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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Francis Park - Down the line she goes!

On a beautiful Dec 1st in St. Louis - forecast for High 60's we headed out to Francis Park in the City of St. Louis to meet our friends Toni and Laura for a few sets of mixed doubles.  Francis Park is located in the heart of the fabulous St. Louis Hills neighborhood and is a jewel.

It was donated by David Rowland Francis to the City of St. Louis in 1916. It contains walking trails, restrooms, handball courts and eight tennis courts.   Since it is the Christmas season it was hard to miss the amazing display of inflatable Christmas figures across the street.  The courts would hardly appear to be forgotten as 6 of the 8 were occupied upon our arrival.  On Dec 1st no less.

Laura and Toni are USTA 4.5 rated ladies like Stan and Scott was the lone 4.0 on the court.   We play as a group often and know each others games well.   Stan and Toni combined to take on Laura and Scott.   Usually we are dead even but on this day Stan and Toni took Scott and Laura to the woodshed.

Stan and Toni won Stan's serve to start.  Scott's serve game was tough and at one point he hit an amazing four lets in a row but to no avail as Stan and Toni rolled the 1st set 6-2, Second set 6-3 and third set 6-4.   First set Scott was struggling to find his backhand and by the time he found it in the second set, Toni started hitting down the line winners off Scott's serve repeatedly.

No matter where Scott hit the ball or how hard she was able to hit a laser beam winner in the corner.  All in all we counted at least 12 clean winners.   For those who are not regular players, this is a very low percentage shot and difficult to hit with consistency.

Courts are in great shape with bathrooms nearby and a nice consistent bounce.   Location is excellent and we rate these courts a 10 for location and 10 for surface.   Nearby locations for food include St. Louis Favorite Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (Ted Drewes, Sr. is in St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame) and Stan's favorite for Turkish Cuisine, Aya Sofia

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who is the Girly Man now? Spencer Creek Park.

Thanksgiving eve seemed like a fine time to search for a forgotten court.  The forecast was to be in the mid 60"s which is fabulous for St. Louis in November.   After consulting with our friends, Chris Hahn and Elissa Ford, we decided to head West - across the Missouri River for our first match in St. Charles County.   

Spencer Creek Park is located in the city of St. Peters and in the middle of a large subdivision.   It is a beautiful little park with walking trails, a  pavilion, restrooms and two synthetic grass tennis courts.  Scott stopped by Central Realty's shopping center at Harvester Square to acquire some Shrimp Cocktail and a Turkey Shaped Cookie for our post match Thanksgiving Celebration.  Stan brought a nice Thanksgiving centerpiece which was weaved into the net to set the mood.

As far as our matches go, Scott was looking for a rare threepeat having won the last two matches.   However he made a critical mistake prior to this match by commenting on Facebook that Stan played like a girl.  He knew he had ignited a fire when Stan showed up to the court wearing a very feminine tennis outfit!

As we began the match the court was covered in a creepy fog that had enveloped the entire St. Louis area.   Scott definitely bought into the creepiness as he watched Stan reel off 16 of the first 17 points for a quick 4-0 lead.   The synthetic grass surface has a slow bounce and Scott was mistiming a lot of shots while Stan was rock solid with almost zero unforced errors.

Finally Scott settled down and played two close games but still went down with a 6-0 bagel.   Second set started with an easy break for Stan and Scott was starting to worry about the possibility of the double bagel... but just in a nick of time he broke Stan for a 1-1 score.   The next game was a test of willpower Scott's serve went to 8 deuces with both players having opportunities.  Again Stan stayed solid and prevailed for  a 2-1 lead.

Scott broke and held to go up 3-2.  Back and forth the games went with some really high quality points starting to be played.   Scott was slugging the ball as hard as he could yanking Stan corner to corner with Stan digging everything out and getting them back.    Finally after fighting to 5-5 Scott was able to break and hold for the set 7-5.   With total humiliation out of the picture Scott started thinking he was only 24 points from the three-peat!

