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, October 10, 2016

New Rules for a New Age - Fast4 Tennis at McNair Park

While the 2016 US Open was getting started we took a trip out to a park in St. Charles, Missouri called McNair Park.  McNair has four tennis courts and is part of a much larger park which features ball fields, concession, volleyball, shelters, soccer and a braille trail.

The courts are on top of a hill and on first appearance could use some work.  We also noted right of the bat that they are striped with pickleball lines which is becoming a common sight on area tennis courts.  We have played on similar courts and find the pickleball lines to be a distraction when calling serves making it confusing when you have a white service line and a yellow pickleball line within a foot of each other.

As we warmed up we decided to play a new tennis format devised by Tennis Australia known as Fast4. Fast4 is designed to play a 5 set match but with rules in place to make it move along faster.  Sets are to 4 games with a tiebreaker at 3 all.  Scoring is no-ad.

We warmed up quickly and began the match.  Stan was really motivated after his loss in the last match and come out firing some backhand winners and quickly moved to take the first set 4-1. Weirdly enough in the first set we did not encounter any 3-3 points to be decided by the no-ad system.

The second set was a different story as there were several 3-3 points with Scott taking the first one and Stan hitting an incredible forehand from an off the court wide position which rolled right into Scott's backhand corner striking the the lines to give Stan the game while Scott watched with incredulity.  The set went to a 5 point tiebreaker which Scott was able with win 5-3 to even up the match.

Stan did not want to be denied this match and came up with a dizzying array of drop shots, backhand winners and some sneaky volleys to win the third set 4-2 and left Scott questioning his dedication to the game.

The fourth set was tough - this time it was Scott feeling a lack of energy while Stan kept making him work for every point.   Back and forth it went until 3-3 at which point another tiebreaker was played.  This one was all Stan as he prevailed 5-2 to win the set and the match 3 sets to 1.  Final score 4-1, 3-4, 4-2, 4-3.

Our take on this format was we liked it a lot.  Surprisingly the match took over two hours and we both felt like we had played a substantial match.   The new rules made for some interesting scenarios which we liked. We will use this format again for sure on a future forgotten court.

As we were leaving a squad of pickleballers arrived and we had a quick chat with them about the game and watched them play for a few minutes.... a future forgotten courts subject maybe....

The courts are in rough shape and we will give the condition a 6 and location a 10 for a 8 overall.  The location is nice and quiet.

The food choices nearby for an after match meal are endless with Main Street St. Charles just a few miles away.  One of our favorites is Trailhead Brewing which has cold beer and good food.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bulgarian Down..... aka The Highlands

After our last match where Stan twice almost completed his quest for the golden set and blew Scott off the court, Scott got to thinking about what he could do to turn the tables.   He quickly settled on the idea that if he could get Stan to come to the clay courts in Forest Park it might give him the edge he desperately needed.  Forest Park is well known to all St. Louisans and receives over 12 million visitors per year.  It hosted the 1904 World's Fair and is surrounded by turn of the century mansions.

The clay courts in Forest Park are contained in a little known facility known at The Highlands formerly the AAA tennis club.  The courts are tucked away in the southeast corner of the park near the McDonnell Planetarium.   Most of the courts we play are public but these are quasi-private.  They are open to the public but charge either an annual membership or a daily court fee of $10.  However - for those "in the know" two of the courts are open to the public "free of charge" but you must ask for them.  

Scott plays in a USTA mixed doubles league at the Highlands and over the past 8 years has compiled a 30-11 record and a 73% winning percentage.  This may be because he has excellent partners but still there seems to be something about this clay( Har- Tru) surface that works for his game.  Clay can be a tricky surface for some.  Click here for some good tips on clay court play.  

On this early August day it rained in the morning and at match time at 12:30 pm the temperature was in the mid-80's with 80% humidity.  As we stepped on the courts you could not only feel the humidity but the presence of the greats who had played on these courts before.  Jimmy Connors, Dwight Davis, Pancho Gonzalez, Pancho Segura, Ken Flach and Ted Drewes are just a few of the great men who have played on these courts in their 100+ year history.   Scott arrived a few minutes early and had a nice chat with Head Pro - Mark McPhilips about the successful and growing summer programs at The Highlands.


