Map of Courts Played
Bulgarian Wins = ReMax Logo / NOCO Wins = Red Square / Green Dudes = Team Win View NOCO vs Bulgaria in a larger map

Monday, April 14, 2014

Best of Five - Ackfield Park

Finally spring has arrived and this week we had a perfect morning to test out the courts at Ackfield Park in the City of Shrewsbury.   These two courts sit behind the Shrewsbury police station in a 6.8 acre park which includes ballfields and sand volleyball.   The courts are an astroturf surface and are in great shape except for a few large seams which have developed in a couple spots.

In the last couple years USTA has changed league rules so that split set matches are ended with 10 point tiebreakers.   We decided to try a new format which was to have our match consist of the the first to win three 10 point tiebreakers.   A mini best of five format if you will.  A can of X-Balls was opened and the match was on.

As we began our warm up we quickly determined this astroturf surface was faster than most and really reacted to both topspin and underspin.   Scott quickly got out to a 3-0 lead and increased it to 5-2 at which point Stan played a series of great points to get back in the tiebreaker.   Stan finally took the lead 8-7 and then finished the first tiebreaker with two great points.  The first was a spectacular lob over Scotts head after he followed a mid court volley to the net and the second was a deep down the line slice backhand past Scott at the net.  First tiebreaker goes to Stan.

Second tiebreaker started in a similar fashion.  Scott stormed out to a 5-2 lead and Stan battled back.   At 5-5 the turf seam came into play as Scott drove a forehand down the line and it hit the seam and dipped under Stan's outstretched racket.   At 8-5 Scott served two great serves in a row to finish the second tiebreaker 10-5.

Third tiebreaker.   This one again started out with Scott taking a 5-2 lead.   Again Stan battled back to 5-5. Scott fended off a couple great body serves with slice balls that dropped at Stan's feet.  Again at 8-5 two good serves by Scott finished the breaker 10-5.

Fourth tiebreaker.   Scott roared out to a 6-0 lead and tried to add a new rule the 7-0 shutout just like ping pong.  Stan wasn't buying it and took the next point getting Scott to hit a ball wide.   Stan fought furiously to get back into the tiebreaker.  At 5-7 Stan came to the net on a deep ball to Scott's forehand which Scott took right back down the line for a winner.   Stan got back to 8-6 with a perfectly hit dropshot.   The next two points and the match went to Scott for a 10-6 tiebreaker  and 3-1 match victory!

Surface was tough to adjust to but consistent on all except one point during our match.   Location is great right off hwy 44 and Shrewsbury exit.   Location is a 10 and Court Condition is an 8 for a rating of 9.   A great nearby eatery is the famous Porters Fried Chicken for an after match  snack.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

East St. Louis - Judge Milton Wharton

During our work in East St. Louis we attended a meeting of the Financial Oversight Committee for the East St. Louis School District.   During that meeting Judge Wharton gave a passionate speech supporting tennis and putting in context the tough environment awaiting many of these kids.   Its worth a listen to the audio link below and a read of the article on the Judge below.  He is an interesting character.

Link to story via .  The story is embedded below.

