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

Friday, June 05, 2015

Battle of the Sexes - Willmore Park

The last large park to be developed in the City of St. Louis was Willmore Park on 70 acres of land donated by Cyrus Crane Willmore.   Willmore Park has extensive amenities including lakes, ball fields, soccer fields, pavilions and a dog park.  The focus of our attention on this sunny Saturday in May was the four little used tennis courts situated near one of the park entrances.

These courts were the setting for STL Forgotten Courts first tournament which was eclectic both in format, rules and courts. The format was  singles with the contestants being four 4.5 women and four 4.0 men.   The contestants were Jenn, Trina, Ilona and Toni on the women's side and Scott, Stan, Mark and Jimmy on the men's side.  The other unusual rules were 7 game set with no-ad scoring and let cord serves in play.  In addition, this was a double elimination format so a player could lose and still come back and win it all.


We also brought a grill and cooked burgers, brats, chicken and veggie dogs while the matches were going on.  Trina brought homemade chocolate chip cookies and Kimchi to dress the brats.

We drew out of a hat so that all first round matches featured men against women.  The first round was tough for all with two women advancing and two men.  Ilona almost became a third woman to advance losing to Mark 6-7 in a tiebreaker.  However, in the second round of the main draw, Stan defeated Jenn and Mark defeated Trina to set up a Men's main draw final.

Meanwhile in the losers bracket Scott advanced two rounds easily over Toni and Trina while on the other side Ilona beat Jimmy 7-6 after being down 5 match points!  Jenn and Ilona played and Ilona had her third tiebreaker match of the day falling to Jenn 6-7.  Jenn had beaten Scott in the first round so a rematch was in the cards.

Back to the main draw - Stan and Mark played the main draw final and the speedy Bulgarian prevailed 7-5 dropping Mark into the losers bracket.  Due to Jenn's grueling match with Ilona, the draw was shuffled so that Scott played Mark first.

The match between Scott and Mark was dead even at 4-4 when Mark came up with some big shots to win 3 games in a row to take it 7-4.   Mark played his 5th match against Jenn to get into the Final.  The tough schedule, sun and heat were beginning to take their toll as Jenn faltered against a cramping Mark.  Mark prevailed 7-1 and earned a chance to play his 6th match and earn eternal glory.

An exhausted Mark and a fresher Stan took to the court for the final.  Stan got out to an early break and ended up serving for the match at 6-4.  Mark continued to fight and finally broke Stan and served to put the
final into a tiebreaker.  Stan put a quick stop to that and broke right back to become The Battle of the Sexes Champion!

The courts really were decently playable.  Not many bad bounces.  The nets were missing straps and the surface really  needs a coating.  The fence also needs a bottom bar and is curling up. Restrooms were nearby which is always a plus. Rating for court condition is 7 and
location is a 10 for an 8.5 rating.

Two nearby places for after match refreshments are Sybergs for wings and local legend Ted Drewes for frozen custard.  ( Ted Drewes was a big tennis player back in the day)

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Tower Park - The Flogging in Florissant? Battle of Boxing Day?

The day after Christmas 2014 in St. Louis was a great one for tennis.   The forecast was sunny with a high of 48 degrees.  The court we selected was Tower Park in historic Florissant, Missouri.  Florissant is one of the oldest communities in the St. Louis area and was founded in the 1700's as a French settlement.   The courts are in a great location at the intersection of New Florissant and Washington.

The courts are literally surrounded by food options with Delish Cheesecake which is located in the historic train station building attached to the courts, Fritz's Frozen Custard and Old Town Donuts across the street.   Restrooms are available but were locked during our match.   In order to add a little variety, a call was placed to our friend Mark Zolman who is a 4.0 rated USPTA certified teaching professional.

We weren't sure if Mark was coming, so we prepared to start without him.   Stan showed up to the courts wearing a bright red "Stan the Man" shirt which is a phrase that started in St. Louis with Stan Musial but has now extended to tennis great and Australian Open Champion Stan Wawrinka.

