Thursday, May 04, 2017
massive flooding throughout the area. However on one Thursday afternoon we found a bit of sun and decided to play at Heman Park in University City. University City is an early suburb bordering the City of St. Louis. It was founded by Edward Gardner Lewis and has a very unique history. Heman Park is home to the most active grassroots tennis groups in the area. It is the one place in St. Louis where you are almost guaranteed to get a pick up game. If you are sitting on the bench with a racket, the odds are very good someone will walk up and ask you to play. Heman also acts as the home court for the University City High School Tennis Team the Lions and The Heman Heathen's Racket and Beer Club. It is also University City's largest park at 85 acres and is full of other amenities which are listed here. Heman was named after University City's second mayor August Heman and is built on the site of a former landfill. Mr. Heman was President of both the Heman Construction Company and Trinidad Asphalt Company and died at the age of 64 from a bout of indigestion.
Scott arrived first and while waiting for Stan sure enough a gentleman walked up and offered to hit some balls. There are no tennis strangers at Heman Park! On this particular day we had to squeeze the match in between some home showings for Stan and work around a meeting Scott had in Clayton. The result of that is we agreed for the first time ever to start the match with no warm up. Although warm and sunny the conditions were windy with air so thick with pollen you could see it.
On Stan's serve a couple double faults led to a break and a tied score at 4-4. Scott held serve easily to go up 5-4 and Stan did the same by taking an excellent down the line slice ball and ripping a forehand winner to tie it up at 5-5. Stan followed up by breaking Scott on the next game to go up 6-5 and put himself in a position to serve out the set. Scott was able to hit some deep hard returns and finish a couple points at the net to tie it up at 6-6. A tiebreaker was played and Stan was able to stay on top and prevailed 7-4 for a 7-6 first set victory.
About halfway through the first set we had completed our warm up and the points started to get longer as we settled into the playing conditions. The longer points were also starting to test footwork and endurance for both players. Taking confidence from the first set Stan fired off an ace and held the first game and promptly broke Scott's serve with a great forehand winner to go up 2-0. Scott was able to break Stan with a flurry of mishit wobbly shots and one hard deep return. Scott held his serve by trying the can opener play hitting a wide serve to Stan which was returned about 2 feet wide.......but no the wind blew it back in the court it hit the line and Scott drove it down the line to Stan's backhand he was able to float up a cross court lob which should have landed in but the wind blew it 2 feet out this time. 2-2 Stan served efficiently and went up 3-2 and then broke Scott on a long, physical high ball rally which ended with Scott trying to hit a winner which sailed long. 4-2 Stan.
Scott quickly held and broke back to get to 4-4 again. Stan's service game had six deuces with two break points for Scott which he could not convert allowing Stan to finally hold and go up 5-4. That set up the most dramatic game of the match with both men determined to win Scott's serve. Right off the bat Stan took a second serve and ripped a cross court winner. Scott got the second point to get to 15-15. Scott decided to sneak a second serve in on his first to surprise Stan.
He was not surprised and hit a perfect backhand drop shot winner. 15-30 brought a serve and volley winner for Scott. 30-30 - Again Stan rips a forehand cross court winner to get his first match point. At this point Scott the match began to look like a late inning baseball game. Scott was hitting his hardest out wide serve to Stan's strength the backhand. Scott fired off a serve and Stan shanked it wide. Deuce. Scott hit a wide serve to Stan's forehand and had his first ad - Stan took the hard serve to the backhand and hit a cross court winner. Deuce. Stan earned another ad with a long rally. Scott fired another fastball to Stan's backhand and he fouled it against the fence.
At this point Scott was serving like the fabled Mad Hungarian of the St. Louis Cardinals. Deuce - Stan again wins a long rally and has a third match point. Another fastball to the backhand by Scott brought another error. Deuce - Finally Scott earned a second game point with a sharp angled forehand winner. But he missed his first serve and Stan stepped around the second serve and blasted an inside out forehand winner. On the 6th Deuce Stan came to the net and after Scott retrieved three overheads he finally put the ball away. On his 4th match point Scott hit another cannonball deep into the backhand corner and this time Stan had the answer with a cross court out wide winner to take the match. 7-6, 6-4.