Elissa Ford, fresh off her 2nd place finish at World Team Tennis Nationals, had arrived during the second set and began recording some of the points.   We quickly noticed our performance suffered when we knew we were on camera.  Nevertheless we began the third set with Stan racing out to a 3-1 lead.    Scott won three in a row to go up 4-3 and served for a 5-3 lead.

This game was monumental Stan got two break points and Scott fought back to earn a couple game points.   After one particularly long rally on game point Scott got the mid court sitter he wanted and prepared to crush it into the forehand corner.... again the slow bounce came into play as his excitement caused him to swing early and shank the forehand wide.   Stan took advantage and got the next two points to get to 4-4.   Stan won the next two games easily to pocket the match.   6-0.5-7,6-4.

We loved this surface.   Many municipalities are using this as a less expensive way to resurface hard courts.  It is filled with sand and slows the ball down and allows for some great points.  The surface was very consistent.  We rate both the location and surface a 10.   Very nice place to play a match.

Nearby food options include Cecil Whittakers Pizza where Scott's niece works and Stumpy's BBQ run by cousin of local tennis legend Bob Faust.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stalking Jimmy Connors - Bellevue Park, Belleville, IL

Perhaps the biggest tennis star to originate from the St. Louis area was Jimmy Connors.    Many of the courts from Jimmy's childhood days in East St. Louis are forgotten.   We began our quest on a beautiful fall day with a quick stop at Jones Park where Jimmy's mother Gloria taught lessons and surely Jimmy hit a few tennis balls on these courts.   Jones Park is still a scenic spot although the tennis courts and its large swimming pool have fallen into disrepair.

It has recently been joined by the Jackie Joyner Kersee Center which is located outside the park across the street.   Only the echoes of tennis balls will be heard here as the courts are in totally unplayable condition.

Our next stop was 632 North 68th street reported to be Jimmy's childhood home with a tennis court in the backyard.   According to this Sports Illustrated article there is a monument here but we could not find it.   We decided to approach court by traversing the neighboring lot of an abandoned boarded up house.

After bushwhacking in a few feet several dogs let loose a warning that the boarded house was occupied and we were not welcome.   We regrouped and approached through a churchyard and were able to get one photo of the court which is almost completely returned to dirt.   Some asphalt remains in the shape of a court.   One wonders if the occupants know whose home this was and the significance of the asphalt in the backyard.

On to our final destination Bellevue Park in Belleville.   At some point Jimmy Connors moved to Belleville and it is usually referred to as his hometown.    We have no evidence that Jimmy ever played at Bellevue Park but would like to think he may have hit a ball here once or twice.   Bellevue Park is a quaint little park in great shape with a Bandstand, Lake, Walking trail and two tennis courts.

Unfortunately the courts are not maintained to the same level as the rest of the park.    Both courts were covered with debris - one with pine needles and one with leaves and acorns.  Both featured chain link fence nets that were about 2-4 inches too low.   We picked the pine needle court and the battle was on!  After last week's loss Stan trained by running a 13.1 miles in the Rock and Roll Marathon. The match started with a couple tough games. Scott went up 2-0.  Stan broke and held to get to 2-2.  Then it was on serve to 5-4 Scott.   Stan served and won a brutal first point after Scott lobbed over his head and pushed Stan back into 6 inch deep pine needles.

Stan retrieved the lob and worked his way back on offense and hit a cross court winner. Scott was able get a couple points and then finally break Stan with a slice backhand down the line winner to take the first set 6-4.   Pine needles were a factor as neither player could run at full speed to chase balls.

The second set was more of the same with multiple great shots. Both Scott and Stan had several netcord winners.  Stan had an amazing retrieval of one of Scott's drop shots off the deck and hit a cross court drop winner.     Both players were fighting hard and there were some very good points along with a smattering of unforced errors caused by the pine needle situation.  

It all ended with a 6-6 tie forcing a tiebreaker.   A heavy weight was on Scott's shoulders here.  In the 14 month existence of this blog the boy from NOCO had never bested the Bulgarian two matches in a row.   Could this be the one?   The tiebreaker was tight and Scott fought his way out to a 6-4 lead on the strength of some good serving.   On the 6-4 point Stan was pushing Scott back into the pine needles and producing shorter and shorter balls.