The courts are covered with an astro turf and sand combination.  They are generally in good shape with a couple of repaired areas and some areas with large sand accumulations.   The bounce was consistent. We noticed in warm up that the turf proved very favorable for slice shots as the bounces were very unpredictable.  It was time to see if Stan was really "The Man"

The match began with Stan winning the toss and electing to have Scott serve.  This was effective as Stan promptly broke Scott easily.  Stan's service game was a little tougher with a few deuces but he held and continued to roll.  Stan was not missing many shots and just completely dismantled Scott shackling him with a bagel.  6-0.  

At the end of the set, Mark Zolman appeared and after a quick warm up went after Stan.  Mark has a big forehand and big serve.  Stan continued his ways by breaking Mark and holding his serve for a 2-0 lead.  Mark began to fight back holding serve and pushing Stan around the court.  At one point, Mark missed an overhead but was able to run back and retrieve the ball on the bounce and win the point.  Stan shrugged that off and finished out with a 6-3 victory.

Scott then played Mark while Stan went to take pictures of his nearby listing.  Mark started out serving and his very first serve hit a repaired service line bouncing the ball 10 feet over Scott's head for an ace.  Mark held his serve easily as Scott had trouble adjusting to the big spin Mark puts on his serve.

Scott held his game after several deuces finally coming in to hit a serve and volley winner to finish the game.  In the third game, Scott thought he hit a cross court winner only to have Mark blister a forehand winner cross court.  Mark was playing tough and won the set 6-3.

Stan had vanished so Scott and Mark decided to play another set.   This time Scott kept the ball away from Mark's dangerous forehand and was able to keep the ball deeper.  That resulted in a 6-3 win for Scott.

At this point, Stan returned and was 2-0 against Mark and Scott with Scott and Mark each with 1-2 records.  It was decided, Stan was going to have to play two more sets to prove he was really "Stan the Man".  By now the 48 degree forecast has been surpassed and the temperature had risen to a balmy 61 degrees.

Stan played his second match against Mark by starting off sluggishly.  Mark went up 3-0 only to have Stan fight back to 3-2.   Mark held to go up 4-2 and they remained on serve with Mark pulling out a 6-4 victory.

This left Stan with one match to play against Scott who he had bageled earlier.  If he beat Scott, he would own the day with a 3-1 record.   Scott did not want that to happen.  Stan started out this time by serving first.  This time Scott broke - no bagel this time.    Stan broke back the next game with a couple of clever backhand slice balls that stayed low and slid out of the court.  Back and forth until the score was 5-3 Stan with Stan serving.  Stan held his first match point in this game but Scott was able to save for a  5-4 score.  Scott served needing a win to stay in the match and went down 40-Love.  On the next point, Scott hit a down the line winner to stay alive.  The next one was an inside out forehand winner that kissed off the line.

Still with one match point to go, Scott approached the net and Stan let loose a topspin lob..... it looked like game over but the wind pushed Stan's lob barely out.  Scott was then able to win the game and was back in the match. 5-5 Stan served and faced a barrage of forehands from Scott allowing Scott to go up 6-5 with the match on his racket.   The first serve of the game hit the seam and bounced off Stan's racket over the fence.  A lucky break for Scott.  The second point, Scott hit a hard forehand getting Stan to net a return.  Finally Scott worked his way to match point 40-15.  The final point was a good one with Stan retrieving a hard forehand hitting it to Scott's backhand allowing Scott to hit behind Stan with a sideways spinning sliced backhand for the win.   Everybody won Scott, Stan and Mark each playing 4 sets and each going 2-2.

We took the opportunity afterwards to join the regulars at Old Town doughnuts for coffee and donuts!  Court location is a 9 ( only drawback is traffic noise) and condition is a 7 for a rating of 8.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Covenant Park - Turkey Day Surprise?

Our blog has developed a tradition of having an annual Thanksgiving week match.   Most years we have been surprised with surprisingly warm weather.    This year that was not the case as the temperature hovered just above 30 degrees at game time.   Our court of choice was Covenant Park in St. Peters thanks to a suggestion by blog reader Austin Diehl.

St. Peters was originally occupied by the Mississippian Mound Builders and as recently as 1970 was a small farming community of less than 500.  In the last forty years St. Peters population has grown to over 52,000 making it the 10th largest city in the state of Missouri.  Covenant Park was convenient as Stan has a listing just down the street that he and his Remax Select team are in the process of selling for a client.  You can view Stan's listing right here if you are so inclined.