As we stepped on court 8 we noticed a bank of trees along one side of the court and deemed them to be in play if a ball hit one of them.  Warm up was quick and so was the sweat.  The temperature may have been in the 80's but the humidity was going to make this match a challenge.  Scott knew in addition to the clay factor that heat had helped him in the Westminster Christian Academy match.   He quickly decided to make Stan hit as many balls as possible and see if the heat would take its toll.   Stan won the toss and the first set was on.

Scott immediately broke Stan's serve.  Stan broke right back to even the set at 1-1.  On Stan's next service game the clay became a factor.   Scott first hit a sidespin backhand which jumped sideways as it bounced causing Stan to make an error.   On the very next point Scott hit a sharp cross court serve return which Stan scrambled to retrieve then Scott blocked his shot back into the open court....  the speedy Stan quickly got to the ball but the clay just deadened the bounce.   2-1 Scott.

The three broken service games were followed by holds by each for a 3-2 Scott lead.   Then two more breaks.  4-3 Scott.   Then a hold by Scott put him in a position to break Stan for the set.   In Stan's service game Scott played the two best points of the match.   The first was a 20+ ball rally which had drop shots, moonballs and finally off of a deep ball by Stan, Scott unleashed a monster forehand into Stan's backhand corner which overpowered him and resulted in an error.

Two points later Stan drove a mid court ball into Scott's backhand corner for a winner but somehow Scott stabbed at it and produced a perfect lob over Stan's head into his backhand corner for a winner.   BUT..... Stan persevered and won the points that mattered to stay in the game and more importantly the set.   5-4 Scott.

On the next game Scott served for the set and Stan unleashed a barrage of shotmaking with a backhand winner, a forehand down the line winner and an inside out forehand to tie the set at 5-5.   Unknown to Scott his plan was beginning to work.   Stan fatigued from the effort to get even lost his service game at love and Scott was able to serve out the set at 7-5.


A battle was shaping up but on the changeover Stan retired due to heat exhaustion.   A cheap victory perhaps...but Scott was willing to take it!    We quickly retired to the clubhouse for some air conditioning to cool Stan down and then walked over to Keagan's Restaurant for a couple beers and some appetizers.  Our server Sarah took great care of us.   Not long after we arrived the skies opened up again and we realized how fortunate we were to have a few hours of great tennis amidst the rain.

For convenience we went to Keagan's which is the club eatery, however, The Central West End is nearby and features an amazing selection of places to eat and drink after a match.   Court condition - in clay court terms not perfect - courts could use a little more topping but Folks this place is a close as it gets to Tennis Heaven in St. Louis so it receives a 10 all the way around!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Quest for the Golden Set - Tilles Park

Its been a couple months since the last match.  On a warm June morning we headed over to Tilles Park for a singles match.   Stan has been playing a lot of early morning tennis at Creve Coeur Racquet Club while Scott is playing a lot of World Team Tennis at Dwight Davis Tennis Center and USTA League Tennis on clay at the Highlands.  Scott was eager to test out his new Yonex Vcore Duel G Racket against the Bulgarian.

Tilles Park has four nice courts which are surrounded by really beautiful stone walls built during the "Great Depression" by the Works Progress Administration.  The park is named for Rosalie Tilles the mother of Captain Andrew Tilles a fascinating St. Louis figure who dominated the horse racing industry in his day.   The courts are in good shape but probably do not have the requisite distance
between baseline and fence for proper maneuvering.  Tilles is also home to the very popular Winter Wonderland Light Show each year.

After a short warm up we were ready to start the battle.... or at least one of us was.

Stan won the racket spin and elected to serve.  He quickly made a statement winning four points in a row and hitting two winners off the backhand wing.  Scott served.... Stan won four more points in a row again unleashing a barrage of backhand winners.   At this point the Golden Set jokes started - a golden set is 24 points in a row by one player.   Stan served again and reeled off four more points for a 3-0 lead for 12 points in a row - he was halfway there.

At this point Scott was just looking to win one point to spoil the Golden Set.  It was very apparent that Stan's backhand could fire off a winner from anywhere on the court.  The strategy would be hit to the forehand from here on out.  Boom - Scott hit a serve and Stan pulled it wide on his forehand side. Miraculously Scott went on to win that game but it proved just a bump on the road for Stan as he reeled off three more games in a row to win 6-1.