Judge Milton Wharton to leave bench

Milton Wharton, who went from being a laid-off welder to a judge presiding over the Metro East's most sensational criminal trials, including the Christopher Coleman case, will retire at the end of his term next year.
Wharton, 65, became an associate judge in St. Clair County in 1976, and has remained on the bench for 35 years.
His unmistakable style is a throwback: bow ties, cigars, fedoras. His judicial style has been just as unique.
"He handled things differently than any other judge," said John O'Gara, a defense attorney and St. Clair County public defender. "He really cared about the defendants. He'd say to them 'Where are you going in your life?' He also never lost sight on society at large and would incorporate that into each individual."
Wharton is known for giving speeches and life advice to defendants. His wood-paneled courtroom became an intersection of race, society, and law. Wharton, a black man, often uses history to plead with the defendants - many of them young, black men from East St. Louis, his hometown - to steer away from crime. He does everything from opine on a defendant's hair, clothes, and tattoos.
"In court he was courteous to everyone in front of him and made sure everyone got a fair trial," O'Gara said. "He is a patient man. He has a very practical sense of what's going on in front of him and the impact it has beyond him," O'Gara said.
Wharton spent many years handling juvenile cases. He said on Monday that his work there was the most fulfilling.
"I still get thank you notes from children I can't remember," Wharton said. "They are now adults who want to let me know I had an impact on their lives."
Wharton later became a criminal judge. Most memorably, he presided over the high-profile trial of Christopher Coleman, who was convicted in May of strangling his wife and two young sons. Coleman opted to have Wharton sentence him instead of a jury. He faced the death penalty, even though Gov. Pat Quinn said he commute any new death sentence.
Wharton told a story of being a young lawyer years ago, visiting the Menard Correctional Center, the Illinois maximum-security prison at Chester.
"I saw a lot of young men, age 19 and 20, but I came away with something else I saw that shocked me: I saw old men in wheelchairs, with canes and with beards. Those were the ‘lifers,'" Wharton said. "A life sentence is most potent retribution." He added: "A sentence of death may be expedient from the standpoint of the court but I also believe it would compound the tragedy that the family already has experienced, and would make me engage in a symbolic sentence of death."
Wharton, who has been teaching part time at Lindenwood College in Belleville, said he plans to continue that pursuit. His replacement will be decided in the November 2012 election.
His focus on education and young people was noticeable in 2004, when 22 year-old University of Illinois Engineering student Kyai Gibson stood in Wharton's courtroom.
Gibson was months away from graduation, but he and a pair of friends had held up a Fairview Heights dry cleaner that spring.
Wharton was in charge of his sentencing.
"I'm so sorry," Gibson said, pleading with Wharton for leniency. "I hadn't meant to throw away my life."
Wharton lamented: "There are days when you really hate to be a judge. It breaks my heart."
Gibson got seven years in prison.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jimmy Connors, East St. Louis, Social Media and Relationships


This is not our normal post but instead an incredible story about our blog entry Stalking Jimmy Connors and its amazing effect on the St. Louis tennis community and the community of East St. Louis.   When we went to East St. Louis in the fall of 2012  we were chasing the ghosts of tennis history.

We wanted to see where Jimmy Connors played, lived etc and of course we ended up playing our usual match in Belleville finding no suitable courts in East St. Louis.   We posted our blog as usual and here is the story of what happened.    The blog post in short order became our most popular entry and still today is viewed almost four times more than any other with only the Hudlin Courts blog within spitting distance.

Scott and Stan's tennis team captain Bob Faust read the blog and discussed it with Scott one day and said, "I wonder if we can get USTA to do something in East St. Louis to bring tennis back."   Bob then had conversations with USTA who was receptive. Scott and Stan have both done quite a bit of real estate work for Bank of America. It so happened that one of Scott's assignments many years ago was in East St. Louis where he had befriended Joe Lewis, Jr. who is now the City of East St. Louis Treasurer.

A meeting was convened between USTA and City in early 2013.   The City and USTA were very receptive.  

The conversation included tennis programs and rebuilding tennis courts.    In the fall of 2013 an opportunity presented itself.  A comprehensive program called The 40 Days of Nonviolence would kickoff in January 2014 and would be willing to allow USTA to work with kids for six Saturdays in a row.

The response to the opportunity was amazing USTA St. Louis District and USTA Missouri Valley contributed funding to buy new racquets for the participants and funded the installation of an Exhibit on African American Tennis History at East St. Louis City Hall called Breaking the Barriers.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame provided the Exhibit at a tremendous discount to help make it happen.   Then volunteers started coming out of the woodwork to help work with the kids.   Over 60 volunteers participated and volunteered their Saturday mornings to teach basic tennis to approximately 50 kids per week ranging in age from 5 to 18.

