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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Return to North County! Dunegant Park.

Winter 2017 has been really mild in St. Louis this year and recently we found ourselves with a Thursday morning with predicted weather of sunny and a high of near 70 degrees.  By coincidence this day was also tennis legend John McEnroe's birthday.  As we began researching courts we found that our first 3 choices of courts appeared to be relegated to the dustbin of history. Those were Jackson Park, Frostwood Park and Musick Park. Personal inspection of all three showed courts either abandoned or in unplayable condition.

We finally settled on Dunegant Park in Florissant.  Dunegant Park is a large park that includes multiple amenities such as Tennis, Handball, Frisbee Golf, Ball Fields, Soccer, BBQ and Restrooms.  Who was Dunegant you ask?  Well that is where things get really interesting. Francois Dunegant was sent to North County in the late 1700's to found San Fernando which later became the City of Florissant.  He was granted a significant amount of land and we wonder if this park was donated by his family at a later date.   Here is good history of Francois Dunegant.  The tennis courts come in two varieties - 4 astroturf courts with light poles literally in between the courts - slightly dangerous if running to get a ball and 2 courts that were hard courts where the nets shared a middle pole.  We decided to play the match with one set on each surface and then if split sets the third set surface would be determined by a racket spin.

Scott broke out a can of pink "Hope" tennis balls which support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Stan brought out for the first time in this series a pair of Volkyl tennis racquets switching from his former brand Head.  Warm up was quickly completed and then Scott won the racket spin and chose to serve.  Stan quickly broke Scott and then Scott broke right back.  Scott's next service game was tough but Stan found his range and quickly hit down the line winners to both sides and took a 2-1 lead.  Scott broke Stan again with some aggressive returning.

At 2-2 Scott had an excellent service game punctuated with a rare ace down the T to Stan.  3-2 lead Scott.  On Stan's next service game he started off by hitting the line on his serve which created a high kicking bounce that Scott
could not handle.  He finished the game for a 3-3 score.  Scott held a tough service game by hitting a great passing shot past the speedy Bulgarian and then broke Stan for a 5-3 lead.

Closing out the Bulgarian is always tough and Stan went to work and in a few short minutes worked the score back to 5-5 with some excellent volleys and a wicked drop shot.  Scott served out a service game with a couple deuces and took a 6-5 lead.  Stan's first serve on the next game was ripped cross court by Scott at a sharp angle and kissed the line for a winner.   Scott parlayed that shot to a break and took the first set 7-5.

We packed up our stuff and headed over to the hard courts.   The hard courts have a plaque naming them the John Schneider Memorial Courts.  Scott remembered a former John Schneider who was a Missouri State tennis champion from the now defunct Rosary High School.  John also appeared in a tennis movie and was a teaching tennis pro. The John Schneider plaque honors a former state politician from Florissant.  Unfortunately the courts are not honoring him very well as they are completely devoid of any surfacing at this point.

We elected to start the second set with no warm up on the hard court and immediately got to work.   These courts were faster but also had more grip since the balls were basically bouncing on bare asphalt.  There were some major cracks which also might be a factor at some point.  Quickly the score got to 3-3 and then Stan ran away with the second set for a 6-3 win.

Stan was getting much more consistent while Scott seemed to struggle to hit a clean ball.   As a third set was required the racket was spun and Stan chose to stay on the hard courts but to switch to the other court.   This match would now be played on 3 different courts.  This last hard court had even more cracks which could
affect the match at any point in time.

New yellow balls were opened for the third set. Things really started to look bleak for Scott as Stan quickly pulled out to a 5-1 lead.  Scott served to stay in the match and Stan tried to finish it quickly.  Stan reached his first match point and Scott played a long defensive point lobbing Stan who finally tried to hit an overhead from the baseline which landed in the net.   Stan won the next point and match point number two was saved with another deep shot to Stan's backhand which he pulled wide. Finally Scott was able to save the game and get to 5-2.