The second set got underway with Scott serving and would you believe it Stan reeling off another 12 points in a row to take another 3-0 lead and again have a chance for the golden set.  Finally in the 4th game Stan's concentration faltered - lets be clear Scott did not play better just was able
to keep the ball in play enough to win 2 games before Stan finished the set
at 6-2

Stan was in top form and administered probably the most one sided victory in the history of Stlforgottencourts.   Court condition is a 9 and location is a 10 for a 9.5 rating.  If you are looking for some food after tennis here there is only one place to go - The one and only Carls Drive In!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Dinner for Four - Bolm Schuhkraft Park

As is common in springtime the St. Louis area was blanketed with thunderstorms on this late April day.   We exploited a gap in the storms and met our two friends Charles and Ben at Bolm Schuhkraft Park in Columbia, Illinois for an evening match on some lighted courts.  You might be asking where is Columbia, Illinois?  Its right across the Mighty Mississippi from Jefferson Barracks.   It is literally a 12 miles from downtown St. Louis to Columbia.

Columbia is an old community first populated by the Mound Builders then by the Kickapoo, the French and later populated by German immigrants.  The city itself was laid out in 1820 and incorporated in 1859.  Columbia has a rich history that you can read in detail at this link

Bolm Schuhkraft Park has many amenities besides tennis courts including ball fields, trails, pavilions, and bathrooms  The tennis courts are unusual because there are four courts with two different surfaces.  The first surface is Plexipave a cushioned surface and the second were traditional hardcourts recently resurfaced by McConnell and Associates.   The courts are lighted and have bathrooms and a grill just across the parking lot.

After taking the court situation into consideration we decided that we would grill the St. Louis specialty of Pork Steaks and then play our match on both court surfaces.   We quickly browned some pork steaks which were pre-rubbed with Ropers Ribs Rub( We discovered Ropers at Dwight Davis Park).  The steaks were then placed in an aluminum pan filled with a combination of Uncle Joes and Maull's sauces and left to simmer over the coals.

Stan opened up a can of Robin Soderling Balls... yup.  Robin Soderling has his own balls.........

The match began on the Plexipave court and Stan and Scott won the toss and elected to have Scott serve.  Scott took his first serve out wide and Charles(USTA 4.5) ripped a vicious down the line winner past Stan's outstretched racket.

Next serve to Ben(USTA 4.0) who ripped a sharply angled backhand shot that Scott could not handle.   The next point Charles hit a nice return and then volleyed away Scott's shot.   Love-40 after 3 points - things were not looking good.

Scott served Ben a knuckleball serve which somehow scooted under Ben's racket.  Then Stan hit a beautiful drop volley winner.   Scott served down the T and got Ben to hit a forehand wide.  Deuce - The battle was on.   This was the first of six deuces and finally Scott served into Ben's body to force an error and the comeback from Love-40 was complete. 1-0 good guys!

As we were playing a group of young folks were hanging out in the parking lot watching a quality tennis match.  Scott and Stan then broke Charles to go up 2-0 and then Stan was broken right back.  Ben was broken and then Scott was broken.   3-2 Scott and Stan.

Charles was broken again.   Stan held and Ben held putting Scott into position to serve for the set.  Unlike the first game Scott raced out to a 40-0 lead.  But then two great points were played by Ben and Charles and Scott thought... could this be the opposite of the first game where they come back from 40-0.

Nope a return error was coaxed out of Ben and the first set belonged to Scott and Stan 6-3.   The Plexipave was an interesting surface - a little slow and
with high bouncing balls.

The second set was started on the hard court with no warm up.   It became apparent right away that this was a faster court.  Charles dominated his first service game at love including an ace out wide to Scott's backhand.  Stan then had a great game with multiple deuces but could not hold on.

Scott held easily and then Ben was broken for a 2-2 score.   On Charles next serve Scott and Stan were able to elicit a break and played a crazy point retrieving at least 6 overheads and finally getting the point.  Stan was broken following that for a 3-3 score.   Ben held and Scott held for 4-4.

After Ben poached one of Scott's sliced backhands Scott sliced a ball down the line which caught Ben off guard because it skipped off the net.  Ben volleyed it back but Scott took it up the line again and it hit Ben's racket frame and went out of the court.