The program took place at the Mary Brown Center a fantastic building designed by Buckminster Fuller and run by the Lessie Bates Neighborhood House who has been a community anchor in East St. Louis for 100 years.  Mary Brown Center is located in Lincoln Park which has 4 tennis courts that are unplayable.

A USTA Grant has been applied for which may cover up to 25,000 of the estimated 200,000 cost to completely rebuild the courts.   The
tennis community appears to be ready to raise the remaining 175,000 from private donors and corporations.  

Midway through the program a reception was held to highlight the Exhibit and Martin Rogers a tennis coach from St. Louis came and talked about his personal experiences with Richard HudlinJuan FarrowArthur Ashe.

The exhibit was amazing and fostered education, conversation and connections amongst all who took the time to see it.  For example, Scott and Bob Faust found out they both took their first tennis lessons from the same woman local pro Bunny Wall whose son Steve teaches at Creve Coeur Racquet Club.

We certainly did not envision the effect of Stalking Jimmy Connors but are truly grateful to the volunteers, City of East St. Louis, USTA St. Louis District, Lessie Bates Neighborhood House, USTA Missouri Valley, Heritage ExpositionRK Builders, 40 Days of Nonviolence and The International Tennis Hall of Fame. Because of you an amazing experience was had by the kids and the volunteers.   Tennis is alive and well in East St. Louis.  Now on to finding the rest of the money to build those courts!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

What the H is an X-Ball?

There is a new tennis ball in town, move over Prince, Dunlop and Wilson the X-Ball is here.   In February we were provided with a case of The X-Ball's for our use throughout the year on the blog.   We recently used them in our last blog entry Chicken Tennis.   We found the balls to have excellent bounce, durability and still retain a soft feel.    If you would like to order some you may buy them direct from

So here is the X-Ball story direct from the founder. The brand was started in 1997 by Paul Prior just after he retired off the tour and started coaching. At that time it was part of Volkl Africa which was the Southern African representative of Volkl Tennis based in Switzerland. The company noticed a gap in the local and international market sue to the variety of high quality tennis balls available. The brand of X-Ball was created upon the belief and foundation of producing a tennis ball that a professional player would love. Very quickly we had good success based on the good products. We soon had distribution clients in Europe, South America and Asia.

One of the important developments over the years is the rubber compound and ball felt. The Magna-Rubber compound we now use allows the ball to be more cushioned by the string bed of the racquet, giving greater feel and comfort during good contact and less shock during bad contact of the ball and racquet. A big part of being in the US now is that we have been able to develop and purchase from a US supplier the felt. The felt has the highest wool content in the industry giving the ball a thicker, longer lasting felt than our competitors.

X-Ball has been producing and leading the development of the "Transitional/ Quickstart" tennis balls since 1998 and have run various testing. The one major point that we feel is that these tennis balls are really designed for all ages, not just U10 players. In testing we had found that rally length with the Orange training ball tripled when played with by the average 3.5 player. By increasing the rally length players were able to spend more time playing tennis and less time picking up balls, more time practicing their strokes and running after the balls, meaning that players improved faster and received more of a work out in the same period of time.

In the late 90's we spent many research Dollars on these products which then allowed us to find the solution for the best performing pressureless tennis ball in the market. The X-Ball Air ball plays most like a pressurized tennis ball than any other pressureless tennis ball winning many awards in the European market.

X-Ball was launched in the US in 2013 and was created as a division of Pennies for Reading (, a not for profit Employee owned Co-operative. The goal of Pennies for Reading and X-Ball as one of the divisions of the organization, is to run businesses to create profits and funds to invest into the employees lives and communities lives, making the city more sustainable while raising it hopefully from the position of the poorest city in the United States.

X-Ball continues to pursue the goal of being one of the major tennis ball brands internationally.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chicken Tennis? Why you ask.. because Jerry Gassel turns 80 this month!