 Stan's listing

Covenant Park is located west of the Missouri River in St. Peters, Missouri. The Park offers two tennis courts with a synthetic grass surface. We have played on these types of courts many times and they are usually a slow surface.   

There were no bathrooms available but the park featured a king sized porta potty which proved perfect for Scott to use to change his clothes. The courts are in good condition with the exception of a slight accumulation of sand in one corner.

As we began to warm up we noticed that these courts were a little faster than normal and the balls stayed pretty low. That may be attributed to the near 30 degree temperature making the surface a little harder and the balls less bouncy.  

Stan won the toss and elected to serve and held his serve easily. Scott had a more difficult time fighting through a couple of deuces before finally holding.    Stan again held easily to go up 2-1. On Scott's next serve Stan was able to break and then continued out to a 5-1 lead. Back against the wall Scott finally broke Stan by hitting a lob over his head which landed right on the baseline.     He held his serve to get back to 3-5 and then Stan closed it out with an excellent service game punctuated with an overhead winner.   

The next set started out well for Scott as he held his service game and won a fantastic point of hard hitting tennis. The point was complimented by a jogger who stopped to say that he enjoyed watching it. Unfortunately that was the highlight of the set for Scott as Stan rolled the rest of the set to take the match 6-3, 6-1. Outside of Stan slipping a couple times in the sand these courts were a fun place to play.  We decided to go nearby and enjoy some nourishment from the nearby Great Harvest Bread Company which also happens to be for sale if you are in the mood to be a baker.   Court ratings are a 10 for location and a 9 for the court condition for an overall 9.5

Match postscript - Scott had his singles league match later that evening at Frontenac Racquet Club and recovered thrashing his opponent 6-1,6-0.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bridgeway Park - The Battle in Bridgeton

After what seemed like 10 straight days of rain, we finally received a break in the weather so Scott and Stan took a midday break from Central Realty and ReMax Select to head to Bridgeway Park in Bridgeton for their first match in over a month.  Bridgeton is a St. Louis community with a long history, but grew to be a significant suburban city in the last 40 years.  Bridgeton was first platted in 1794 as part of a Spanish Land Grant to Robert Owen, a utopian socialist.

Its location was on the primary road between St. Louis and St. Charles, Missouri.   Its population waned over time and in 1950 was only 276.  As suburbanization began, the population exploded with over 8,000 single family homes being built in the 1960's.   It is during this period that Bridgeway park was built.  The park is difficult to find as it is located in the middle of a neighborhood.  It is really a nice and quiet park with bathrooms, ball field, volleyball, tennis courts and a shelter/bbq area.  The courts have seen better days and are missing most of the surface on the outer edges.  One court was playable while the other was not.

Stan is physically in the best shape of his life completing an 11 mile Tough Mudder 6 days prior to the match.   Scott knew this was going to be tough and selected his lower tension racquet to give him a little more firepower since he knew outrunning the Bulgarian was not an option.

Both players held serve until 3 all with Scott winning 12 of his first 13 service points.   Stan's serves were a little tougher for him but he managed to hold on by striking winners repeatedly to Scott's forehand side.   On Scott's next serve he went down 0-40 but managed to come back and win to go up 4-3.  Scott was doing a great job mixing up his serves and keeping Stan a little off balance, but Stan held and then a 4-4 Scott was derailed when Stan ripped an inside out forehand winner off a serve up the middle to break Scott.   Stan held his serve easily and the first set was in the bag, 6-4 Stan over Scott.

The second set started out all Scott as he went up 3-0 with great defense turning Stan's winners into defensive lobs.    Scott extended the lead to 4-2 and then Stan went on a tear winning 3 games in a row to go up 5-4 and put himself in position for a two set victory.    After losing a 25 stroke rally, Scott held his serve on the next point by hitting  a delicate lob over Stan's head for a winner.   Scott then followed that up with another perfect lob on Stan's serve to break him and finally held his own serve by hitting 4 volleys in a row at the net culminating with a drop volley that the speedy Bulgarian could not quite get his racket on.   Second set to Scott at 7-5.