Stan served and quickly got to his 3rd match point which Scott saved with a backhand stab dropshot which was held up by the swirling wind.  Scott won the game by charging the net on a weak ball from Stan and angled it off the court to get to 5-3.  Again on Scott's serve Stan got another match point opportunity #4 and Scott saved it with a monster cross court forehand winner.  

It looked like an amazing comeback was in the making at this point.   Stan had other plans however and quickly unleashed two great shots one a down the line winner to Scott's backhand side the the second was an amazing return of a Scott angled backhand return causing Scott to put the ball over the middle of the net only to find a smiling Bulgarian there who cashed in on his 5th match point with an easy volley.   Match to Stan 5-7, 6-3, 6-3

The location of these courts is a 10 being in a relatively quiet setting.  Although we did not really have many bad bounces these courts need some serious attention.  The carpet courts were in better shape than the hard so we will give an overall score of 5 for a 7.5 average.   Florissant has been spending money on their tennis courts at other locations so hopefully these are due for a makeover.

After tennis we drove a few miles east for a great BBQ lunch at the Ferguson Brewing Company located in downtown Ferguson.  

Within two weeks of this match John McEnroe's father John McEnroe Sr. passed away as well as politician John Schneider.   Both left long and proud legacies.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Park Closed - Harold Evangelista Park

On the first day of Winter 2016 the temperature was projected to reach a balmy 46 degrees in St. Louis. Based upon that forecast and a rumor of some forgotten courts receiving a rebuild we headed to North County to the City of Black Jack and Harold J. Evangelista Park.  Evangelista Park is named in honor of the former Mayor of Black Jack for 25 years and a city official during the United States vs City of Black Jack Fair Housing Case. 

 Harold J. Evangelista Park is on Old Jamestown road just a stones throw from the abandoned Jamestown Mall a place where Scott spent many hours in his teenage years.  We both arrived at the park at exactly the same time only to be greeted with closed gates and big sign that said Park Closed.  Many people of course would be deterred by this situation but we considered it a problem that needed to be analyzed.   We left our tennis gear in the car and hiked a good distance to reconnoiter the tennis courts.   The rumor was true!

We gazed upon four pristine courts that looked like they were 90% complete.  One end was missing some fencing and had tape around the remaining construction area to keep folks out.   The courts were truly a beautiful sight with brand new surfacing, new nets, etc.   In fact, it appeared the entire park was getting some investment with new basketball courts and LED Lighting being a couple items we noticed.   We were surprised to discover this park. It is a very large park located on a long narrow strip of land surrounded by lots of open acreage.   We are always amazed at the amount of land and trees in North County, although close to the City of St. Louis it has a more rural feel.

Finding conditions satisfactory we hiked back to our cars and decided to move them away from the gate so we did not attract attention and then retrieved our equipment and hiked back to the courts.  We exchanged a few Christmas gifts - Truffles, Nike Long Sleeve Shirt, String Theory Tennis Book and of course a Stan Angelov ReMax Calendar!   Then we unpacked our equipment which on this day included Hats, shirts, tights, gloves in addition to our tennis gear.

This match was highly anticipated with Scott coming off several good wins over strong singles players and Stan continuing his practice of Yoga along with playing with the "Morning Wood" group at Creve Coeur Racquet Club several times per week.

As we began our warm up the first thing we noticed is we believe we were the first humans to play on the redone surface of these courts. We picked one of the middle courts which was dry and clear since the shaded courts still had patches of snow and ice.   The courts were supremely grippy and balls with spin really held up short especially if the swirling wind was blowing the right way.  After a quick warm up we began to play.

What a glorious day it was with the Sun shining and nobody around to disturb our focus on the match.  Scott won the toss and elected to serve.  Scott started out quickly winning his serve but the points were really short as both players were struggling with the wind and the grippy surface.  Several balls by both players were missed as we lunged at balls that weren't where we thought they should be.

Stan battled back to 2-2 as we began to settle down and get a feel for these courts.   The first four games all had multiple deuces with each player fighting hard to stay in the game.  Stan looked like he was getting the hang of it as he started to hit winners down the line on both sides wrong footing Scott each time.