Chicken Tennis ...the tennis version of Beer Pong? A few weeks ago Scott's doubles partner from his teenage years, Dan Gassel, contacted him and asked him to write a letter for his fathers 80th birthday.   He also asked him to sign the letter "The Chicken Plucker"    A smile came to Scott's face thinking of those fun times in North County playing tennis and earning the nickname from Jerry because he worked in the kitchen at Kentucky Fried Chicken along with a few other tennis players.    Of course those memories are intertwined with tennis and north county so we said why not a blog to celebrate the 80th Birthday of Mr. Gassel!   Many of the places we played tennis are now gone including LarMor Swim Club, West James Courts(Where Scott and Dan took lessons), the former Bellefontaine Swim and Tennis Club and the courts at Pruett Park which are no longer playable.

However one court came to mind as the right place to play this match.   The Riverview Gardens High School Courts because they sat literally across the street from 1211 Shepley the home of the Gassel Family where Jerry and Carol  raised two wonderful daughters and Scott's doubles partner Dan.

As we arrived at the courts we could see they were in bad shape however one thing had improved.  The courts had real nets.   Back in Scott's day the nets were made of chain link fence.   Many a competitive tennis match was played on these courts back in the day.  Scott played many a match here against his high school nemesis Ken Eckert a proud Riverview Ram.  Today the courts look little used.  Scott brought Chris Gassel (no known relation to Jerry) with him.  Chris is the behind the scenes compiler of this blog.    Stan as usual was busy selling homes for Remax Select which means he was slightly late so we had a few minutes to warm up.   Chris is a beginner and has been taking  tennis lessons from Mark Platt so we hit a few balls until the Riverview Gardens Security Guard showed up and informed us we could not play tennis during school hours.

We called Stan and met him at Bella Fontaine Park adjacent to the Bellefontaine Neighbors Recreation Center where they have two courts.   They used to have four but two have been converted to basketball.   We opened a can of balls from our new sponsor The X-Ball and got ready to play.  In order to celebrate Jerry's 80th we put the special "Chicken Plucker" rules in effect.   For the first set we put two cans four feet from the net on each side in the drop shot zone.   If either player hit the can he automatically wins the game and forces the other player to eat one piece of KFC from the bucket we acquired from Scott's old workplace.    Scott won the toss and served and earned a game point.

Stan lobbed over Scott's head and Scott ran back spun around and hit an inside out forehand passing shot to win the game.  He then broke stan and held for a 3-0 lead.   Although several attempts were made to hit the can it proved to be very difficult.   You also now had the added responsiblity if you were at net to defend the can which Stan did successfully using his Bulgarian goalie skills!  As usual Scott could not count Stan out and he fought back to 4-5 with Scott serving with a set point.  On set point both players went for the can and ended up at the net where Stan hit a fantastic lob volley over Scott's head to save set point.   He continued on to break and even the set at 5-5.   Scott was able to break and hold to close out the set 7-5.

We changed the rules for the second set putting four cans on the service sidelines.   Stan fought hard to start and broke Scott on a great short angle backhand which missed the can but was devastating nevertheless.    At 3-2 Stan served and held at love for a 4-2 lead.   Scott served and Stan won three more points in a row forcing triple break point.   Things were not looking good for Scott.   Then lightning struck...

Scotts first serve smashed into the can automatically winning the game and sending Stan to the KFC bucket.  Now 4-3 Stan managed to survive the chicken and close out the set at 6-3.   However the game was now changed as we both knew the cans were now a factor.

We decided to play a USTA 10 point tiebreaker to decide the match.   The tiebreaker rule was hit the can automatically win the tiebreaker.  Both players were now going for the cans on every shot knowing that a can hit was an automatic match win.

Of course there were a few errors and Stan was the steadier and went out to a 7-2 lead.   Scott fought back hard.   Both players were all over the cans but nobody could hit the mark.   At 9-8 Stan had the first match point.

