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, November 25, 2013

The Thanksgiving Edition with a little Extra!

Weather in St. Louis usually permits us to play a match outdoors around Thanksgiving and this year was no exception.  On a cloudy day with a scheduled high of 52 and a chance of rain we headed to Larson Park in Webster Groves for our first match in two months.   Larson Park is a quaint little park tucked into a residential area of Webster Groves.   There are two courts surfaced with astroturf/sand base.   The courts are in great condition.

Scott sprained his ankle six weeks ago playing tennis in a USTA tournament match.   After visiting Dr. Greg Galakatos  and confirming no broken bones, the protocol for a high ankle sprain was followed.    Since this was only Scott's second match after the sprain he decided it would be fair to bring an old racket for Stan to use and equalize the odds.

Scott knew he was in trouble the minute he pulled out the 1980's era Wilson Extra and handed it to Stan.   Stan's eyes lit up as he exclaimed " We played with a Polish copy of this racket growing up in Bulgaria"

As warm ups began it was clear Stan was very comfortable with this old Aluminum
racket.    In fact Stan could hardly miss a ball.   Even the slow play of the turf did not bother him at all.   The match began with dark skies and a temperature in the mid 40's.

Stan won the toss and easily won the first game, and the second and third.  Somewhere in the first 3 games it began to rain and continued to drizzle for the entire match.   Fortunately this surface handles rain much like a clay court and we played on.  Finally in the fourth game Scott held serve easily and it looked like we might have a close set.   Stan shut down any of those thoughts by acing Scott on his next serve and going up 4-1.   Then he finished up the first set with a 6-2 win.

Scott followed the old saying "Never change a winning game and always change a losing game"   He noticed Stan was not hitting too many topspin balls with the Extra and decided to serve and volley to the backhand.   This worked well as held serve and they went to 2-2.

Stan focused in and took the next two games for a 4-2 lead.    Scott broke back and hit what Stan called the best shot of the match by running cross court to pick up a Stan volley and passing him down the line.   That was enough for Stan and he closed it out for a 6-2, 6-3 win.

We loved this court location is a 10 and the surface is an 8.5 with the only issue being a couple large seams that occasionally produced a weird bounce.   9.25 overall.    We then proceeded to the nearby Hanneke/Westwood supermarket for a great lunch at a neighborhood store where they still know most customers by name!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A test of Wills - Boone's Lick Park

On a sunny September day we headed to St. Charles to try a court at Boone's Lick Park.    Boone's Lick Park is named after Boone's Lick road which is the first major road into the heart of the State of Missouri.   It originated in St. Charles and ended at Boone's Salt Lick near New Franklin, Missouri.  At Boone's Lick salt was processed in a furnace.   Why was salt important?  Here is a link that will tell you more about Salt's history and significance .

St. Louis is home to the Gunther Salt Company owned by a family of excellent tennis players!  Boone's Lick road became the predecessor to Highway 70 the primary East/West Interstate which runs through Missouri connecting St. Louis and Kansas City. The Park itself is located just off Boone's Lick Road and features a solitary court, restrooms, bbq grill and a picnic shelter.

On to the court.   The tennis court appeared to be in great shape other than the surface has not been repainted in some time.   Net in good shape and no major cracks.  Like most public courts we play there was no net strap installed.   We really like playing on these single courts because it really cuts down on chasing stray balls which occasionally fly off of our rackets.   As we began to hit we noticed the bounces were true but the court played fast and the ball seemed to stay low to the court on the bounce.

The match started well for Stan as he was consistent and  Scott failed to take advantage of several easy volley opportunities.    In no time at all Stan was leading 4-1 in the first set punctuated by a fantastic inside out drop shot.   Scott with his back against the wall started hitting his volley's and pushing his forehand deeper into Stan's court.   Minutes later the match stood tied at 4-4 as Stan now missed an easy volley to allow Scott to tie the set.   Scott's hopes were dashed as Stan then broke his serve and held his own hitting a beautiful backhand down the line winner to take the set 6-4.