5-4 with Stan serving for the set.   Stan hit some great sharply angled serves to go up 40-0 and then Ben and Charles got back to 30-40 but were unable to finish the game.  Scott and Stan emerged victorious this time with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

We immediately retired to the pavilion where our pork steaks, snacks and some adult beverages were waiting for us.  Great to spend time with and catch up with good friends. Charles shared his story of how he got into tennis by taking free lessons provided by the Lion's Club in rural Oklahoma.

If we had not prepared our own food on this beautiful spring evening,  Reifschneider's Grill and Grape or Bullys BBQ are all within a mile of these courts.

These are really nice courts.  Good location.  Nice Park.  The nets could use a little attention with net straps correctly installed.  Both court surfaces were in great shape.   Lights are older and probably could use some updating.   We would give the location a 10 and the condition a 9 for a score of 9.5.  The Soderling balls played very well although pretty fuzzy by the end of the match!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Endicott Park - The Hungarian Bulgarian?

On another 60 degree January day in St. Louis we managed to find some time to head to another area Forgotten Court.  Our pick was Endicott Park, a facility that was purchased from the Terminal Railroad Company in 1961.

The park is 24 acres and has a Shelter, A Disc Golf course and of course two Tennis Courts.  The tennis courts appear to be little used, one was missing a net and the only playable one was missing a net strap.  The Disc Golf course appears to get heavy use - there were a lot of cars in the parking lot.

The park is located within the City of St. John a municipality of 6400 people incorporated in 1945 on the site of John Ferguson's farm Eminence.   The people of St. John successfully fought off attempts from neighboring Overland to annex them and have remained independent ever since.

We set our match time and 1 pm and invited our friend Mark Zolman to join us as he had on two previous matches, The Flogging in Florissant and Tower Courts Part Deux.  Scott got their early at 12:30 and found Mark and Stan conducting an "illegal warm up".

In the last match, Scott totally destroyed them both with his lethal forehand so it was understandable that they needed a little practice.  Scott brought with him some singles sticks and they were placed in the correct position on each side of the net.  The format was decided to be 10 point tiebreakers with the winner being the first person to win six of them.

Stan and Scott started first and Stan dominated the tiebreaker.  Mark took on Stan and lost a close one.  Scott and Mark played and Scott won easily.  The second round was very interesting  Scott came back from 5-1 down to play a close tiebreaker. At 4-5 the best point of the day was had.

After a long rally Stan hit a deep high ball to Scott's backhand - Scott took it on the rise and hit a deep angled slice causing Stan to hit a short ball which Scott angled off the court to Stan's forehand side.  Stan chased this ball into the adjacent court and hit a ball that never was in the court until it hit in the backhand corner for a winner.

At this point a few spectators had gathered and started clapping in appreciation.  Scott then lost the tiebreaker by double faulting at 8-9 to give Stan the victory.  Mark and Stan went for round two.   Mark took the lead early and then another great point was played.  During this long point both Stan and Mark were grunting loudly... as Scott watched he began to notice a group of kids watching the point and grunting in unison with them.

Stan eventually won the point and the tiebreaker.  Scott and Mark then played an epic tiebreaker with Mark going up 5-1 and Scott coming back and getting in position to win only to be denied a down the line winner by the singles stick.   Mark fought back and had a chance to win only to also hit the net on a down the line ball which Scott retrieved and put away.

Eventually Scott won the tiebreaker 14-12.   Stan was now 4-0, Scott 2-2 and Mark 0-4.   Stan swept the last round to win with a 6-0 record and never had a tiebreak point against him.  Stan had experienced a day similar to Al Hrabosky's (The Mad Hungarian) 1975 season.  Scott got the last tiebreaker leaving him 3-3 and Mark 0-6.

The court had a few dead spots, poor net and one court missing a net so we give the courts a 6.5 condition rating.  Location was a 10 for an average of 8.25.   One of the best things about this match was the spectators enjoying our tennis - we believe that for tennis to grow on public courts it must be seen and in this case heard!