He came to the net on Scott's backhand and Scott somehow floated a slice passing shot down the line past Stan to even it at 9-9.   Back and forth it went with each player having multiple match points.  Finally at 15-14 Scott served for the match.   His serve nearly missed the can but was in Stan went for the can on Scott's backhand side and Scott went backhand crosscourt for the can.  Stan approached the net and Scott finished the match with a forehand down the line pass!  16-14 tiebreak win.   After four straight losses to Stan the Chicken Plucker rides again 7-5, 3-6, 1-0!

The courts are in need of work.  They were missing netstraps, nets were coming apart and most importantly the surfacing is cracked and uneven and retains water.   Water was constantly pushing out of the court and some sections were uneven and could create bad bounces or more importantly trip hazards.   The rest of the facility is in great shape.   Our rating on condition is a 5 and location is a 7 for a combined rating of 6.   The location next to the Police and Fire Station can cause some noise issues.   A nearby attraction is the General Daniel Bissell House and a great place to eat is Central Realty favorite The White Barn.

Happy 80th Birthday Jerry Gassel!  This Blog's for you!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Martins Take + Big Things Coming

Big things are brewing over here at STL Forgotten Courts and we are going to share them with you shortly!  But first, we want to take the time share another blog that relates to one of our older posts about Mr. Richard Hudlin.  Please check out Martin's Take below and hit the link to go to his blog.

Long Overdue, This Is For You… Mr. Richard Hudlin

3 Votes

Richard A. Hudlin was a man of quiet but significant accomplishment. Mr. Hudlin or, “Hud,” as we who knew and worked with him affectionately called him, was a great man. That’s indisputable.
What is troublesome to me is the relative obscurity to which Mr. Hudlin’s legacy has been relegated. The stark lack of accessible information about the profound positive impact he had on the tennis community of St. Louis is reprehensible.
I share the blame because I knew him well. While he was living I could have, and immediately following his death I should have, documented the many selfless things that he did in the interest of fostering tennis for those of lesser means.
This post is my apology and personal tribute to the man who never received the recognition that he so richly deserved.
Arthur Ashe won the Wimbledon singles title in 1975. A year later during a visit to St. Louis, I snapped this photo of a proud Richard Hudlin (seated on the lower right), and his star pupil, Arthur Ashe (seated on the desk).
My association with Mr. Hudlin began in 1974. I first met him at Fairgrounds Park in north St. Louis. He was conducting a tennis clinic of sorts with a ragtag assemblage of kids. Half of the gaggle didn’t even have tennis rackets. That didn’t matter to “Hud” because one day they would have rackets even if he had to provide them.
I was hitting against the board while alternately watching with fascination as Mr. Hudlin effortlessly shuttled back and forth between the two courts he was using. He provided instruction for those with rackets while utilizing those without to chase and retrieve balls.
After fifteen minutes the positions were reversed. Those with rackets happily handed over the instruments to those without and dutifully began shagging balls. The former retrievers now got instruction. There wasn’t a disgruntled kid amongst the lot. I remember thinking, “What a great system.”
The whole affair ended in about forty minutes. A few last words were dispensed to the group and away they dashed. One little boy stayed behind to help Mr. Hudlin gather up balls and deposit them into two A & P grocery shopping bags.
I watched as Hud lugged the two bags to his car parked on Natural Bridge about forty yards away. He had a little green Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. After storing the bags he returned to the courts and walked straight to me.
Without introduction he asked quizzically, “Whats that thing in your hand?” Because I thought it was obvious, I replied in a somewhat confused fashion, “A tennis racket?” “Well what are you trying to do with it?” Bewildered I answered, “Practice?” “Oh, I see. From the looks of things you aren’t getting in much practice.”
His smile told me he was egging me on. So when he asked, “Well why are most of your balls flying over the fence?” I replied, “because the fence isn’t high enough.” That got him. He doubled over in laughter.
Mr. Hudlin then proceeded to give me a three minute crash course in how to hit a tennis ball properly. That was the only instruction he ever gave me regarding my own tennis. He then turned abruptly and began walking away.
“Thanks,” I called after him. Seemingly as an afterthought, he turned and said, “I’m Richard Hudlin.” “Thanks again Mr. Hudlin, I’m Martin Rogers.” “I know,” he said. “You’re Fred’s son.” And with that he was gone leaving me perplexed as to how he knew me.
Though St. Louis is a reasonably large city, within the black community, it often seems small because everyone seems to either know you or at least know someone who knows someone else who somehow knows you. I later learned that my father and Richard were longstanding acquaintances. That’s how he knew me.
Over the next few weeks I saw Richard with greater frequency. As always he was working with kids. During a couple of my practice debacles, after having knocked all my balls over the fence, Richard called me down to do something useful-toss balls to his kids.
To the best of my knowledge, at that time, Mr. Hudlin was donating his services. I never saw parents paying him for the time he spent working with their children.
It didn’t take long for me to learn that Mr. Hudlin had connections to Althea Gibson, the first African American woman to compete on the world tennis tour and win a Grand Slam tournament. He also coached the great Arthur Ashe during the time Arthur spent in St. Louis honing his skills at the Armory tennis courts and completing his senior year at Sumner High School.
Under Hud’s tutelage, within the confines of the Armory, on the slick, lightening-fast wood surface, Arthur was transformed from a back-court player into a serve-volley specialist. It was Richard Hudlin genius.
Mr. Hudlin was a champion of Civil Rights as well. Against stiff resistance towards blacks gaining inroads into the sport, Mr. Hudlin filed and won a lawsuit to gain access for his Tandy Park Muny tennis players to city-wide Muny Parks to which they had been vigorously excluded. It was an unprecedented victory.
Richard Hudlin died in 1976, one year after Arthur won Wimbledon, the oldest and most prestigious tournament in tennis. He lived just long enough to see Arthur become a champion both on and off the tennis court.
Richard A. Hudlin was a champion as well as a maker of champions. He was also a teacher, leader, mentor, supporter, donator and defender.
Thanks Hud, for the three priceless minutes you donated to my forehand. I’m still working on it and am happy to report that far fewer of my balls are sailing over the fence now.
I pay sincere homage to Mr. Richard Hudlin. By any measure he was a great man.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Thanksgiving Edition with a little Extra!