Scott was not happy about this development and really started taking more chances to start the second set.  By hitting the ball harder and taking control of the points he was able to turn the tables and roll out to a 4-1 lead.  Stan had no choice but to ride out the fusillade from Scott and to focus on getting everything back and making Scott hit one extra ball.   The strategy worked and now it was Stan's turn to fight back.   He pulled back to 4-4 and then won his serve at love for a 5-4 lead.

Scott managed to slow the momentum by holding serve to tie the set 5-5.   Stan's service game was a battle.  After several break points Scott had Stan in trouble and Stan threw up a desperation lob high to Scott's backhand.   Scott knew he had to hit it in the air and the result was an impossible cross court drop shot winner.   Scott was now in the catbirds seat with a 6-5 lead serving for the set.  Even better he won the next three points to go up 40 love and earn three set points.

The next two points Stan won by drop shotting and then lobbing over Scott's head.  On the third set point Scott was determined to take the set and got Stan on the run forcing Stan to lob.  Scott hit an overhead,  Stan got it and threw up another lob,   Scott pounded it down the line to take the set..... wait... it hit the net cord and fell back on Scott's side.   Deuce game.   Stan tied the set by hitting a cross court winner and drawing a backhand error from Scott.

Whew, what a set.   Time for a tiebreaker.    Scott wins the first three points for a 3-0 lead.  Stan turns it around and heads out to a 6-4 lead and two match points.   Scott missed his first serve and tossed in a second serve and survived a hard fought point to go to 5-6.    Stan got Scott in trouble on the second match point and Scott saved it with a ridiculous backhand dropshot from the baseline to tie at 6-6.   Amazingly Scott fights to an 8-7 lead and a fourth set point.    Somehow Stan wins the next three points for a 10-8 tiebreaker win and a 6-4,7-6 match win.

We loved this court and rate it a 9 for condition and 10 for location for a 9.5 score.   It is also near two great attractions;  The Katy Trail and Old Town St. Charles.   Historic Main Street in St. Charles has over 50 restaurant options to choose from after your match.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Tribute to John Good - Francis R. Slay Park.

This week's blog is played in celebration of the life of John Good.   John is Scott's father in law and recently deceased after a battling cancer and cirrhosis.     John was an avid golfer and sports fan in addition to his regular duties as an Episcopal Priest.   Sports highlights for John included two hole in ones, at Rochester Country Club when he was 11 and in Bay City, Michigan in his early 60's.  He was an avid St. Louis Cardinal Fan and delighted in moments like the 2011 World Series Game 6.  

Although tennis was not his favorite sport he was a devoted follower of our blog and had several times suggested that we play at Francis R. Slay park located near his house on the border of St. Louis City and Maplewood.

Francis R. Slay Park is named for the father of the mayor of St. Louis who passed away in 2011.   He was a long time restaurant owner and Democratic party activist in city politics.    The park that bears his name is located just south of the Arsenal Bridge over the River Des Peres on McCausland.    It contains a couple softball fields, a restroom and a solitary tennis court.

The court itself looks lonely and unused.   Upon inspection it had a large crack running down the sideline and was missing a netstrap.   Other than that the surface was in real good shape.    Stan was suspicious of the net and got out his measuring tape.... the net was perfect at 36 inches center and 42 on the sides.   At this point we noticed a key structural component holding the net up was a piece of an eyeglass frame carefully wedged into the net cable..  

The racquet was spun and Scott won and chose the side hoping he could benefit from the sun.   Stan promptly shattered that strategy by blasting an Ace by Scott for the first serve of the match.  As the set went on a couple things became very clear.

First, after such pleasant summer this day was what we would expect for St. Louis in August.  76% humidity and 86 degrees.   Second, Stan's backhand was on fire and he could hit a winner from any position.   Scott watched as topspin, slice, cross court and down the line backhands sailed by him for winners.    Stan closed out the first set easily at 6-1 with at least 15-20 backhand winners.

This match was not going the way Scott intended.   He decided as the second set started to just keep the ball away from Stan's backhand at all costs.   This strategy did not seem to work very well as Stan went up 2-0 and then 4-2.   At this point the humidity was really taking its toll on Scott and he was ready for the match to just end quickly.