Scott threw up a desperation lob that landed at mid-court - Stan was set up to hit an overhead off the bounce and took his swing for the certain winner......  it hit the chain link fence netcord and bounced off the court.   Scott wins 6-4,7-6 for the Twopeat!

The setting for the park and courts is tree lined and pretty quiet and rates a 10.  The courts unfortunately are only a 5.  Primarily due to cleanliness, nets and cracks.   Bounces were good and courts were medium speed.  Total rating 7.5.    Fletchers Kitchen and Tap is nearby if you need a bite to eat after your match.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Flynn Park - Can the Bulgarian be stopped?

Our choice for our most recent match was Flynn Park in University City.   These courts are centrally located and University City just had these redone with new post-tension concrete.   For tennis court aficionados - post tension is a more expensive method but produces the longest lasting courts.   There are five courts here as well as a childrens playground and some greenspace.   No restrooms are available so it is important to properly hydrate and dehydrate before you play here.

For regular readers of this blog you will know that our last match ended up with Stan blowing a sluggish Scott of the court in the second set with a bagel or 6-0 score for the non-tennis players.

This week Scott left the Central Realty world headquarters feeling pretty prepared.  He had followed the 1978 Jimmy Connors strategy (ordered 55 pounds of steak for U.S. Open) and dined the night before on steak and homegrown heirloom Kale.   As the match started Stan won the toss and held serve pretty easily.  In Scott's second service game Stan broke to go up 3-1.  Scott fought hard to earn a break point on Stan's next serve and finally earned an excellent chance only to blow it by pushing a forehand winner long by about two inches.   4-1 Stan.

The points were starting to get really physical and neither player was giving much away.  Scott fought hard and was able to get the next three games to even the set at 4-4.  On Stan's next serve the game went to deuce and Scott was able to save a couple game points to earn a break point.   On the break point Stan pushed Scott into his backhand corner with a drive and came to the net.  Scott stabbed a beautiful lob over Stans head and started to push forward thinking the game was his... only to watch dejectedly as Stan spun around and crushed a forehand winner down the line.  5-4 Stan.     On Scott's next serve Stan earned a set point and Scott was able to save it and hold.   At 6-6 a tiebreaker was played which Scott was able to win 7-5.    After a such a tough first set against a younger, fitter and higher USTA rated opponent Scott was focused on trying to close the deal in straight sets.

Stan had a little bit of a letdown early in the second set and Scott was able to push out to a 3-0 lead.  At that point he made a big mistake by reminding Stan that he was trying to avenge the bagel from the week before. Not one to be bageled Stan went on the offensive and won the next two games to get to 3-2 Scott.

Scott stiffened his resolve and won the next two games and had an opportunity to serve for the set at 5-2.   Denied, Stan wins 2 games in a row and serves at 4-5 to tie up the set.   Stan goes up 40 love and it looks like another tiebreaker is going to be in order.   Scott is thinking just keep the ball in play and see what happens.   He wins two points to get to 30-40.   Again Stan gets aggressive and punches the ball hard to Scott's backhand and comes to the net.  This time Scott got lucky and came up with an impossibly angled slice backhand passing shot for a winner.   Deuce.   Now Scott's turn to take back the aggression and he wins the match with two crosscourt forehand winners in a row.   For those that know the Bulgarian - hitting three winners by him in a row is not easily done.

Unfortunately we both had to go back to work selling real estate or we would have visited The Kitchen Sink or Fozzies two of our favorite nearby eateries.    Courts and location are 10's.  Location is really good here being close to Washington University, Clayton and The Loop.  Court is very consistent and medium speed.

Friday, October 05, 2012

2 Ciders, 4 Beers a Coffee Patron RumChata and a Bagel..... New Ballwin Park

With the beautiful fall weather at hand Stan and Scott scheduled an early morning match at New Ballwin Park.  For most of 2012 Scott has taken it on the chin with the exception of one heat induced win this summer.  With the match scheduled, Scott decided to stimulate the economy with a a visit to the last Cardinal game of the regular season.  This involved a pre-game trip to 360 and two post game stops at Urban Lounge and McClains.  In between the first cider and the last RumChata a Bacon Wrapped Hotdog was consumed topped with baked beans, onions and salsa.