Weather in St. Louis usually permits us to play a match outdoors around Thanksgiving and this year was no exception.  On a cloudy day with a scheduled high of 52 and a chance of rain we headed to Larson Park in Webster Groves for our first match in two months.   Larson Park is a quaint little park tucked into a residential area of Webster Groves.   There are two courts surfaced with astroturf/sand base.   The courts are in great condition.

Scott sprained his ankle six weeks ago playing tennis in a USTA tournament match.   After visiting Dr. Greg Galakatos  and confirming no broken bones, the protocol for a high ankle sprain was followed.    Since this was only Scott's second match after the sprain he decided it would be fair to bring an old racket for Stan to use and equalize the odds.

Scott knew he was in trouble the minute he pulled out the 1980's era Wilson Extra and handed it to Stan.   Stan's eyes lit up as he exclaimed " We played with a Polish copy of this racket growing up in Bulgaria"

As warm ups began it was clear Stan was very comfortable with this old Aluminum
racket.    In fact Stan could hardly miss a ball.   Even the slow play of the turf did not bother him at all.   The match began with dark skies and a temperature in the mid 40's.

Stan won the toss and easily won the first game, and the second and third.  Somewhere in the first 3 games it began to rain and continued to drizzle for the entire match.   Fortunately this surface handles rain much like a clay court and we played on.  Finally in the fourth game Scott held serve easily and it looked like we might have a close set.   Stan shut down any of those thoughts by acing Scott on his next serve and going up 4-1.   Then he finished up the first set with a 6-2 win.