Alas no,  the strategy began to work and the match began to get interesting.    At 5-3 Stan served for the match and went up 40-15 for his first two match points.     Scott got back to deuce by showing off his own down the line backhand shot and then wins the game to serve at 4-5.   This next game was really tough and featured about six deuces.   Again Scott saved a couple match points and held on to tie the match.    At 5-5 Stan started the game with a great wide serve to Scott's forehand which Scott ripped at a sharp cross court angle for a rare winner against the agile Bulgarian.

Scott wins the game for a 6-5 lead and a chance to win the second set.   At this point the humidity took its toll and one of the most stunning collapses in sports history occurred.    Scott lost his serve at love and the tiebreaker that followed 7-1.

Stan's physical conditioning and his strategy to reduce his unforced errors prevailed.   As we both collapsed exhausted St. Louis City Park workers cajoled us to get back out there!

Scott wished he had followed the heat preparation instructions we advised in our blog post Shootout at the Ok Corral.    The conclusion on this court is we were very pleased.   The large sideline crack did not come into play and the surface was consistent.   Court surface a 9 and location a 9 for a rating average of 9.    Nearby is the fabulous Southwest Diner run by the daughter of a fellow tennis player!  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Exorcism of the Bulgarian.... St. Vincent Park

We are enjoying some unseasonably cool August weather here in St. Louis and decided to focus this weeks match on a park in the Normandy area.   Our decision to play there came out of our conversation on the recent court decision and surrounding school district controversy and its possible effects on North County Real Estate.  One group that is working hard to renovate and resuscitate this area is Beyond Housing through their 24-1 initiative.

Upon arriving at the park we were both stunned at the size and quality of this park.   It sits smack dab in between Normandie Golf Club and Glen Echo Country Club two of the oldest most celebrated golf courses in St. Louis.  Also the Valhalla. Lake Charles and Oak Grove Cemeteries take up large chunks of real estate nearby.   We also noticed a very large castle like structure adjacent to the park.   We will come back to that later.  In our last match Scott won in a third set tiebreaker giving him the opportunity to obtain his first two-peat in some time.

At First glance the four courts are well situated, quiet and secluded.   The surface has many cracks and will need to be redone soon.   Nets are all in good shape and the courts are playable.  St. Vincent Park has walking trails, a water-park, restrooms and many other amenities.   On to the match.   Apparently the sting of the last match loss had demonized Stan for weeks.

He showed up with an array of new equipment which included a Volkl C10 strung with gut, new Nike shoes and Wilson Grips.   As the match began we both struggled on one side of the court for 8 straight games and ended up with Stan finally breaking Scott with a series of cross-court forehand winners punctuated by a surprise winner down the line.   Stan held for the set.  First set to Stan 6-4.   Things were looking good for Stan as he was finding his range with the Volkl; a brand most famously used by the obscure Grand Slam Champion Petr Korda.

The second set started off with Stan taking a 2-1 lead and then Scott unleashed his best set in blog history winning 5 of the next 6 games.   They were earned with some great defense as well as some timely serve and volley plays and a couple sharp angled forehand winners.    This was a very physical set with many of the points lasting 10-12 balls or more.    Second set to Scott 6-3.

Scott at this point was very excited at the possibility of winning his second match in a row.   It was decided to play a 10 point tiebreak just like a USTA league match.    As it turned out the tiebreaker was a snoozer.   Scott had expended his energy in the second set and Stan vanquished his demons with a 10-5 tiebreaker win.   Victory for Stan, punctuated with a spectacular drop shot return of serve on match point.

Speaking of Demons, we decided to investigate the large Castle structure next to the park and drove over to take a peek.   Not only did we find an amazing building but we found one with close connections to a famous St. Louis event.   The building turned out to be the former St. Vincent's Sanitarium now known as Castle Park Apartments.   It was built in 1895 and remained in operation until the 1980's.

More interestingly we found it has connections to the famous Exorcism of Robbie Mannheim which is depicted in the famous movie "The Exorcist".     The young child purportedly stayed for a time in St. Vincent's and lived with his uncle around the corner in Bel-Nor.  An article was recently written about this house entitled "Hell of a House".    A recent movie about these events was filmed at St. Vincent's called The Haunted Boy. 