Post match we just sat in the sun for awhile as we were both exhausted. Stan eventually had to leave for another home showing and Scott found his way to OR Smoothie & Cafe to refuel. Heman Park is a great place to play tennis and has a 10 for location and a 9 for condition for a 9.5 rating. Our only ding is the surfacing of the courts either needs a good cleaning or possibly a resurfacing at some point.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Fake News or the truth..... read on and you shall find out!
On a beautiful March afternoon Stan and Scott decided to take a break from their respective real estate duties at ReMax Select and Central Realty and play a match at Tilles Park. The name Tilles Park in St. Louis commonly means a large park in St. Louis County off McKnight road. We have played there before and discussed Andrew Tilles history in our blog The Quest for the Golden Set. However on this day we wanted to explore the other Tilles Park in St. Louis City. This park is located at the intersection of Hampton and Fyler and was created by the City of St. Louis selling the Tilles Park in St. Louis County to the County and using the proceeds to buy these 29 acres in the 1950's. Additional funding for this project came from a massive 110 million dollar bond issue passed in 1955 by Mayor Raymond Tucker.
Upon arrival we quickly made notice of a couple things. This Tilles park is much smaller but cements together its Tilles Park Neighborhood. Right outside of the courts was a large playground which was in heavy use the entire time we were playing.
The next thing we noticed is that these courts have recently been resurfaced as part of a comprehensive program the City of St. Louis parks and recreation dept has been implementing. For tennis players the bad news is where there were once three courts there is now only one. The remainder have been converted to very nice pickleball courts.
The park packs a lot of amenities and also includes a roller hockey rink, 3 soccer fields, a soccer kick board, 3 softball/baseball fields, a basketball/volleyball court, 2 racquetball courts picnic pavilion, an exercise station and walking path.
As we began our warm up we noticed this new surface was very slow and theoretically would be an advantage for Scott. We completed our warm up on one of the pickleball courts and then moved to the remaining tennis court to start the match. After warming up on the pickleball court we both noticed our perspective was off on the normal court. It took a couple minutes of hitting to get our normal tennis strokes back.
As the match began it was a tug of war with both players winning their serves until the score got to 3-3. At that point Stan's backhand was dialed in and he really took control of the set winning the next three games by stroking winners from almost any position on the court.
After the first set Scott realized his only chance was to try to blow Stan off the court with aggressive shotmaking. Implementing this new strategy did not seem to make a difference as Stan's defense was rock solid and eventually Scott would wear out during the points. Finally at 0-3 Scott had a great game where at 30 all he ripped a cross court backhand winner.
The next point with Stan at the net Scott ripped a hard backhand right at him
which was dumped in the net. He was on the board and thought he had some momentum. He did not - Stan focused even harder and kept returning the barrage of hard hit balls eventually closing out the second set 6-1. Another win for the Bulgarian 6-3, 6-1.
This court was in excellent shape and receives at rating both in location and quality of 10! After the match we headed across Hampton to the highly regarded Salume Beddu which prepares artisan cured meats. We enjoyed a quality lunch of soppressata sandwiches, Billy Goat Chips and an appetizer of Lonza Ends.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Winter 2017 has been really mild in St. Louis this year and recently we found ourselves with a Thursday morning with predicted weather of sunny and a high of near 70 degrees. By coincidence this day was also tennis legend John McEnroe's birthday. As we began researching courts we found that our first 3 choices of courts appeared to be relegated to the dustbin of history. Those were Jackson Park, Frostwood Park and Musick Park. Personal inspection of all three showed courts either abandoned or in unplayable condition.
Dunegant Park in Florissant. Dunegant Park is a large park that includes multiple amenities such as Tennis, Handball, Frisbee Golf, Ball Fields, Soccer, BBQ and Restrooms. Who was Dunegant you ask? Well that is where things get really interesting. Francois Dunegant was sent to North County in the late 1700's to found San Fernando which later became the City of Florissant. He was granted a significant amount of land and we wonder if this park was donated by his family at a later date. Here is good history of Francois Dunegant. The tennis courts come in two varieties - 4 astroturf courts with light poles literally in between the courts - slightly dangerous if running to get a ball and 2 courts that were hard courts where the nets shared a middle pole. We decided to play the match with one set on each surface and then if split sets the third set surface would be determined by a racket spin.