Scott followed the old saying "Never change a winning game and always change a losing game"   He noticed Stan was not hitting too many topspin balls with the Extra and decided to serve and volley to the backhand.   This worked well as held serve and they went to 2-2.

Stan focused in and took the next two games for a 4-2 lead.    Scott broke back and hit what Stan called the best shot of the match by running cross court to pick up a Stan volley and passing him down the line.   That was enough for Stan and he closed it out for a 6-2, 6-3 win.

We loved this court location is a 10 and the surface is an 8.5 with the only issue being a couple large seams that occasionally produced a weird bounce.   9.25 overall.    We then proceeded to the nearby Hanneke/Westwood supermarket for a great lunch at a neighborhood store where they still know most customers by name!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A test of Wills - Boone's Lick Park

On a sunny September day we headed to St. Charles to try a court at Boone's Lick Park.    Boone's Lick Park is named after Boone's Lick road which is the first major road into the heart of the State of Missouri.   It originated in St. Charles and ended at Boone's Salt Lick near New Franklin, Missouri.  At Boone's Lick salt was processed in a furnace.   Why was salt important?  Here is a link that will tell you more about Salt's history and significance .

St. Louis is home to the Gunther Salt Company owned by a family of excellent tennis players!  Boone's Lick road became the predecessor to Highway 70 the primary East/West Interstate which runs through Missouri connecting St. Louis and Kansas City. The Park itself is located just off Boone's Lick Road and features a solitary court, restrooms, bbq grill and a picnic shelter.

On to the court.   The tennis court appeared to be in great shape other than the surface has not been repainted in some time.   Net in good shape and no major cracks.  Like most public courts we play there was no net strap installed.   We really like playing on these single courts because it really cuts down on chasing stray balls which occasionally fly off of our rackets.   As we began to hit we noticed the bounces were true but the court played fast and the ball seemed to stay low to the court on the bounce.

The match started well for Stan as he was consistent and  Scott failed to take advantage of several easy volley opportunities.    In no time at all Stan was leading 4-1 in the first set punctuated by a fantastic inside out drop shot.   Scott with his back against the wall started hitting his volley's and pushing his forehand deeper into Stan's court.   Minutes later the match stood tied at 4-4 as Stan now missed an easy volley to allow Scott to tie the set.   Scott's hopes were dashed as Stan then broke his serve and held his own hitting a beautiful backhand down the line winner to take the set 6-4.

Scott was not happy about this development and really started taking more chances to start the second set.  By hitting the ball harder and taking control of the points he was able to turn the tables and roll out to a 4-1 lead.  Stan had no choice but to ride out the fusillade from Scott and to focus on getting everything back and making Scott hit one extra ball.   The strategy worked and now it was Stan's turn to fight back.   He pulled back to 4-4 and then won his serve at love for a 5-4 lead.

Scott managed to slow the momentum by holding serve to tie the set 5-5.   Stan's service game was a battle.  After several break points Scott had Stan in trouble and Stan threw up a desperation lob high to Scott's backhand.   Scott knew he had to hit it in the air and the result was an impossible cross court drop shot winner.   Scott was now in the catbirds seat with a 6-5 lead serving for the set.  Even better he won the next three points to go up 40 love and earn three set points.

The next two points Stan won by drop shotting and then lobbing over Scott's head.  On the third set point Scott was determined to take the set and got Stan on the run forcing Stan to lob.  Scott hit an overhead,  Stan got it and threw up another lob,   Scott pounded it down the line to take the set..... wait... it hit the net cord and fell back on Scott's side.   Deuce game.   Stan tied the set by hitting a cross court winner and drawing a backhand error from Scott.