At this point, it was decided to play a full third set to decide the match rather than the traditional tie breaker.   Stan started out by breaking Scott to go up 2-1, but Scott broke back with a vicious down the line return of Stan's serve.    Scott; now playing with confidence, won the next three games to get to a 5-2 lead.   Stan held for 5-3 punctuated with the only ace of the match and then probably the best game of the match was played.   Scott went up 40-0 with some good serving.  With the match on the line Stan played two amazing points.  The first was a point where Scott had Stan running from corner to corner with heavy forehand balls that Stan somehow kept getting back.   After about 10 balls, Scott tried to rip a ball down the line over the high part of the net which ended with the ball on Scott's side of the net.   The next point, Scott came to the net volley three times and finally caught Stan going the wrong way but Stan somehow reached back and flicked a lob over Scott's head into the backhand corner for a winner.   Scott decided to go for it on his next serve and went up the "T" to Stan's forehand.   Stan pushed his return about 6 inches wide and the match belonged to Scott.   4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Location is a 10 as this is a quiet secluded place to play but court conditions at this point are only a 4 for a combined rating of 6.  A great nearby place to eat after you play here is the India Palace which has a great lunch buffet and an awesome view of Lambert Airport.   A nearby tourist attraction is North County's most haunted house, the Payne-Gentry House.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rock Spring Park - When in doubt change your racket?

Finally we are starting to get some summer heat.   St. Louis has enjoyed a spectacular summer from a weather perspective.    This match was our first of the year in the heat.   We decided to head over to Alton, Illinois to find a forgotten court.    Alton is located just across the river from St. Louis and to the north.  It is a city full of history dating back to the early 1800's.

We found a park called Rock Spring Park.   The Park is famous for giving the upper Alton area the name Pie Town.   During the 1840's an encampment was located on the park site for soldiers departing for the Mexican-American War.

Local ladies would deliver pies to the soldiers hence the name.  The park is rather large and slightly worn.   It features golf course, disc golf, baseball, tennis and is home to Alton's annual Christmas Wonderland.   

There are six tennis courts of which two are totally unplayable or forgotten as we like to say.   The remaining four have been recently refurbished thanks to a Pepsi Refresh Grant.    On first appearance the courts are in good shape.  As we walked up four ladies were finishing a match so the courts appear to be used regularly.

We broke out the X-Balls and started to warm up.   As the match started Stan immediately took a 2-0 lead.   Then Scott held serve and Stan changed rackets.  Scott broke Stan and Stan changed rackets.

Scott held serve and Stan changed rackets.  Now up 3-2 Scott Broke Stan again and he again changed rackets.   Scott was now up 4-2 and Stan was on his fifth and last racket.  Unbelievably it worked Stan won four games in a row to win the set 6-4.

The best point of the set was a great corner to corner lob at full stretch by the Bulgarian for a clean winner.   Both players were having trouble with a mysterious wind.   No wind was visible or apparent but yet it appeared wind was affecting our shots.   Our best guess was the courts are in a valley that forms a wind tunnel.    

Scott decided to change rackets to one with looser strings.  Heck if it worked for Stan maybe it would work for him.  By now both players were warm and the points were better and longer.   Scott started out using the looser strings to overpower Stan for a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately the heat and the effort to get there were starting to take a toll on Scott.   Stan won another four games in a row to go up 4-2.  Scott won a game for 3-4 and Stan held to go to 5-3.  On Scott's serve he hit a tough first serve that knocked Stan's racket out of his hand but the return went over the net.  Scott had an easy sitter and an open court but still managed to dump the shot in the net.

Somehow he recovered and won the game to get to 4-5.   Stan saw the finish line and served a great next game to win the match 6-4,6-4.   These were some nice courts in a quiet location.    

Location was a 9 and courts a 9 for an average of 9.  We did not count the two unplayable courts in our rating.  Afterwards Alton's one and only Fast Eddies was visited for lunch and cold beer.   If we had wanted to sample PieTown we could have gone to My Just Desserts or to Elsah for The Cultured Table Bistro

On our way home we drove through the town of Ferguson which was in its 5th day of unrest.   We saw quite a few boarded up buildings, peaceful protesters and some law enforcement.   Little did we know how big an event this was going to be for St. Louis and our national conversation.