Although the courts had some serious cracks in them they really did not affect our match too much.   There were a few funky bounces.   The surface is pretty slow and gritty.    Location is  10 and the court itself a 6 for a rating of 8.    Nearby eatery is Maria's Deli.    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

All - IOWA Lawn Tennis Club - Charles City, IOWA

What a great read.   Hope we get to play there someday!

Source Link:

Rembert Explains America: Discovering the Glorious All-Iowa Lawn Tennis Club

By Rembert Browne on 
Good lord, my handwriting was bad.
As I crumpled up the chicken scratch–filled first draft and found a new piece of paper, I realized I didn't know what to say. Arriving 10 minutes earlier at the house only to be greeted by barks from the home's dogs, I was ready to chalk up this two-hour detour through the middle of Iowa as a failure. I hadn't gotten a response to my e-mail, and now I was leaving a note on a door — a note with an unknown recipient because I didn't even know who lived here — in the hopes someone would see the note and track me down before I left the state.
But I had no interest in the house. It was what sat next door that I cared about.

Ever since I received an e-mail about the All-Iowa Lawn Tennis Club in June, I knew I had to go. From the few things I could find about it, it sounded like one man's tennis Field of Dreams (also tucked away in the northeast corner of Iowa), but instead of old baseball ghosts, his calling was the wonders of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
But no one was home. So I jammed the second draft of the note in the door and, before heading back down the gravel road, took a few moments to marvel at the court and its magnificent backdrop.
The Kuhn family farm, located across the street, with their cornstalks and wind turbines, had given this English-inspired court a necessary jolt of undeniable Midwest flavor.
I had to get on this court.
Later that night, having decided to stay in Iowa in the hopes of the note paying off, I received a phone call. From an Iowa number. On the line was the owner of the house and the court, Mark. His wife found the note and passed it along.
With a sense of bewilderment in his voice, he seemed surprised we missed each other. "You came by the house this afternoon?" Mark said. I confirmed my presence, and he noted we must have narrowly missed each other.
"You still in town?" he asked. I told him I'd driven to Mason City, and he quickly responded, "Oh, that's just about 45 minutes away — can you come by tomorrow?"
Of course I could. In this world of e-mails and texts and Snapchats, I was thrilled that the "note in the door" trick actually worked.
"Come by in the late morning. I've got to spend a few hours the morning setting up the court."
I excitedly agreed, thanked him, and hung up the phone. Initially curious as to what he meant by "setting up the court," I thought back to the state the court was in when I left it.
There weren't any lines. It was just a net on a large patch of grass.
I had to get there early. I had to see this lawn transform into a tennis court.
Arriving back in Charles City, Iowa, at 10 a.m., I was afraid I'd missed all of the setup. He said "early," and I had a feeling Mark was an early riser. Parking the car in front of his house and walking around to the court, I came upon this sight:
The net was gone and the man I assumed was Mark was rolling the lawn. Not wanting to disturb, I stood for a minute until he noticed he wasn't alone. At that point, he turned off the device, introduced himself as, indeed, Mark, and opened the gate.
And then kept going.

He was in the zone. He had a tennis court to build. His tennis court.

The All-Iowa Lawn Tennis Club is almost 10 years old, but the idea was born 51 years ago, in 1962.
"This used to be the cattle feed lot," Mark said, gesturing to the lineless, netless lawn. "I grew up in this house." Immediately, this place felt more important. It wasn't simply that he had built a court next to a house — he'd built a court next to his childhood home in the space where he used to do his childhood chores. I sincerely hoped he never stopped storytelling. I was all ears. For days.
"My job was to work in the lot, feed the cows and such, and that's when I got the idea."
As he said this, a car pulled up. Two people with rackets and tennis balls exited the vehicle looking eager to play some tennis.
"They're going to have to wait a while," Mark said, laughing at the sight of a court without lines or a net. "It's OK, though. Everyone likes to come so early, but there's a lot of dew. It plays much better in the afternoon."
He greeted the two and then returned to me and asked if I was ready to work. "It's good to have an extra set of hands with this, as you'll see."
Looking at the patch of grass, I knew there were 11 lines to draw. Two baselines, two singles lines, two doubles lines, two service lines, two center marks, and a center service line.
Noticeable indentations from past lines made it clear where they were to be placed, but it became quickly clear they served only as a guide. The process of drawing the lines accurately, and appropriately, was a more careful one. Not a perfect process, but a respectful one.
"At Wimbledon, they use the string as an edge and go along the edge," Mark said as he gave me the other end of the string and we both proceeded to walk backward. "I use it as a center line," he yelled, as he cued that it was time we both stuck our screwdrivers anchoring the now-taut string into the ground. "This isn't Wimbledon. It's a replica."
Upon finishing our first line, something I saw as an accomplishment, Mark walked into his shed adjacent to the court and pulled out a machine and a few spray cans. And then I got out of the way.