Whew, what a set.   Time for a tiebreaker.    Scott wins the first three points for a 3-0 lead.  Stan turns it around and heads out to a 6-4 lead and two match points.   Scott missed his first serve and tossed in a second serve and survived a hard fought point to go to 5-6.    Stan got Scott in trouble on the second match point and Scott saved it with a ridiculous backhand dropshot from the baseline to tie at 6-6.   Amazingly Scott fights to an 8-7 lead and a fourth set point.    Somehow Stan wins the next three points for a 10-8 tiebreaker win and a 6-4,7-6 match win.

We loved this court and rate it a 9 for condition and 10 for location for a 9.5 score.   It is also near two great attractions;  The Katy Trail and Old Town St. Charles.   Historic Main Street in St. Charles has over 50 restaurant options to choose from after your match.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Tribute to John Good - Francis R. Slay Park.

This week's blog is played in celebration of the life of John Good.   John is Scott's father in law and recently deceased after a battling cancer and cirrhosis.     John was an avid golfer and sports fan in addition to his regular duties as an Episcopal Priest.   Sports highlights for John included two hole in ones, at Rochester Country Club when he was 11 and in Bay City, Michigan in his early 60's.  He was an avid St. Louis Cardinal Fan and delighted in moments like the 2011 World Series Game 6.  

Although tennis was not his favorite sport he was a devoted follower of our blog and had several times suggested that we play at Francis R. Slay park located near his house on the border of St. Louis City and Maplewood.

Francis R. Slay Park is named for the father of the mayor of St. Louis who passed away in 2011.   He was a long time restaurant owner and Democratic party activist in city politics.    The park that bears his name is located just south of the Arsenal Bridge over the River Des Peres on McCausland.    It contains a couple softball fields, a restroom and a solitary tennis court.

The court itself looks lonely and unused.   Upon inspection it had a large crack running down the sideline and was missing a netstrap.   Other than that the surface was in real good shape.    Stan was suspicious of the net and got out his measuring tape.... the net was perfect at 36 inches center and 42 on the sides.   At this point we noticed a key structural component holding the net up was a piece of an eyeglass frame carefully wedged into the net cable..  

The racquet was spun and Scott won and chose the side hoping he could benefit from the sun.   Stan promptly shattered that strategy by blasting an Ace by Scott for the first serve of the match.  As the set went on a couple things became very clear.

First, after such pleasant summer this day was what we would expect for St. Louis in August.  76% humidity and 86 degrees.   Second, Stan's backhand was on fire and he could hit a winner from any position.   Scott watched as topspin, slice, cross court and down the line backhands sailed by him for winners.    Stan closed out the first set easily at 6-1 with at least 15-20 backhand winners.

This match was not going the way Scott intended.   He decided as the second set started to just keep the ball away from Stan's backhand at all costs.   This strategy did not seem to work very well as Stan went up 2-0 and then 4-2.   At this point the humidity was really taking its toll on Scott and he was ready for the match to just end quickly.

Alas no,  the strategy began to work and the match began to get interesting.    At 5-3 Stan served for the match and went up 40-15 for his first two match points.     Scott got back to deuce by showing off his own down the line backhand shot and then wins the game to serve at 4-5.   This next game was really tough and featured about six deuces.   Again Scott saved a couple match points and held on to tie the match.    At 5-5 Stan started the game with a great wide serve to Scott's forehand which Scott ripped at a sharp cross court angle for a rare winner against the agile Bulgarian.

Scott wins the game for a 6-5 lead and a chance to win the second set.   At this point the humidity took its toll and one of the most stunning collapses in sports history occurred.    Scott lost his serve at love and the tiebreaker that followed 7-1.

Stan's physical conditioning and his strategy to reduce his unforced errors prevailed.   As we both collapsed exhausted St. Louis City Park workers cajoled us to get back out there!

Scott wished he had followed the heat preparation instructions we advised in our blog post Shootout at the Ok Corral.    The conclusion on this court is we were very pleased.   The large sideline crack did not come into play and the surface was consistent.   Court surface a 9 and location a 9 for a rating average of 9.    Nearby is the fabulous Southwest Diner run by the daughter of a fellow tennis player!