The fifth game was where we knew we had something special going on today.   At 30-30 we had an amazing point that lasted about 20 balls and featured almost every shot in the book.  This point featured drop shots, wide angles, hard shots and finally after a brilliant Scott drop shot bringing Stan to the net with a great get Scott hit a perfect lob over his head for a sure winner.... except it wasn't because somehow Stan ran back and was able to hit a ball in play which a stunned Scott promptly dumped into the net with a backhand volley.

Scott fought back to get an Ad in this game and then the second great point was played.    Scott hit a drop shot which Stan dropped back and Scott got it and tried to push a ball down the line which led
to a 6 volley exchange with both players at the net finally Stan hit a great cross court volley but Scott anticipated it and punched a backhand volley winner down the line to go up 3-2!

Stan held serve easily for 3-3 and then Scott held a deuce service game sneaking in with a great volley to cut off a Stan cross court shot. 4-3 Scott.  Again Stan held for 4-4 powered by a great wide angle ace to Scott's forehand side.  Scott's serve was again a battle and after multiple deuces the speedy Bulgarian came to the net and Scott fed him a weak lob which he easily put away to go up 5-4.  Stan was finding the mark on his serve and closed out the set easily for a 6-4 first set win.

The second set continued to provide more great tennis with many excellent points by both players but Stan was gradually winning a higher percentage and Scott's normally reliable first serve began to falter. Stan took advantage and moved out to a 5-1 lead. The next two games were huge with Stan going up 40-15 in each.   Scott started hitting some powerful ground strokes and played amazing defense and was able to win both to get to 5-3.

Stan served for the match and again went up 40-15.   An error by Stan made it 40-30 and gave Scott a little hope that he could continue his run.  Stan served and Scott returned with a strong cross court backhand which Stan looped deep back to Scott's backhand.  Scott tried to change direction and hit a down the line backhand which curved and landed about 1 foot outside the line to give Stan the victory 6-4, 6-3.  A hard fought victory for our last Forgotten Court match of 2016!

After we packed up and hiked out of the park we headed to a nearby O' Charley's for some ribs and beverages.   On the way we drove past the abandoned Jamestown Mall and the former indoor Jamestown Racquet and Swim Club which featured indoor courts and a swimming pool now converted to a church facility.

Honestly these courts and location on this day warranted a 10 on both counts. The location was quiet and we were able to focus and the courts and nets are in perfect shape.  There is a also a nearby BBQ grill so this would be an ideal location for a small tournament!

Monday, October 10, 2016

New Rules for a New Age - Fast4 Tennis at McNair Park

While the 2016 US Open was getting started we took a trip out to a park in St. Charles, Missouri called McNair Park.  McNair has four tennis courts and is part of a much larger park which features ball fields, concession, volleyball, shelters, soccer and a braille trail.

The courts are on top of a hill and on first appearance could use some work.  We also noted right of the bat that they are striped with pickleball lines which is becoming a common sight on area tennis courts.  We have played on similar courts and find the pickleball lines to be a distraction when calling serves making it confusing when you have a white service line and a yellow pickleball line within a foot of each other.

As we warmed up we decided to play a new tennis format devised by Tennis Australia known as Fast4. Fast4 is designed to play a 5 set match but with rules in place to make it move along faster.  Sets are to 4 games with a tiebreaker at 3 all.  Scoring is no-ad.

We warmed up quickly and began the match.  Stan was really motivated after his loss in the last match and come out firing some backhand winners and quickly moved to take the first set 4-1. Weirdly enough in the first set we did not encounter any 3-3 points to be decided by the no-ad system.

The second set was a different story as there were several 3-3 points with Scott taking the first one and Stan hitting an incredible forehand from an off the court wide position which rolled right into Scott's backhand corner striking the the lines to give Stan the game while Scott watched with incredulity.  The set went to a 5 point tiebreaker which Scott was able with win 5-3 to even up the match.

Stan did not want to be denied this match and came up with a dizzying array of drop shots, backhand winners and some sneaky volleys to win the third set 4-2 and left Scott questioning his dedication to the game.

