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Royal Racquet Club event draws top doubles teams

Today is the last time for eligible players to enter this weekend's Tournament of Champions doubles competition.

Sponsored by the Suncoast Tennis Foundation, a charitable volunteer organization, the third annual tourney brings together the best teams from the area's six major charity events.

Winners, runners-up and consolation winners from competitions for the American Cancer Society, Morton Plant Mease Hospital, Humane Society of Pinellas, Good Samaritan Classic and Big Brothers Big Sisters have been invited to participate. Last year's Tournament of Champions winners and finalists also have received invitations.

Men's, women's and mixed doubles in 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5 and open levels are planned for Saturday at Clearwater's Royal Racquet Club. Last season, 80-plus players competed and there was a profit of more than $4,000 directed to promote grass-roots tennis programs for juniors and adults in the Pinellas community.

"Raising money for the kids' programs is so important and one of the best things the foundation does," said Robin Short, second-term secretary for the STF. "We'll never get tennis to grow if we don't get the children involved."

The STF is a USA Tennis Florida community development organization that has included Pinellas, Pasco and a portion of Hernando counties. With the state's reorganization into a 67-county structure rather than its previous 19-district format, effective in December 2004, STF will direct its focus on Pinellas. The organization is committed to expanding amateur community tennis through educational and charitable programs.

The tournament's fans will have an opportunity to participate in games to win prizes.

"I would encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in tennis to come to Royal Racquet Club," past STF president Judy Foster said. "You can see some of the players you might have read about in the newspaper. And if you don't play, you may decide you would like to try."

Foster also recommends the silent auction, which will be open Saturday through 2 p.m. Sunday. Items to bid on range from jewelry to clothing to gift baskets.

There will be registration tonight at 5 at Royal Racquet Club, accompanied by the traditional draw party from 6:30-9. For information, call (727) 799-3200 or 725-3681.

NET SHOTS: Seminole's Nicholas Berning is competing this week in the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz. He's entered in the national tournament's 128-player draw for 16-and-under singles competitors.

+ Competing in a USTA Super Senior Category II national tournament on Jan. 12-18 in Naples are Dave Krebs (65-and-older singles), Hernan Molina (65 doubles) and Don Mathias (65 singles and doubles). Henry McCusker and Leo Poulin are entered in the 70 singles division.

WATCH THE PROS PLAY: Tampa is the site of the Grand Slam Futures of Tampa Bay, the only combined men's and women's tournament in the USTA Pro Circuit. Players from as far away as China will compete.

A wild-card tourney is this week, followed by a qualifying event Friday-Monday. The main draw is Tuesday-Jan. 16. New Port Richey's Goran Dragicevic is competing in the men's main draw.

Special events during the tournament include a Wheelchair Tennis Day (Jan. 12), Senior Tennis Day (Jan. 13), Ladies Day (Jan. 14), USTA Member Day (Jan. 15) and USTA Families Day (Jan. 16). For information, call (813) 202-1950, ext. 105.

+ Clearwater's McMullen Tennis Complex is the site for a Jan. 19-30 benefit for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. The Sheriff Jim Coats Clearwater Women's Open, a $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, includes a Jan. 19-21 pre-qualifier that's open to local players. The winner advances to the Jan. 25-30 main draw. The second-fourth-place pre-qualifiers receive a wild card into the Jan. 23-24 qualifier.

Special events include the Welcome to Tennis for Families of All Abilities, 1-4 p.m Jan. 22 at McMullen; and the Festival de Tennis, a celebration of diversity in our community, 1-4 on Jan. 23 at Morningside Recreation Complex.

For information, call 546-5563 or 793-2320.

LEAGUE NOTES: A USA Adult League captains meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 12 at Feather Sound Country Club. For information, call 797-8416, 526-7966 or 724-0509.

+ The Super 70 Women's Doubles League begins this month, followed by the Super Senior Doubles League. Competition is scheduled for Monday mornings.

+ Men's Super Senior Doubles League competition is slated for Tuesday mornings for players at least 60 during 2005. The Super 70 Doubles is on Thursday mornings for those at least 70. Registration is available on Tennis Link. Players must be USTA members. For information, 938-7902.

+ Coordinators for the local Senior Mixed Doubles League, for those at least 50, are planning a January-March schedule. The Adult Mixed Doubles League is April-June. For information, call 399-2459, 391-0811 or 391-4380.

COMING UP: The St. Petersburg Tennis Center Junior Championships are this weekend for boys and girls in 18-and-under singles. For information, call Al Sarmiento, 360-2643. The Battle of the Suncoast Ladies Doubles Teams is Saturday at Cheval Golf and Country Club in Lutz. A compass-draw format with eight-game pro-set matches is planned for the eight-team draw in 4.0-and-above and 4.0-and-below divisions. For information, call the club, (813) 948-2282.

_ News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 796-5559; e-mailed to namorgan46msn.com, or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.

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