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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!