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Top doubles teams to play in tourney

The third annual Tournament of Champions doubles competition is set for this weekend at Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater.

Sponsored by the Suncoast Tennis Foundation, a charitable volunteer organization, the 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 qualified. Last year's Tournament of Champions winners and finalists also 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. 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.

"I really enjoy the Tournament of Champions and think it's a great way to pull everything together," said Matt Kleber, teaching professional for the Paul Kronk Tennis Center at Crescent Oaks Country Club.

"I've talked to some of our members that qualified and have encouraged them to enter. You get good tennis, and you have an opportunity to see some good tennis.

"I've played in it before and have played some great matches against opponents that are not only good players but have a great attitude," Kleber said.

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 December 2004, STF will direct its focus on Pinellas.

The organization is committed to expanding amateur community tennis through educational and charitable programs.

Not only will fans have an opportunity to watch local players but will get 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. "If you don't play, you may decide you would like to try."

Foster, who serves as the STF's executive director, also recommends the silent auction.

It will open Saturday and continue through 2 p.m. Sunday. Items to bid on range from jewelry to clothing to gift baskets.

A draw party for players and guests was Wednesday at the club.

For information, call the club, (727) 799-3200; or Foster, 725-3681.

NET SHOTS: McMullen Tennis Complex begins its eight-week After-School Tennis on Tuesday.

The program meets Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 4:30-6 p.m.

Registration for McMullen's Singles Flex League continues through Jan. 15.

The season is set for Jan. 17-March 1. For information, call 669-1919.

Fall winners in McMullen's Flex League included Karen Phipps (3.5 Group Betty), Nermine Rubin (3.5 Group Garrett) and Nancy Morgan (4.0 Group Betty) in women's singles.

Winning in the men's divisions were Jared Rein (3.0-3.5 Group McMullen), Bob Barry (3.0-3.5 Group Henry), Frank Hennessey (4.0 Group Henry) and Franz Henikl (4.0 Group McMullen).

Tennis Heaven USA has been chosen to manage the sport at the historic Belleview Biltmore Resort in Clearwater.

Carl Gavine of Tennis Heaven USA selected Judi Morris to develop the resort's program, including private and group lessons for juniors and adults of all levels.

Morris, 32, is a certified teaching professional and earned national junior rankings in England.

WATCH THE PROS PLAY: Tampa is the site for this month's 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 in the $10,000 prize-money event.

A wild-card tourney is this week, followed by qualifying play 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 Wheelchair Tennis Day (Wednesday), Senior Tennis Day (Jan. 13), Ladies Day (Jan. 14), USTA Member Day (Jan. 15) and USTA Families Day (Jan. 16).

For information, call director Gregg Gruhl, (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 pre-qualifier open to local players Jan. 19-21. The winner advances to the Jan. 25-30 main draw.

The second through fourth-place pre-qualifier players will receive wild cards into the Jan. 23-24 qualifier.

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

For information, call Larry Gilhousen, 546-5563; or Mike Lockwood, 793-2320.

LEAGUE NOTES: A USA Adult League Tennis captains meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Feather Sound Country Club.

Tennis Link, reporting scores, rule changes and player dues are among the topics to be discussed.

For information, call Carol Levin, 797-8416; Ruth Ann Ott, 526-7966; or Clark Higgs, 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 action 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, call David Wisotsky, 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 coordinators Erika Boardman, 399-2459; Liz Dunlop, 391-0811; or Bob Hagerman, 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. A USTA Junior Rookie Tournament is Jan. 15-16 at Countryside Country Club. Call Dave Preston, 796-1136, to enter the sanctioned singles competition for players 18-and-under.

_ 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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