At 6am prior to the match Scott knew he was in trouble - a veritable Witches Brew boiled within his stomach.   Could he default? - of course the answer was no.  Stan had no such problems.  He was working hard selling real estate and went to bed early and showed up ready to take care of business.  

New Ballwin Park is located in Ballwin just south of Manchester Road and consists of two courts.  The courts are in average shape with the outside surface pretty beat up.  The surface between the lines is actually in good shape.  The match started with Stan ripping winners off of his backhand wing repeatedly.  This put Scott in the uncomfortable position of being down 4-1 and 5-2 before he was able to play some good defense and fight his way back into the set.   Stan finally got an opportunity to serve the match out a 5-4 and did so at love.  

The second set was were Scott's poor match prep came into play.   Stan was playing great defense and getting back Scott's best shots thus causing Scott to try to hit harder which ultimately led to errors.   Stan rolled the set 6-0 and then promptly whipped out a bag of St. Louis Bread Company Bagels and proceeded to have Scott eat a bagel to celebrate the bagel!

Location rating is an 8 with courts pretty close to road.  Court Condition is a 6 - these are due for a resurfacing but actually played pretty well for the condition.  Overall rating is a 7.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Woodson Park - Thank You Overland!

For our latest forgotten courts adventure we chose the five courts located at the Ladue Early Childhood Center.   Arriving at 7:30 am for our match the courts looked fantastic until we tried to open the gates.   Shockingly the courts were padlocked.   Surprising to say the least after all the controversy regarding this facility purchase.

We looked for a backup and decided to drive to the City of Overland for a match at Woodson Park.   Overland was settled in the 1820's and was known as The Overland Park a night stop for people travelling from St. Louis to St. Charles.  Overland is also home to a bunch of mid-century modern buildings. Overland proved much more welcoming than Ladue as the courts were unlocked and available to the public.

The Woodson Park courts were in fantastic condition and appear to be the high school home of the Ritenour Huskies tennis team.  After a quick warm up the match began.   Unusual for our matches that we both held serve until 3-3 in the first set.   At that point Scott had an opportunity to earn a break point.   He hit a slice backhand approach on a short ball and came to the net looking for the easy volley.   The gluten free(see the pic) Bulgarian had the answer with a wicked down the line pass.

At 5-4 with Scott serving and still on serve Stan had ta break point which was promptly denied with a cross court passing shot from Scott.   At 6-5 Stan still on serve the streak ended Stan broke Scott with two fantastic shots a down the line return of serve, a topspin lob and a lucky netcord winner.

First set to Stan 7-5. Scott was thoroughly demoralized at this point and allowed Stan to sprint out to a 4-1 lead in the second set before he started to fight back.  He broke Stan and held to get to 3-4 and just when he thought he was back in the game Stan finished the set with two games in a row.  6-3 game set and match to Stan.

These were some of the nicest courts we have played on.  They have a lot of bite which makes spin very effective.   Location is great right of highway 170 and page.   Location and court conditions are 10!

Nearby is St. Louis most legendary hotdog stand, Woofies!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Shootout at the OK Corral - Westminster Christian Academy

This one has all the makings of a good movie.   Stan has been routinely beating up on Scott in the last few matches.   Scott is ranked #14 on the West County Tennis Ladder in singles and Stan is ranked #5.  Our match was an official challenge match for West County Ladder and we played at high noon in 100 degree heat.   Scott had been playing a lot of singles and came into the match with a 6-0 record on the ladder.

For our location we picked some new courts which are fast becoming the favorite for the tennis community.  The courts are those of the new Westminster Christian Academy in West County.   This is an absolutely gorgeous facility with 12 courts with individual fences, benches, umbrellas, restroom facilities.   A great place to play tennis.