The fourth set was tough - this time it was Scott feeling a lack of energy while Stan kept making him work for every point.   Back and forth it went until 3-3 at which point another tiebreaker was played.  This one was all Stan as he prevailed 5-2 to win the set and the match 3 sets to 1.  Final score 4-1, 3-4, 4-2, 4-3.

Our take on this format was we liked it a lot.  Surprisingly the match took over two hours and we both felt like we had played a substantial match.   The new rules made for some interesting scenarios which we liked. We will use this format again for sure on a future forgotten court.

As we were leaving a squad of pickleballers arrived and we had a quick chat with them about the game and watched them play for a few minutes.... a future forgotten courts subject maybe....

The courts are in rough shape and we will give the condition a 6 and location a 10 for a 8 overall.  The location is nice and quiet.

The food choices nearby for an after match meal are endless with Main Street St. Charles just a few miles away.  One of our favorites is Trailhead Brewing which has cold beer and good food.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bulgarian Down..... aka The Highlands

After our last match where Stan twice almost completed his quest for the golden set and blew Scott off the court, Scott got to thinking about what he could do to turn the tables.   He quickly settled on the idea that if he could get Stan to come to the clay courts in Forest Park it might give him the edge he desperately needed.  Forest Park is well known to all St. Louisans and receives over 12 million visitors per year.  It hosted the 1904 World's Fair and is surrounded by turn of the century mansions.

The clay courts in Forest Park are contained in a little known facility known at The Highlands formerly the AAA tennis club.  The courts are tucked away in the southeast corner of the park near the McDonnell Planetarium.   Most of the courts we play are public but these are quasi-private.  They are open to the public but charge either an annual membership or a daily court fee of $10.  However - for those "in the know" two of the courts are open to the public "free of charge" but you must ask for them.  

Scott plays in a USTA mixed doubles league at the Highlands and over the past 8 years has compiled a 30-11 record and a 73% winning percentage.  This may be because he has excellent partners but still there seems to be something about this clay( Har- Tru) surface that works for his game.  Clay can be a tricky surface for some.  Click here for some good tips on clay court play.  

On this early August day it rained in the morning and at match time at 12:30 pm the temperature was in the mid-80's with 80% humidity.  As we stepped on the courts you could not only feel the humidity but the presence of the greats who had played on these courts before.  Jimmy Connors, Dwight Davis, Pancho Gonzalez, Pancho Segura, Ken Flach and Ted Drewes are just a few of the great men who have played on these courts in their 100+ year history.   Scott arrived a few minutes early and had a nice chat with Head Pro - Mark McPhilips about the successful and growing summer programs at The Highlands.


As we stepped on court 8 we noticed a bank of trees along one side of the court and deemed them to be in play if a ball hit one of them.  Warm up was quick and so was the sweat.  The temperature may have been in the 80's but the humidity was going to make this match a challenge.  Scott knew in addition to the clay factor that heat had helped him in the Westminster Christian Academy match.   He quickly decided to make Stan hit as many balls as possible and see if the heat would take its toll.   Stan won the toss and the first set was on.

Scott immediately broke Stan's serve.  Stan broke right back to even the set at 1-1.  On Stan's next service game the clay became a factor.   Scott first hit a sidespin backhand which jumped sideways as it bounced causing Stan to make an error.   On the very next point Scott hit a sharp cross court serve return which Stan scrambled to retrieve then Scott blocked his shot back into the open court....  the speedy Stan quickly got to the ball but the clay just deadened the bounce.   2-1 Scott.

The three broken service games were followed by holds by each for a 3-2 Scott lead.   Then two more breaks.  4-3 Scott.   Then a hold by Scott put him in a position to break Stan for the set.   In Stan's service game Scott played the two best points of the match.   The first was a 20+ ball rally which had drop shots, moonballs and finally off of a deep ball by Stan, Scott unleashed a monster forehand into Stan's backhand corner which overpowered him and resulted in an error.

