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Monday, April 14, 2014

Best of Five - Ackfield Park



Finally spring has arrived and this week we had a perfect morning to test out the courts at Ackfield Park in the City of Shrewsbury.   These two courts sit behind the Shrewsbury police station in a 6.8 acre park which includes ballfields and sand volleyball.   The courts are an astroturf surface and are in great shape except for a few large seams which have developed in a couple spots.

In the last couple years USTA has changed league rules so that split set matches are ended with 10 point tiebreakers.   We decided to try a new format which was to have our match consist of the the first to win three 10 point tiebreakers.   A mini best of five format if you will.  A can of X-Balls was opened and the match was on.

As we began our warm up we quickly determined this astroturf surface was faster than most and really reacted to both topspin and underspin.   Scott quickly got out to a 3-0 lead and increased it to 5-2 at which point Stan played a series of great points to get back in the tiebreaker.   Stan finally took the lead 8-7 and then finished the first tiebreaker with two great points.  The first was a spectacular lob over Scotts head after he followed a mid court volley to the net and the second was a deep down the line slice backhand past Scott at the net.  First tiebreaker goes to Stan.

Second tiebreaker started in a similar fashion.  Scott stormed out to a 5-2 lead and Stan battled back.   At 5-5 the turf seam came into play as Scott drove a forehand down the line and it hit the seam and dipped under Stan's outstretched racket.   At 8-5 Scott served two great serves in a row to finish the second tiebreaker 10-5.

Third tiebreaker.   This one again started out with Scott taking a 5-2 lead.   Again Stan battled back to 5-5. Scott fended off a couple great body serves with slice balls that dropped at Stan's feet.  Again at 8-5 two good serves by Scott finished the breaker 10-5.

Fourth tiebreaker.   Scott roared out to a 6-0 lead and tried to add a new rule the 7-0 shutout just like ping pong.  Stan wasn't buying it and took the next point getting Scott to hit a ball wide.   Stan fought furiously to get back into the tiebreaker.  At 5-7 Stan came to the net on a deep ball to Scott's forehand which Scott took right back down the line for a winner.   Stan got back to 8-6 with a perfectly hit dropshot.   The next two points and the match went to Scott for a 10-6 tiebreaker  and 3-1 match victory!

Surface was tough to adjust to but consistent on all except one point during our match.   Location is great right off hwy 44 and Shrewsbury exit.   Location is a 10 and Court Condition is an 8 for a rating of 9.   A great nearby eatery is the famous Porters Fried Chicken for an after match  snack.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

East St. Louis - Judge Milton Wharton

During our work in East St. Louis we attended a meeting of the Financial Oversight Committee for the East St. Louis School District.   During that meeting Judge Wharton gave a passionate speech supporting tennis and putting in context the tough environment awaiting many of these kids.   Its worth a listen to the audio link below and a read of the article on the Judge below.  He is an interesting character.

Link to story via STLToday.com .  The story is embedded below.



Judge Milton Wharton to leave bench

Milton Wharton, who went from being a laid-off welder to a judge presiding over the Metro East's most sensational criminal trials, including the Christopher Coleman case, will retire at the end of his term next year.
Wharton, 65, became an associate judge in St. Clair County in 1976, and has remained on the bench for 35 years.
His unmistakable style is a throwback: bow ties, cigars, fedoras. His judicial style has been just as unique.
"He handled things differently than any other judge," said John O'Gara, a defense attorney and St. Clair County public defender. "He really cared about the defendants. He'd say to them 'Where are you going in your life?' He also never lost sight on society at large and would incorporate that into each individual."
Wharton is known for giving speeches and life advice to defendants. His wood-paneled courtroom became an intersection of race, society, and law. Wharton, a black man, often uses history to plead with the defendants - many of them young, black men from East St. Louis, his hometown - to steer away from crime. He does everything from opine on a defendant's hair, clothes, and tattoos.
"In court he was courteous to everyone in front of him and made sure everyone got a fair trial," O'Gara said. "He is a patient man. He has a very practical sense of what's going on in front of him and the impact it has beyond him," O'Gara said.
Wharton spent many years handling juvenile cases. He said on Monday that his work there was the most fulfilling.
"I still get thank you notes from children I can't remember," Wharton said. "They are now adults who want to let me know I had an impact on their lives."
Wharton later became a criminal judge. Most memorably, he presided over the high-profile trial of Christopher Coleman, who was convicted in May of strangling his wife and two young sons. Coleman opted to have Wharton sentence him instead of a jury. He faced the death penalty, even though Gov. Pat Quinn said he commute any new death sentence.
Wharton told a story of being a young lawyer years ago, visiting the Menard Correctional Center, the Illinois maximum-security prison at Chester.
"I saw a lot of young men, age 19 and 20, but I came away with something else I saw that shocked me: I saw old men in wheelchairs, with canes and with beards. Those were the ‘lifers,'" Wharton said. "A life sentence is most potent retribution." He added: "A sentence of death may be expedient from the standpoint of the court but I also believe it would compound the tragedy that the family already has experienced, and would make me engage in a symbolic sentence of death."
Wharton, who has been teaching part time at Lindenwood College in Belleville, said he plans to continue that pursuit. His replacement will be decided in the November 2012 election.
His focus on education and young people was noticeable in 2004, when 22 year-old University of Illinois Engineering student Kyai Gibson stood in Wharton's courtroom.
Gibson was months away from graduation, but he and a pair of friends had held up a Fairview Heights dry cleaner that spring.
Wharton was in charge of his sentencing.
"I'm so sorry," Gibson said, pleading with Wharton for leniency. "I hadn't meant to throw away my life."
Wharton lamented: "There are days when you really hate to be a judge. It breaks my heart."
Gibson got seven years in prison.