There was something that fascinated me about the rhythm in Mark's gait as he painted. There was a purposeful hesitation in each step, something you develop only after doing the same thing over and over again for years, failing until you finally figure out how to get it right.
After finishing the first doubles line, we moved in and repeated the process on the singles line. Placing the string the same way and puncturing the earth with the screwdrivers, Mark paused before beginning to paint the lines. He found his measuring tape and verified the distance.
A few seconds later, he was satisfied. And, just like that, line two was in process.
As he painted, I chatted him up about the surrounding area. "The farm across the street, is that someone else's land?"
"No, that's ours."
Well then, I thought. Now I knew Mark's last name. He was Mark Kuhn of yesterday's "Kuhn family farm" fame. And for a moment, my interest was no longer in tennis.
"How long have those turbines been there?" I asked, feeling like a curious child that's less interested in answers and more excited about the prospect of asking questions.
"Only four years," Mark responded. "There's a street that connects them all. A company called MidAmerican. An electric company. They have an easement with us."
As I stared out into the field, searching my brain for wind energy-related questions, Mark asked if I was ready to keep going. I returned to tennis mode and ran over.
Next was the center service line.
And then the center lines.
"We got a little fungal disease," Mark said, referring to the spots along the baseline. "Tried to treat it, but was a little too late. So we've got these spots."
"How do you treat it?" I asked, not knowing the first thing about dealing with a fungus that would have the audacity to attack a grass tennis court.
"Apply a liquid fungicide. And keep off it for a while," Mark responded. Seemed to make sense to me. "One time I did that, I came home, and there were a bunch of guys playing on it."
Assuming, perhaps naively, that trespassers were rare given the isolated nature of the court, I asked if that was a common occurrence.
"Oh yeah," Mark replied. "It always amazes me that it happens. But oh well. It doesn't happen a lot. But sometimes. And the worst was the time we put the fungicide down. You know, tennis-ball-hands-mouth-fungicide — NOT GOOD."
Our conversation took us to the other singles line, where we lined it up with a string and he began painting every other line. Three-quarters of the way through, however, the can emptied.
Walking away from the court into a second, larger shed that contained Mark's farming equipment, we began talking about the schedule of the court.
"We usually start playing on the court by Memorial Day," Mark said, "but this year we actually didn't open up for a lot of play until the first week in July, due to a wet spring. And then we go all summer into fall, but by October I'm starting with the harvest and don't have time to do all this, because I'm harvesting corn."
Mark Kuhn had a hell of a life. He was like a two-sport athlete, playing tennis for half the year and then switching it up and harvesting corn for the rest of the year.
As I daydreamed about the two things I'd like to be doing in my sixties, eventually landing on tennis and weekend radio Slow Jamz DJ, we finally entered the shed.
"Mark Kuhn: State Rep."
And the Mark Kuhn plot, again, thickened.
"So, are you still a state representative?" I asked, stunned by this new finding.
"I was, from 1998 until 2010."
Ruling out the possibility that he may have lost, and assuming he gave up the dirty world of politics to focus on his love of tennis, I continued:
"So you were just ready to get out of the political sphere?"
"Well, actually now I'm at the county level," Mark said, smiling. "I'm on the County Board of Supervisors. We're the executive branch of the county government. And there's only three members on that board, but in the legislature there's 150 and the governor. It's actually more enjoyable. You can implement some of the things we did in Des Moines. And I don't have to drive to Des Moines."
He grabbed the new spray cans and we walked back to the court. "And this isn't a bad place to be," he added.
Finishing the singles line and the doubles line, this patch of grass was actually beginning to look like a tennis court.
"Now all we have to do is this net and we're good," Mark said, eagerly.
Enlisting extra hands, because the net was heavy and certainly a three-to-four-person job, we put the final touch on turning this plot of land from a cattle feed lot to a fenced-in grassy area to a fenced-in lawn to a fenced-in lawn with lines to a lawn tennis court.
Ever the perfectionist, this final step was certainly not the time for Mark to start taking shortcuts. Everything had to be right, from the net being properly tied to the posts:
... to the height of the net at the center strap.
And just like that, 90 minutes later, the All-Iowa Lawn Tennis Club was open for business.