Two points later Stan drove a mid court ball into Scott's backhand corner for a winner but somehow Scott stabbed at it and produced a perfect lob over Stan's head into his backhand corner for a winner.   BUT..... Stan persevered and won the points that mattered to stay in the game and more importantly the set.   5-4 Scott.

On the next game Scott served for the set and Stan unleashed a barrage of shotmaking with a backhand winner, a forehand down the line winner and an inside out forehand to tie the set at 5-5.   Unknown to Scott his plan was beginning to work.   Stan fatigued from the effort to get even lost his service game at love and Scott was able to serve out the set at 7-5.


A battle was shaping up but on the changeover Stan retired due to heat exhaustion.   A cheap victory perhaps...but Scott was willing to take it!    We quickly retired to the clubhouse for some air conditioning to cool Stan down and then walked over to Keagan's Restaurant for a couple beers and some appetizers.  Our server Sarah took great care of us.   Not long after we arrived the skies opened up again and we realized how fortunate we were to have a few hours of great tennis amidst the rain.

For convenience we went to Keagan's which is the club eatery, however, The Central West End is nearby and features an amazing selection of places to eat and drink after a match.   Court condition - in clay court terms not perfect - courts could use a little more topping but Folks this place is a close as it gets to Tennis Heaven in St. Louis so it receives a 10 all the way around!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Quest for the Golden Set - Tilles Park

Its been a couple months since the last match.  On a warm June morning we headed over to Tilles Park for a singles match.   Stan has been playing a lot of early morning tennis at Creve Coeur Racquet Club while Scott is playing a lot of World Team Tennis at Dwight Davis Tennis Center and USTA League Tennis on clay at the Highlands.  Scott was eager to test out his new Yonex Vcore Duel G Racket against the Bulgarian.

Tilles Park has four nice courts which are surrounded by really beautiful stone walls built during the "Great Depression" by the Works Progress Administration.  The park is named for Rosalie Tilles the mother of Captain Andrew Tilles a fascinating St. Louis figure who dominated the horse racing industry in his day.   The courts are in good shape but probably do not have the requisite distance
between baseline and fence for proper maneuvering.  Tilles is also home to the very popular Winter Wonderland Light Show each year.

After a short warm up we were ready to start the battle.... or at least one of us was.

Stan won the racket spin and elected to serve.  He quickly made a statement winning four points in a row and hitting two winners off the backhand wing.  Scott served.... Stan won four more points in a row again unleashing a barrage of backhand winners.   At this point the Golden Set jokes started - a golden set is 24 points in a row by one player.   Stan served again and reeled off four more points for a 3-0 lead for 12 points in a row - he was halfway there.

At this point Scott was just looking to win one point to spoil the Golden Set.  It was very apparent that Stan's backhand could fire off a winner from anywhere on the court.  The strategy would be hit to the forehand from here on out.  Boom - Scott hit a serve and Stan pulled it wide on his forehand side. Miraculously Scott went on to win that game but it proved just a bump on the road for Stan as he reeled off three more games in a row to win 6-1.

The second set got underway with Scott serving and would you believe it Stan reeling off another 12 points in a row to take another 3-0 lead and again have a chance for the golden set.  Finally in the 4th game Stan's concentration faltered - lets be clear Scott did not play better just was able
to keep the ball in play enough to win 2 games before Stan finished the set
at 6-2

Stan was in top form and administered probably the most one sided victory in the history of Stlforgottencourts.   Court condition is a 9 and location is a 10 for a 9.5 rating.  If you are looking for some food after tennis here there is only one place to go - The one and only Carls Drive In!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Dinner for Four - Bolm Schuhkraft Park

As is common in springtime the St. Louis area was blanketed with thunderstorms on this late April day.   We exploited a gap in the storms and met our two friends Charles and Ben at Bolm Schuhkraft Park in Columbia, Illinois for an evening match on some lighted courts.  You might be asking where is Columbia, Illinois?  Its right across the Mighty Mississippi from Jefferson Barracks.   It is literally a 12 miles from downtown St. Louis to Columbia.

