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

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.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Fireman's Park Wentzville - There is a Fire on court 1.

For our first match in six months time with just the two of us we decided to explore the western fringe of the St. Louis region and picked Fireman's Park in downtown Wentzville, Missouri.   Although now a thriving suburb of St. Louis, Wentzville was founded in 1855 with a train depot for the Northern Missouri Railroad. It has grown from a population in 1990 of about 5000 to almost 30,000 today. We met at 6:30 am just as the sun was rising for the drive to the park.

When we arrived we were happy to see the two courts at Firemens Park are astroturf.  Since Wimbledon starts this week it was an appropriate grass like surface for our match.  The two courts sit behind a fire station and feature a porta
potty and not much else.  One court was playable and the other had half the court covered in sand. Curiously across one side of the court was a power line running over the court about 15-20 feet in the air.  We declared this to be a permanent fixture and as such would count anything that hit the power line.  We were also joined by a small rabbit who stayed to watch most of the first set.

Scott started the match testing out a new Wilson Hyper Hammer oversize racquet while Stan had his usual four or five racquets. After a short warm up the match was underway. Scott started serving and promptly served and volleyed and won the first point.  That was the highlight of the first set for Scott as Stan was on fire and promptly bageled Scott with a combination of keeping the ball in play and
hitting numerous backhand winners.

The second set started in the same way with Stan continuing to roll out to a 4-0 lead.  At this point Scott stopped to switch racquets.  He pulled the old trusty Yonex RDis 100 out of his bag and stepped up to the line to serve. Boom - the very first serve was an unreturnable serve up the T.   Scott went up 40-30 and closed it out with a tough kick serve out wide to Stan's backhand.  With the Yonex in hand and the fighting spirit of Lleyton Hewitt Scott went on to reel of five games in a row to take the lead 5-4 to get back on serve.  Stan held serve to get to 5-5.

Scott held his by hitting a stunning cross court backhand on the run that kicked off the court past Stan's outstretched racquet.  Scott 6-5 and Stan serving to stay in the set.   Stan came up with three brilliant shots to hold serve.  A lob winner, a sliced backhand which curved away from Scott and last but not least Scott crushed a return of serve to Stan's backhand which Stan turned into a perfect dropshot winner to tie the set at 6-6.  At this point we agreed that a tiebreaker would be played and if a third set was needed it would be wimbledon style with no tiebreaker.  

The tiebreaker would prove to be as epic as the set.  On the second point Stan served and volleyed to Scott's backhand.  Scott sliced a beautiful down the line winner.  Back and forth until Scott obtained a set point at 7-6 and Stan responded with a angled cross court winner.  At 10-9 Stan had a match point and both players were rallying and Scott went to hit a deep topspin forehand as the ball went up in the air it hit the aforementioned powerline, hung in the air for a second and then fell right on Stan's side of the net for a winner!

At 11-10 Stan had a second match point and stroked a backhand down the line which was headed out..... it clipped the net and fell just outside the line to save Scott once again. At 11 all Stan served and after a short rally Stan hit a ball into the net.   Scott now had a second set point.  A hard serve into the backhand with a volley behind Stan bagged the set for Scott to tie the match at one set all. This was probably the most hard fought set in the history of this blog. Great hitting, very physical and both players fighting for every point.

The third set started slow again for Scott with Stan running out to a 5-0 lead.  Both players were exhausted and Scott was trying to finish points quickly since he knew he could not outrun the spry Bulgarian.   At 5-0 Scott served in a do or die situation and after going down 30 love was able to serve his way to a 5-1 score.   At this point both players were thinking "could he do it again"   Stan wanted to make sure that did not happen and served two good points to go up 30 love.  Scott kept fighting and got to deuce.  Stan got the ad and had match point number 3.   Scott denied it with a deep slice backhand that just landed on the line for a winner.   Again Stan got an ad for match point number 4.  Again denied on a disputed cross court winner..... Finally after 3 hours Stan got match point #5 and finished at the net to win the match.

This location is a good one.   There were a couple issues - trains run nearby causing some noise and the maintenance of the courts needs attention.  There were gaps in the carpet, one unplayable court, sand concentrated in some areas, some lines were dark and hard to see and last but not least that power cord over the court.   Location is a 9 and condition is 4.5 for a 6.75 average.

If we were inclined to eat after the match the nearby Tattooed Dog looks like an excellent choice!

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.