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

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!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Endicott Park - The Hungarian Bulgarian?

On another 60 degree January day in St. Louis we managed to find some time to head to another area Forgotten Court.  Our pick was Endicott Park, a facility that was purchased from the Terminal Railroad Company in 1961.

The park is 24 acres and has a Shelter, A Disc Golf course and of course two Tennis Courts.  The tennis courts appear to be little used, one was missing a net and the only playable one was missing a net strap.  The Disc Golf course appears to get heavy use - there were a lot of cars in the parking lot.

The park is located within the City of St. John a municipality of 6400 people incorporated in 1945 on the site of John Ferguson's farm Eminence.   The people of St. John successfully fought off attempts from neighboring Overland to annex them and have remained independent ever since.

We set our match time and 1 pm and invited our friend Mark Zolman to join us as he had on two previous matches, The Flogging in Florissant and Tower Courts Part Deux.  Scott got their early at 12:30 and found Mark and Stan conducting an "illegal warm up".

In the last match, Scott totally destroyed them both with his lethal forehand so it was understandable that they needed a little practice.  Scott brought with him some singles sticks and they were placed in the correct position on each side of the net.  The format was decided to be 10 point tiebreakers with the winner being the first person to win six of them.

Stan and Scott started first and Stan dominated the tiebreaker.  Mark took on Stan and lost a close one.  Scott and Mark played and Scott won easily.  The second round was very interesting  Scott came back from 5-1 down to play a close tiebreaker. At 4-5 the best point of the day was had.

After a long rally Stan hit a deep high ball to Scott's backhand - Scott took it on the rise and hit a deep angled slice causing Stan to hit a short ball which Scott angled off the court to Stan's forehand side.  Stan chased this ball into the adjacent court and hit a ball that never was in the court until it hit in the backhand corner for a winner.

At this point a few spectators had gathered and started clapping in appreciation.  Scott then lost the tiebreaker by double faulting at 8-9 to give Stan the victory.  Mark and Stan went for round two.   Mark took the lead early and then another great point was played.  During this long point both Stan and Mark were grunting loudly... as Scott watched he began to notice a group of kids watching the point and grunting in unison with them.

Stan eventually won the point and the tiebreaker.  Scott and Mark then played an epic tiebreaker with Mark going up 5-1 and Scott coming back and getting in position to win only to be denied a down the line winner by the singles stick.   Mark fought back and had a chance to win only to also hit the net on a down the line ball which Scott retrieved and put away.

Eventually Scott won the tiebreaker 14-12.   Stan was now 4-0, Scott 2-2 and Mark 0-4.   Stan swept the last round to win with a 6-0 record and never had a tiebreak point against him.  Stan had experienced a day similar to Al Hrabosky's (The Mad Hungarian) 1975 season.  Scott got the last tiebreaker leaving him 3-3 and Mark 0-6.

The court had a few dead spots, poor net and one court missing a net so we give the courts a 6.5 condition rating.  Location was a 10 for an average of 8.25.   One of the best things about this match was the spectators enjoying our tennis - we believe that for tennis to grow on public courts it must be seen and in this case heard!

Lots of classic food choices nearby Chuck A Burger and Woofies both legendary.  We opted to head to El Porton on Woodson Road where we enjoyed some Sol Beer and some great mexican food and discussed our match and how to keep tennis alive on the forgotten courts of St. Louis.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tower Park Part Deux - Canadian Style

One year ago Scott, Stan and their friend Mark Zolman played a 6 set match that was known as the Battle of Boxing Day.   The location Tower Courts in Florissant was a set of four carpet courts with sand base.  In 2015 the City of Florissant made a major investment in these courts hiring Vee-Jay Cement  and McConnell and Associates to rebuild the courts with post tension concrete - the gold standard in new court construction.

Lets start with the project.  The project began by removing the existing sand-filled carpet and the fencing. Some minor remediation was done to the existing surface in preparation of the new slab overlay. 

A layer of stone screenings were installed to help provide the proper slope, fill any depressions or cracks, and create a slip sheet for the new 5 inch PT slab. After the slab was installed, a new fence was installed.  

This work was all completed by Vee-Jay.  Once the concrete was cured McConnell and Associates took over and The surface was acid etched, power washed, and checked for low areas prior to any material being installed. The courts were first primed with a two-part epoxy primer to help adhesion to the concrete surface. 

Then one application of acrylic resurfacer and two coats of texturized color were installed. The sand in the surface gives the court a medium pace of play. Last the lines were taped and painted.  In total it took almost three months to complete the project and it received a Quality Concrete Award from The Concrete Council.

Of course you are here to read about the match so here is what happened.   When we arrived to the courts we of course noticed the excellent condition and consistent play of the ball off the surface.  It was a sunny January Day with a high temp of 45 degrees.  Surprisingly while we were there two other players came out to play. 

