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Kopelmans continue a family tradition

From generation to generation, the Kopelman family frequently could be found playing at Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club.

Last weekend was no different. A July 4 Round Robin Mixed Doubles Tournament included three of the four Kopelman members.

Michelle and Jeff Kopelman finished first in their six-team A-division flight. Then they defeated Pat Kelly and Ken Singleton, winner of a second "A' flight, 3-1 for the overall title.

The Kopelman's older son, Michael, reached the B-division final, teaming with his cousin, Leanne Yarn, 13. In a playoff, Victoria Hess and Bruce Taylor finished ahead of the teens.

"Jeff covers a lot of the court, and that's good," Michelle said.

"My job is to hit the ball back deep so Jeff can put away their return. My forehand is pretty good, so I rely on that," she said.

Jeff began his tennis days at the club where his mother played. Now, he and his wife play mixed doubles there. Michael, 13, and his brother, Matthew, 9, compete there as well.

From his young days, Jeff went on to play for Shorecrest Prep then Oxford at Emory University. Michelle played for Boca Ciega High School and St. Petersburg Junior College.

"It's interesting that I played at Treasure Island and then Shorecrest as a kid and now Michael is doing the same thing," Jeff said. "After college, I didn't really play that much, and especially not much when our family was real young."

Michelle, too, limited her tennis as their family increased.

"I pretty much just play mixed doubles with Jeff," Michelle said. "At first, we all went out to just get exercise. Michael, especially, seemed to take right to it.

"Michael is a good athlete and plays with little effort. He's also quite clever and seems to know where to play the ball," she said.

Michael received a good basic background, Jeff said, when he was about 8 and taught by then-Treasure Island tennis professional Tommy Thompson.

"Tommy taught Michael great strokes, and he seems to know how to play smart," Jeff said. "He definitely plays a lot better than I did at his age."

Michael completed the seventh grade at Shorecrest in the spring and played his first year on the school's team.

At the No. 5 position, young Kopelman was 17-0 and won a district crown.

"It was different playing in high school where almost everyone was older, bigger and stronger than me," Michael said.

"One thing I learned, though, was that it didn't always matter if they were older or bigger."

Michael's first year at Shorecrest was in the sixth grade. That season was the last the school did not allow sixth-graders on the squad.

Just as well, Michael said, because he was busy playing baseball. The right-handed first baseman was a key member in the Southwest Little League.

USA Team Tennis is on Michael and Matthew's schedule for the summer. They plan to attend the state championships in Lakeland later this month.

"I'll probably start playing some tournaments next year," Michael said. "Right now, I'm playing team tennis at Treasure Bay."

When Michael was about 10, he achieved a top-25 ranking in the state in his age group.

ZONE MATCHES: Participating in this week's USTA Zone Team Championships for players 14-and-under at the Palm-Aire Racquet Club in Pompano Beach are Morgan Frank, Lyndsay Dvorak and Tampa's Jamie Mera.

Frank and Dvorak train at Seminole Lake Tennis Center.

The competition includes boys and girls teams from USTA sections Florida, Hawaii Pacific, Missouri Valley, Southern California and Southwest.

Squads play in boys and girls singles and doubles and mixed doubles.

The USTA is having four zone championships this week at various U.S. sites to include teams from all 17 sections.

NET SHOTS: Largo's Alexandria Liles, the top seed in the girls 18-and-under division of the U.S. Tennis Association's National Open in Tallahassee, won five matches en route to the singles title.

Julia Claire Jones captured the girls 10-and-under singles championship in last weekend's Temple Terrace Summer Bash.

Anastasiya Sokolova defended her top seed in the 18 class. Alexander Saltiel reached the boys 10 final.

Pinellas County will be represented by five youth squads in Saturday's USA Team Tennis NJTL/USA Team Tennis Youth Red Rally at Countryside Country Club.

Among the 12 squads of players 12-and-younger are Eckerd College NYSP, the Junior Aces from Tarpon Springs, PAL Power Racquets, SPTC Rallyballers and Vinoy Sponge Pants.

Squads that participated in spring or summer USA Team Tennis leagues were eligible for this weekend's event.

Camps are available for players 18-and-under at Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club (367-5479), Shipwatch Tennis Club (596-6862), Treasure Bay (360-6062), St. Petersburg Country Club (867-9105), Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club (391-2205), St. Petersburg Tennis Center (823-2225), Seminole Lake Tennis Center (394-1733), Feather Sound Country Club (572-6662) and Isla Del Sol Country Club (906-4752).

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