"Have you ever been to Wimbledon?" Mark asked me, about 20 minutes after completing the court. We sat and watched the two early arrivals hit balls back and forth from his porch.
"No, it's very high on my life bucket list, though. One day. You?"
"The last two years," Mark answered quickly. He had a giant smile on his face. I could tell he wanted to talk about this.
"So you saw Murray?" I jealously inquired, remembering watching the Scot win from a hotel room in New Orleans.
"Actually, I didn't see him this year. I did last year, though. Last year, I was there the whole time. This year, we were there for the first seven days."
"How was being there the entire time, last year?" I continued, feeling as if he had a story.
"Well, I'd been sending letters to the Wimbledon head groundskeeper, a guy named Eddie Seward, but never got a positive response back. Later, I found out they were all form letters — they get about 150 to 200 requests a year. But then in 2006, Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim wrote a story about [this] place and then they came and did a video, he came with the Tennis Channel, and the video ran during the championships two years ago. And then the video was sent to the club secretary at Wimbledon, a man named Martin Guntrip, and all of a sudden I got an e-mail from the head groundsman inviting me to "intern," which is what I wanted to do. So, in 2012, I interned at the All England Club for EIGHT days."
I'd never seen someone happier to label himself an intern in my life. And at that moment, I could tell how much tennis, and Wimbledon, and this creation he'd built meant to him. By building this, partially for his own enjoyment, mostly for the enjoyment of others, he was giving back to the sport that had given him so much.
Mark was an accomplished man, as I'd learned over the course of the day, but the joy in his voice when he described finally making it to Wimbledon, after building a court inspired by that very place, was pure elation.
You know, the Christmas-morning joy. And it was infectious. I needed these two people on the court to leave immediately. I had to play on this court. With Mark.
Retrieving my things from the car, I asked to change clothes inside the house. Walking through the house, it warmed my heart to know how tennis consumed this family. The newest issue of Tennis magazine sat by the toilet. The purple-and-green Wimbledon towel hung in the restroom. A Wimbledon ticket stub was affixed to the wall. A collection of wooden rackets sat above one of the doorways.
The passion was phenomenal. And then I walked outside and met the dogs, one of whom was named Murray.
Short for Andy Murray.
This was the best.
A few minutes later, Mark walked outside, outfit changed, ready to play.
"You see these?" he said as he walked toward me. I looked at him, then looked down.
Mark Kuhn, former Iowa state representative, was showing off his matching FILA/Wimbledon sneakers and socks. Somehow, the roles had been reversed. I suddenly felt like a proud dad. Like I was about to drop him off at junior prom. This was heaven.
And then he ran back inside. Two minutes later, he opened the front door and gestured me inside. "Put your shoes on in here," he said, waving me into the living room.
The occasion? Mark Kuhn needed me to see something on television. His DVR, to be specific.
It was last year's Wimbledon coverage. During the morning show, Breakfast at Wimbledon, they showed highlights from a semifinal match. After one highlight, the camera panned to the crowd and Mark paused the action.
But it was blurry. So he rewound it.
We watched it again, and then he paused it again.
This time, it was clear. And in the front row, standing up and cheering: Mark Kuhn.
Mark Kuhn was on television, Mark Kuhn went to Wimbledon, Mark Kuhn had great seats at Wimbledon, and now Mark Kuhn had proof until the end of time that all of these events took place. And I couldn't have been happier for him. He deserved it.
Finally, after a four-hour buildup, we walked out on the court to play tennis. Before I hit the first ball in play, he shouted across the net, "There's no charge to play here, by the way. Just sign the guestbook."

Many thanks to Maxwell Neely-Cohen for the recommendation.