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

Friday, 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.