We decided to play a different format - The Australian version of Canadian Doubles with each player counting all games won and the victor being the first to win 21 games.  Australian style is a format where two play against one and singles lines are in effect on the single side and doubles on the double side.   

Mark started out on the singles side and promptly lost the first three games to Scott and Stan. Everybody was a little off as it was our first hit outside with wind and sun factors.   However a quick poach by Scott and a down the line forehand winner served notice that the oldest player of the three was here to play. 

Stan took to the singles court and lost 2 of this three games with Mark hitting some excellent volleys.  This put the early score at 5 for Scott, 3 for Stan and 2 for Mark.  Scott went over to the singles side and won 2 of 3 and it was during this time that it became apparent that his forehand was on fire.  

Scott's shots were landing deep with spin and often bouncing off the court for a clean winner.  At one point the Florissant Fire Truck went by with sirens blaring and we wondered if they were coming to put out Scott's forehand.  

The match went on with Scott maintaining a commanding lead.  Mark had a run and passed Stan with some fantastic topspin lobs and short angle volleys.  The score crept up to 15 Scott, 10 Mark and 8 Stan and then Stan got a boost with Scott as they won 3 more games from Mark - these were probably the peak points of the match.  

Mark was playing well to no avail as he was victimized by a circus point with dropshots, lobs, volleys that finally ended when Mark hit a hard volley at Scott which Scott stabbed  and produced a lob volley winner over Mark's head.   

On the next point Mark drove a deep topspin ball to Scott's forehand which landed right on the baseline at Scott's feet. Mark smartly followed this ball to the net and somehow Scott timed Mark's ball and blocked it back with a rocket down the line ball which clipped the net and landed in.  

Scott could do no wrong and had the lyrics of the famous song by the Texas band Clique  "I am Superman and I can do anything" playing in his head as he outduelled Stan with a couple forehands and then when Stan finally got the ball to Scott's backhand he sliced a winner behind stan crosscourt.   After about two and a half hours of tennis Scott prevailed 21 to 16 for Stan and 14 for Mark.  A truly great afternoon for tennis and a rare victory for Scott.    

Hats Off to the City of Florissant, Vee-Jay and McConnell for a job well done.  These courts rate a 10 in all respects and are now among the best in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. 

Last time we played here we went to Old Town Donuts and this time we headed over to Hendels Cafe for a post match beverage and some appetizers.   Hendels is a great family run business in Old Town Florissant with beautiful ambiance.   

We were in luck and it was both Happy Hour and Wine Wednesday.   A bottle of wine was shared, great conversation and a lot of discussion of ideas on how to keep tennis alive on the forgotten courts of our beloved city.   Stay tuned tennis fans...... 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Changeling aka The Secret Garden

In the spring of this year, a loyal reader commented on our facebook page about court with a tree growing up through the net.  This was a perfect forgotten court.... the idea of playing a match with the tree in place was too tempting and we commenced further investigation.   Upon arrival we discovered the court was carpet and the carpet was pulled back off of one side of the court.

This did not appear safe so we started to organize a doubles match thinking we could use the extra bodies to help get the carpet playable.   Scott went out a second time to reconnoiter and found a bulldozer on the court and the tree and everything else tennis related destroyed.

We assumed this was another lost court and moved on to another tennis adventure.  In mid summer, we drove by and saw a flash of blue...... did they redo the court?  Stan stopped by to check it out.  Not only did they redo the court but they resurfaced it with plastic!

Since we have only played one match on a plastic surface we had to play this facility.   This court is a private court though so not knowing how they would feel about us playing we scheduled an early morning match thinking nobody would notice us.

To add to the excitement, our friends at Racketman have been offering us the use of the Sony Tennis Sensor to chart our match statistics.   Stan picked up the Tennis Sensor and installed its app on his phone and came to the courts with the technology ready to go.   Racketman also gave us a racket to use that is engineered to fit the Sony product.  Most new rackets will accept the technology.
Wilson Burn

Stan started out with the Burn and we began to warm up.   Bounces were pretty good but there was some inconsistency based we think upon the surface underneath the plastic tiles.   The first set was pretty close but Scott got an early break and held on to win the set 6-4.   The points were pretty short as we acclimated to the court speed, bounces and the Wilson Burn.

After the first set Scott took the Burn and Stan went back to his regular racket.  The points got longer in the second set but Stan dominated the second set.  He began hitting lines, great dropshots and a great down the line backhand winner from deep in the corner.    Set went to Stan 6-1.

a USTA 10 point tiebreaker seemed the right thing to do.   We scrapped the Burn since we both lost the set with it and went to regular rackets.   Stan jumped out to a 3-1 lead.

The next point was pivotal with both players fighting hard.... eventually Stan came to the net and Scott lofted a beautiful lob over his backhand side to make it 3-2.... wait... somehow Stan reached back and hit a backhand overhead winner crushing Scott's hopes.   After that point Stan cruised to a 10-4 win to claim the victory.

