tennis," Christensen said. "Many of our activities surround tennis. It's been great for us."

Christensen is No. 7 in the state in the men's 50 class and looking forward to challenging for a higher position in the division for 55-year-olds.

"I want to play a lot of tournaments and really focus on the 55s," he said. "I think I have a shot at doing pretty well."

Christensen describes his style of play as that of an aggressive baseliner who will attack the net on short balls. The right-hander relies on a big forehand to get a lot of setups for points.

Christensen has competed in local, state and national tournaments and expects to receive a national ranking this year.

Earlier this month, unseeded Christensen eliminated the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 seeds, respectively, to win the men's 45 championship in the Holiday Classic in Safety Harbor.

"It's so exhilarating to win big matches when you've set a goal and you complete it," Christensen said.

"I know I've sacrificed in some ways to maintain this lifestyle, but as long as my health holds up, tennis will continue to be my lifestyle."

OTHER CLASSIC RESULTS: Joining Christensen in the winner's circle of the Holiday Classic in Safety Harbor were Ed Jagger in the 35 division, Joy Ackerman in 45 and Debbie Donegan in 35.

Kevin Manning was a finalist in the men's open, as were Terry Tetzlaff in the division for 55-year-olds and Nick Bourg in 35. Jason Horowitz won the open consolation title.

JUNIOR FALL LEAGUE: Juniors representing Royal Racquet Club captured two of the three playoff championships in the Pinellas County Junior Fall League.

The six-week team league concluded this month with playoffs among the top four squads in each division.

Finishing first in the 16-18 division was Royal Racquet Club with Matt Rice, Jude Mims and Scott Sorsett competing in the two singles and one doubles team format.

Royal Racquet won the 12A-14A division with the play of Krista Pappas, Jeffrey Singer and Dewald Steinman.

Dunedin took the combined 10B-12B division on the performances of Karen Bell, Rachel Hutchens, Billy Barnes and Cameron Scholderer.

In all, 18 squads participated in the fall league.

MEN'S 60-PLUS: The championship title in the Pinellas Fall 60-and-Over League will be determined Thursday when unbeaten Shipwatch Tennis Club plays host to Countryside Country Club at 1:30 p.m.

Countryside, 6-1 after a loss to Seminole Lake, boasts 15 players on its squad.

They are captain Fred Elfein, Howard Dohrman, Norm Ross, Joe Schmelter, Bob Anderson, Gaby Beyda, Art Esterbrook, Ellis Brannon, Ted Skoczen, John O'Ryan, Ernie Dubiel, Jerry Moore, Jack Houk, Bob Adykes and Joe Goebel.

Shipwatch consists of doubles teams Henry VanDrunen and John Finlayson at No. 1, either Jim Mullins and Leon Hibbs or Charlie Brusovich and Alan Smith at No. 2 and captain Charlie Eikner and Johnie Howard, No. 3.

Other Shipwatch players available for competition if needed are Richard Fuselier, Bob Kolb and John Dunning.

SENIOR DOUBLES LEAGUE: Ten women's teams and 24 men's are competing in the USTA Senior Doubles League.

Innisbrook, Timber Pines Tennis Club and an East Lake Woodlands squad are unbeaten in the women's 3.5 division and will resume action Jan. 6.

A tie exists in the men's 3.5 north division among Timber Pines, Innisbrook and Countrtyside and in 4.0 among Shipwatch Tennis Club, Countryside and Seminole Lake.

The St. Petersburg Tennis Center, the Vinoy, Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club and the Racquet Club are entangled in a tie in the 3.5 south division.

Competition resumes Jan. 6.

ACROSS BAY CHALLENGE: The sixth annual Across the Bay Challenge featured Pinellas juniors Alexandra Cercone, Jennifer Dent, Evangelina Soriano, Bugsy Bauer, Lindsay Dvorak, Kelly Nelson and Natalie Tirapelli pitted against Hillsborough County girls.

Representing the Pinellas boys division against Hillsborough were Marc Sawyer, George Navas, Jeff Diamo, Greg Bulleit, Chrisian Yepes, Brad Ossenmacher and Ben Olsen.

Eight-game pro-set singles and doubles matches were played in a format with total team points determining the winner.

Hillsborough pulled out a five-point victory.

WEEKLY LEAGUE LEADERS: Feather Sound Country Club has a one-point lead over Innisbrook in the Satellite Ladies Doubles League at the holiday break.

Feather Sound has earned 126 points, Innisbrook 125, East Lake 123 and the Racquet Club 120 in the 11-team league. Competition resumes Jan. 9.

+ The top squads in the 24-team Pinellas Area Doubles League are Racquet Club II, Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club I and Royal Racquet Club II. League action resumes Jan. 9.

+ Winning the last three weeks of competition in the Advantage Ladies Tennis League before the holiday break were the Sheraton Stars and K-D II. In all, 12 teams participate in the three-position doubles league.

+ Safety Harbor Spa II leads the six-team Pinellas County Ladies Suncoast Singles League.

SULLIVAN HOMECOMING: The 32nd annual Sullivan Homecoming Invitational for students of teaching professional Dan Sullivan featured 32 men in a round-robin format as well as a women's doubles round robin.

Finishing in the top four among the men were Sam Vuille, Jeff Davis, Mike Newberry and Dave Anderson. Davis took first place. Tops among the women was Joy Ackerman.