Columbia is an old community first populated by the Mound Builders then by the Kickapoo, the French and later populated by German immigrants.  The city itself was laid out in 1820 and incorporated in 1859.  Columbia has a rich history that you can read in detail at this link

Bolm Schuhkraft Park has many amenities besides tennis courts including ball fields, trails, pavilions, and bathrooms  The tennis courts are unusual because there are four courts with two different surfaces.  The first surface is Plexipave a cushioned surface and the second were traditional hardcourts recently resurfaced by McConnell and Associates.   The courts are lighted and have bathrooms and a grill just across the parking lot.

After taking the court situation into consideration we decided that we would grill the St. Louis specialty of Pork Steaks and then play our match on both court surfaces.   We quickly browned some pork steaks which were pre-rubbed with Ropers Ribs Rub( We discovered Ropers at Dwight Davis Park).  The steaks were then placed in an aluminum pan filled with a combination of Uncle Joes and Maull's sauces and left to simmer over the coals.

Stan opened up a can of Robin Soderling Balls... yup.  Robin Soderling has his own balls.........

The match began on the Plexipave court and Stan and Scott won the toss and elected to have Scott serve.  Scott took his first serve out wide and Charles(USTA 4.5) ripped a vicious down the line winner past Stan's outstretched racket.

Next serve to Ben(USTA 4.0) who ripped a sharply angled backhand shot that Scott could not handle.   The next point Charles hit a nice return and then volleyed away Scott's shot.   Love-40 after 3 points - things were not looking good.

Scott served Ben a knuckleball serve which somehow scooted under Ben's racket.  Then Stan hit a beautiful drop volley winner.   Scott served down the T and got Ben to hit a forehand wide.  Deuce - The battle was on.   This was the first of six deuces and finally Scott served into Ben's body to force an error and the comeback from Love-40 was complete. 1-0 good guys!

As we were playing a group of young folks were hanging out in the parking lot watching a quality tennis match.  Scott and Stan then broke Charles to go up 2-0 and then Stan was broken right back.  Ben was broken and then Scott was broken.   3-2 Scott and Stan.

Charles was broken again.   Stan held and Ben held putting Scott into position to serve for the set.  Unlike the first game Scott raced out to a 40-0 lead.  But then two great points were played by Ben and Charles and Scott thought... could this be the opposite of the first game where they come back from 40-0.

Nope a return error was coaxed out of Ben and the first set belonged to Scott and Stan 6-3.   The Plexipave was an interesting surface - a little slow and
with high bouncing balls.

The second set was started on the hard court with no warm up.   It became apparent right away that this was a faster court.  Charles dominated his first service game at love including an ace out wide to Scott's backhand.  Stan then had a great game with multiple deuces but could not hold on.

Scott held easily and then Ben was broken for a 2-2 score.   On Charles next serve Scott and Stan were able to elicit a break and played a crazy point retrieving at least 6 overheads and finally getting the point.  Stan was broken following that for a 3-3 score.   Ben held and Scott held for 4-4.

After Ben poached one of Scott's sliced backhands Scott sliced a ball down the line which caught Ben off guard because it skipped off the net.  Ben volleyed it back but Scott took it up the line again and it hit Ben's racket frame and went out of the court.

5-4 with Stan serving for the set.   Stan hit some great sharply angled serves to go up 40-0 and then Ben and Charles got back to 30-40 but were unable to finish the game.  Scott and Stan emerged victorious this time with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

We immediately retired to the pavilion where our pork steaks, snacks and some adult beverages were waiting for us.  Great to spend time with and catch up with good friends. Charles shared his story of how he got into tennis by taking free lessons provided by the Lion's Club in rural Oklahoma.

If we had not prepared our own food on this beautiful spring evening,  Reifschneider's Grill and Grape or Bullys BBQ are all within a mile of these courts.

These are really nice courts.  Good location.  Nice Park.  The nets could use a little attention with net straps correctly installed.  Both court surfaces were in great shape.   Lights are older and probably could use some updating.   We would give the location a 10 and the condition a 9 for a score of 9.5.  The Soderling balls played very well although pretty fuzzy by the end of the match!