What did the Tennis Sensor tell us?   A couple things - the first being we think in our format it was a hindrance because we were thinking about it while playing.   Each of us lost the set playing with the sensor and the Wilson Burn.  We did learn our forehands were both averaging in the mid 60 mph range with a high of 67.

Stan imparted slightly more spin on the forehand with a +4.1 average.   Backhands were similar but a slower average in the 40's with slice and Stan again with slightly more backspin at -8.5 and topspin backhands averaging in the 50's again Stan slightly higher in spin with a +3.8.   Serves average around 68 with a max of 79 from Stan.

So the question is - was the new technology useful.   In some ways it gave us information - our averages were right in line with the world averages.   If you had it on all the time you could practice things and
see effects on speed, spin etc.

The two biggest drawbacks are you cannot download data to a computer and it does not have ability to track winner, unforced errors etc which are key stats.   The cost is $199 for the unit.  In summary probably not a lot of folks will buy but we can see this tech becoming integrated into rackets as a standard item in future.

The location is a 10 nice and quiet with the surface an 8.   Average of 9.   The surface has a few funny bounces due to the fact it appears to have been laid with almost zero surface prep.

Nearby places to eat are the always great Spiros and the quirky upstart KimCheese.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scott and Stan's Excellent Tennis Adventure - Alton High School

Finally the rain that has enveloped the St. Louis region all summer has abated and the forecast has called for a bright, clear, hot and humid day. We met at the Central Realty HQ and headed to one of our favorite breakfast spots the Kolache Factory before we headed to Illinois to begin our tennis odyssey.

As we crossed over the Clark Bridge into Alton we noted the passing of Eddie Sholar founder of the legendary Fast Eddie's Bon Air which had occurred two days earlier.  We headed up to Lewis and Clark Community College to take in a slice of the $15K Futures tournament.   This tournament is in its 18th year and is a great free way to see some high level tennis in our area.

We got to see a great match between University of Illinois Jared Hiltzik and Vanderbilt's  Gonzales Austin which Hiltzik won.  Hiltzik ultimately went on to the final of this tournament and lost in a three set thriller to Michael Mmoh. Mmoh is a Saudi Arabian born player who lives in the U.S. and is a student athlete at the IMG Tennis Academy. He competed in the 2014 US Open doubles
with up and comer Frances Tiafoe.

We then headed north to Betsy Ann Park in Brighton where it appeared there were two courts we could play on.Betsy Ann Park is home of an annual picnic where they feature a curious Midwestern dish called Burgoo.  When we arrived at the park we saw no courts. We kept driving around until finally we realized the remains of the courts were right next to our car..... they were truly forgotten and slowly returning to nature.

We headed back south and ended up at Alton High School.   The home of the Redbirds has a nice facility in the rear of the school painted in a red and gray scheme which is unusual and represents the school colors.  By this time it was 12:30 pm and we knew the heat was going to be a factor.   A quick warm-up was had and the match began with Scott winning the racket spin and choosing to serve.

Boom! Scott started off with an ace out wide to win the first point. Stan won the next four points to get a break right away.  The balls really had a serious bite on this court and Scott was having trouble with Stan's deep high bouncing returns. Stan served to start the second game and again Scott started off with a winner down the line.

This game was closer with Scott having a break point which Stan denied and then won the game with a drop shot.  The set continued on this way with Stan ultimately winning 6-0 but Scott having game points in 4 of 6 games. Stan was dialed in and his defense was amazing.

Set #2 started out with Stan serving to win his 7th game in a row. The next game Scott went up 40-love on his serve and then missed an overhead by about an inch. Determined, he served and volleyed out wide to Stan's forehand and nailed a perfect cross-court backhand volley.

He was on the board! Back and forth to 4-3 Stan on serve and then Stan was able to break Scott for a 5-3 lead with a series of shots that included a lob, a deep ball in the corner, and a forehand angled slice impossible looking winner. Scott broke right back to get to 5-4 and then served to stay in the set.   Stan was not having it and broke right back to win the match 6-0, 6-4.

At this point we had each gone through about 64 oz of water and were famished.   We emerged from the courts to the sound of the Alton High School Drumline rehearsing near our car.  As we headed to St. Louis we noticed an establishment called the Regal Beagle and turned around for some beer and sustenance.

The Regal Beagle turned out to be an excellent choice!  Great craft beer selection along with wood fired pizza's and chicken wings.   After a short discussion with a local about politics we decided to leave before things got weird...

We weren't done yet - we made a short drive up the Great River Road to Elsah where we stopped by the Elsah General Store and had some nice conversation with the owner and we both bought some of his selection of fresh vegetables, coffee, local breads and craft sodas.

Alton High School courts are a 10 for location and a 10 for condition. They are in great shape, secluded and have a nice shaded area for seating.   A porta-potty is also nearby in case the need arises.