Lots of classic food choices nearby Chuck A Burger and Woofies both legendary.  We opted to head to El Porton on Woodson Road where we enjoyed some Sol Beer and some great mexican food and discussed our match and how to keep tennis alive on the forgotten courts of St. Louis.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tower Park Part Deux - Canadian Style

One year ago Scott, Stan and their friend Mark Zolman played a 6 set match that was known as the Battle of Boxing Day.   The location Tower Courts in Florissant was a set of four carpet courts with sand base.  In 2015 the City of Florissant made a major investment in these courts hiring Vee-Jay Cement  and McConnell and Associates to rebuild the courts with post tension concrete - the gold standard in new court construction.

Lets start with the project.  The project began by removing the existing sand-filled carpet and the fencing. Some minor remediation was done to the existing surface in preparation of the new slab overlay. 

A layer of stone screenings were installed to help provide the proper slope, fill any depressions or cracks, and create a slip sheet for the new 5 inch PT slab. After the slab was installed, a new fence was installed.  

This work was all completed by Vee-Jay.  Once the concrete was cured McConnell and Associates took over and The surface was acid etched, power washed, and checked for low areas prior to any material being installed. The courts were first primed with a two-part epoxy primer to help adhesion to the concrete surface. 

Then one application of acrylic resurfacer and two coats of texturized color were installed. The sand in the surface gives the court a medium pace of play. Last the lines were taped and painted.  In total it took almost three months to complete the project and it received a Quality Concrete Award from The Concrete Council.

Of course you are here to read about the match so here is what happened.   When we arrived to the courts we of course noticed the excellent condition and consistent play of the ball off the surface.  It was a sunny January Day with a high temp of 45 degrees.  Surprisingly while we were there two other players came out to play. 

We decided to play a different format - The Australian version of Canadian Doubles with each player counting all games won and the victor being the first to win 21 games.  Australian style is a format where two play against one and singles lines are in effect on the single side and doubles on the double side.   

Mark started out on the singles side and promptly lost the first three games to Scott and Stan. Everybody was a little off as it was our first hit outside with wind and sun factors.   However a quick poach by Scott and a down the line forehand winner served notice that the oldest player of the three was here to play. 

Stan took to the singles court and lost 2 of this three games with Mark hitting some excellent volleys.  This put the early score at 5 for Scott, 3 for Stan and 2 for Mark.  Scott went over to the singles side and won 2 of 3 and it was during this time that it became apparent that his forehand was on fire.  

Scott's shots were landing deep with spin and often bouncing off the court for a clean winner.  At one point the Florissant Fire Truck went by with sirens blaring and we wondered if they were coming to put out Scott's forehand.  

The match went on with Scott maintaining a commanding lead.  Mark had a run and passed Stan with some fantastic topspin lobs and short angle volleys.  The score crept up to 15 Scott, 10 Mark and 8 Stan and then Stan got a boost with Scott as they won 3 more games from Mark - these were probably the peak points of the match.  

Mark was playing well to no avail as he was victimized by a circus point with dropshots, lobs, volleys that finally ended when Mark hit a hard volley at Scott which Scott stabbed  and produced a lob volley winner over Mark's head.   

On the next point Mark drove a deep topspin ball to Scott's forehand which landed right on the baseline at Scott's feet. Mark smartly followed this ball to the net and somehow Scott timed Mark's ball and blocked it back with a rocket down the line ball which clipped the net and landed in.  

Scott could do no wrong and had the lyrics of the famous song by the Texas band Clique  "I am Superman and I can do anything" playing in his head as he outduelled Stan with a couple forehands and then when Stan finally got the ball to Scott's backhand he sliced a winner behind stan crosscourt.   After about two and a half hours of tennis Scott prevailed 21 to 16 for Stan and 14 for Mark.  A truly great afternoon for tennis and a rare victory for Scott.    

Hats Off to the City of Florissant, Vee-Jay and McConnell for a job well done.  These courts rate a 10 in all respects and are now among the best in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. 

Last time we played here we went to Old Town Donuts and this time we headed over to Hendels Cafe for a post match beverage and some appetizers.   Hendels is a great family run business in Old Town Florissant with beautiful ambiance.   

We were in luck and it was both Happy Hour and Wine Wednesday.   A bottle of wine was shared, great conversation and a lot of discussion of ideas on how to keep tennis alive on the forgotten courts of our beloved city.   Stay tuned tennis fans......