So play we did.   Stan won the spin and elected to serve.   Scott struck first with a break at love and then held his own serve for a 2-0 lead.   Stan fought back to get to a 5-4 lead and then Scott served to stay in the set.   On break point Scott worked his way to the net and Stan hit a brilliant topspin lob over his head which landed square on the baseline.    First set to Stan.

The second set  Stan started out with a hold and then Scott held and broke for a 2-1 lead.  Two more serve holds and Scott was up 3-2.   Scott broke Stan again with a rocket cross court forehand and then was able to hold for a 5-2 lead.   Scott's strategy of pushing deep to the backhand and coming to the net looked like it was starting to work.  At this point Stan threw in the towel the heat had taken its toll.....  goosebumps and dehydration were apparent.  Better to quit than risk further damage.   Stlforgotten courts had experienced its first default.

Scott's hot weather gear may have been the difference - a cooler with Hammer HEED, ICE and a FROG Towel were very welcome accessories to bring out on such a hot day.  Did it make the difference - we will never know.  This one may have been won by pre- match preparation instead of skill.  

The courts are beautiful and play consistent and fairly slow.   We give them a 10 for location and a 10 for condition.   These are private school courts and for now they seem to be willing to let the public play here.  Treat them with respect!

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Bluebird Park Massacre

Sorry folks it has taken awhile to publish this one.   Scott's butt is still sore from this one.   Bluebird Park is the main city park for Ellisville, Missouri in West St. Louis County.  

It is a nice park with many amenities including swimming pool, trails, band shell, frisbee golf course, etc.   It also has some well used tennis courts.   The first thing we noticed was that most of the court surface was worn away leaving a gritty concrete surface.  

Bounces were consistent but slow.    After a quick warm up we got to work.  The match started out pretty close with both players holding serve to get to a 2-2 score.   At that point things started to get a little freaky, at least from Scott's perspective.  

The slow court which would normally favor Scott somehow was a perfect match for Stan's game.   At 2-2 Scott had reached his highwater mark.   The final score was 6-2,6-0 and in the words of Forrest Gump "Thats all we have to say about that".

Court Condition is a 6 and location is an 8 for a score of 7.   Clancy's Irish Pub is nearby is a great local option for lunch or an after match beer!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Dwight Davis - USTA Central Regional Championships

The well known Dwight Davis facility at Forest Park is certainly not a forgotten court.  It is St. Louis's Premier tennis facility.   Last weekend it was the host to the Central Regional Championships which was a USTA event with over 200 teams competing.   Stan and Scott decided to play at the 4.5 level mens doubles.

We started with a practice match on Thursday afternoon and were able to play on an empty center court.   Our opponents were a 4.0 and a 4.5; Doug Druker and Dan Berg aka "Double Ds".   The match started out as we had hoped.  We rolled to an early 5-2 lead in the first set.  Then Doug and Dan started clicking and came back and won the set 7-6 in a tiebreaker.

With our backs against the wall after dominating much of the game, we found our groove in the second set and were able to get to a 5-2 lead.  "Double Ds" started to push back, but we ultimately closed it out the set with a gratifying 6-3 win.  It all came down to the tiebreaker.  We continued our excellent play and won the tiebreaker in what proved to be a very satisfying practice match to get ready for the real deal soon to be played out on center court.

The real tournament began on Friday and it was so great to see Dwight Davis filled with so many great tennis players of all skill levels.  These events are always fun as you get to reconnect with lots of old friends/opponents.   We had a tough draw right out of the box with Bill Schlueter and Dan Hurley.   We had only played them once before and lost in 3 sets.

We were very determined to prove we could beat them, but unfortunately our losing streak against Bill and Dan continued.  We lost this one 6-4, 6-2 and really could not get past Dan's kick serve.   Either we hit it out or right to Bill at the net. Next time, we are going to pound it right back at them down the line! Great match all the same.

Things only got worse from then on as we had to play the #2 seeds who were upset in the first round.   These guys had a former 5.0 and a strong 4.5 on their team.  We played well though, battling to 4-4 in the first set before losing 6-4. With the tides quickly turning against us, we tried to dig deep and force a tiebreaker, but we ended up losing the second set 6-2.

This set us up for our final match against two opponents with whom we are very familiar; Brian Malcomb and Burak Taysi.   First set was close but we again lost by the score of 6-4.  Second set got very interesting when we were down 5-2, but we persevered and came back and forced it into a tiebreaker at 6-6.  Unfortunately, we were unable to pull out the tiebreaker and our tournmament was over!  It was a great experience and we look forward to coming back and making our mark.  Thanks to all the great players that participated.

Friday, May 11, 2012

West County Ladder - Tennis on the cheap!

One of St. Louis's great annual tennis traditions is the West County Ladder which has been going strong for over 30 years.   The ladder is hosted by our local tennis shop The Racketman.   Both Scott and Stan play on the ladder and Scott finished #1 in singles in 2010 for the first time in 31 years of participation.  The annual opening party was hosted this year at Forest Lake Tennis and Swim Club.  The club is a nice venue with both outdoor and indoor courts.

West County Ladder works like this for $25 bucks you join the ladder and can enter singles, doubles and mixed ladders.   Then you set up matches at a place and time of your choosing.   You get to meet a lot of new people and get exposed to a wide variety of tennis styles.   It is one of the lowest cost tennis programs around. Scott has played close to 30 matches in one summer in past years.

The opening party is more of a social event with food and drink and a little fun tennis.   Scott and Stan hit the courts and were able to play four sets of tennis this evening.   The highlight was beating our friend  Amit and his partner Sara a 4.5 player by a score of 6-1.   Amit is a tough challenge for us always as he is one of the most consistent players around.   A match against Amit is often compared to Chinese water torture as he wears you down one stroke at a time.   We have often seen him play points of over 100 shots at which point his opponent is usually exhausted and he looks fresh as a daisy.   Amit and Sara did not let us savor our victory for long as they demanded a rematch and promptly beat us 6-3 in the second set.  

As a facility Forest Lake is pretty good.   As you would expect from an indoor facility the courts are in good shape.  Lighting here can be a little spotty and the fixtures hang down and can get in the way of your shots if you are pulled out wide.   Location is a 10 and court condition a 8.5 for a 9.25 rating.    One of our favorite nearby restaurants is The Gulf Shores which specializes in Cajun/Seafood.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Forestwood Park - A Tennis Lesson

Stan was a little busy this past week working on his 20 Villa lots(make offer) in Ferguson, a quaint little town in NOCO.  So a match was scheduled with Barry Storms to be played at Forestwood Park/Ferguson Recreation Complex.    Scott arrived about fifteen minutes early and a young boy approached and asked if he could hit with him.  Scott explained that he was meeting someone to play but if the kid was still around he would hit with him at the end.   Barry showed up unaware of this conversation and the match was on.   Scott and Barry have played twice before and each has won a match.   Barry is quick and has a good forehand and backhand and a unique weapon which is a slice forehand.

Our young friend volunteered to ballboy.   The courts look freshly redone and seemed a little fast as we started to play.   It was a battle right out of the box.  Back and forth until 5-5 in the first.  At that point Barry was able to break Scott's serve and close out the set.   Second set was more of the same 3-3 a serve break and Barry closed it out 6-3.   Courts were decent with no bad bounces.  

As the match ended our young friend reminded Scott he wanted to hit.   Barry not realizing what Scott had promised started packing up.   As Scott began to hit with the young boy it was clearly evident Scott had no teaching skills.   Barry who has worked with kids a lot in the past couldn't stand it and before you know it he was on the court teaching the kid basic tennis skills while Scott shagged balls and fed balls to them.   After about 25 minutes the kid received a solid lesson on basic forehand and backhand skills!   We also made him aware of the Net Rushers a tennis charity that provides some lessons on these courts.  Time did not allow but if it had we would have certainly retired to Ferguson Brewing for an ice cold beverage.

The greatest part of playing on forgotten courts is inspiring folks to play tennis.    Since most of the tennis "elite" in St. Louis play on the same few courts, good tennis is rarely seen at many of these facilities.   Location for these courts is an 8 and the surface is also an 8 for a total rating of 8.