Scott broke out a can of pink "Hope" tennis balls which support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Stan brought out for the first time in this series a pair of Volkyl tennis racquets switching from his former brand Head. Warm up was quickly completed and then Scott won the racket spin and chose to serve. Stan quickly broke Scott and then Scott broke right back. Scott's next service game was tough but Stan found his range and quickly hit down the line winners to both sides and took a 2-1 lead. Scott broke Stan again with some aggressive returning.
At 2-2 Scott had an excellent service game punctuated with a rare ace down the T to Stan. 3-2 lead Scott. On Stan's next service game he started off by hitting the line on his serve which created a high kicking bounce that Scott
could not handle. He finished the game for a 3-3 score. Scott held a tough service game by hitting a great passing shot past the speedy Bulgarian and then broke Stan for a 5-3 lead.
Closing out the Bulgarian is always tough and Stan went to work and in a few short minutes worked the score back to 5-5 with some excellent volleys and a wicked drop shot. Scott served out a service game with a couple deuces and took a 6-5 lead. Stan's first serve on the next game was ripped cross court by Scott at a sharp angle and kissed the line for a winner. Scott parlayed that shot to a break and took the first set 7-5.
We packed up our stuff and headed over to the hard courts. The hard courts have a plaque naming them the John Schneider Memorial Courts. Scott remembered a former John Schneider who was a Missouri State tennis champion from the now defunct Rosary High School. John also appeared in a tennis movie and was a teaching tennis pro. The John Schneider plaque honors a former state politician from Florissant. Unfortunately the courts are not honoring him very well as they are completely devoid of any surfacing at this point.
Stan was getting much more consistent while Scott seemed to struggle to hit a clean ball. As a third set was required the racket was spun and Stan chose to stay on the hard courts but to switch to the other court. This match would now be played on 3 different courts. This last hard court had even more cracks which could
affect the match at any point in time.
New yellow balls were opened for the third set. Things really started to look bleak for Scott as Stan quickly pulled out to a 5-1 lead. Scott served to stay in the match and Stan tried to finish it quickly. Stan reached his first match point and Scott played a long defensive point lobbing Stan who finally tried to hit an overhead from the baseline which landed in the net. Stan won the next point and match point number two was saved with another deep shot to Stan's backhand which he pulled wide. Finally Scott was able to save the game and get to 5-2.
Stan served and quickly got to his 3rd match point which Scott saved with a backhand stab dropshot which was held up by the swirling wind. Scott won the game by charging the net on a weak ball from Stan and angled it off the court to get to 5-3. Again on Scott's serve Stan got another match point opportunity #4 and Scott saved it with a monster cross court forehand winner.
It looked like an amazing comeback was in the making at this point. Stan had other plans however and quickly unleashed two great shots one a down the line winner to Scott's backhand side the the second was an amazing return of a Scott angled backhand return causing Scott to put the ball over the middle of the net only to find a smiling Bulgarian there who cashed in on his 5th match point with an easy volley. Match to Stan 5-7, 6-3, 6-3
The location of these courts is a 10 being in a relatively quiet setting. Although we did not really have many bad bounces these courts need some serious attention. The carpet courts were in better shape than the hard so we will give an overall score of 5 for a 7.5 average. Florissant has been spending money on their tennis courts at other locations so hopefully these are due for a makeover.
After tennis we drove a few miles east for a great BBQ lunch at the Ferguson Brewing Company located in downtown Ferguson.
Within two weeks of this match John McEnroe's father John McEnroe Sr. passed away as well as politician John Schneider. Both left long and proud legacies.
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
On the first day of Winter 2016 the temperature was projected to reach a balmy 46 degrees in St. Louis. Based upon that forecast and a rumor of some forgotten courts receiving a rebuild we headed to North County to the City of Black Jack and Harold J. Evangelista Park. Evangelista Park is named in honor of the former Mayor of Black Jack for 25 years and a city official during the United States vs City of Black Jack Fair Housing Case.
Harold J. Evangelista Park is on Old Jamestown road just a stones throw from the abandoned Jamestown Mall a place where Scott spent many hours in his teenage years. We both arrived at the park at exactly the same time only to be greeted with closed gates and big sign that said Park Closed. Many people of course would be deterred by this situation but we considered it a problem that needed to be analyzed. We left our tennis gear in the car and hiked a good distance to reconnoiter the tennis courts. The rumor was true!
We gazed upon four pristine courts that looked like they were 90% complete. One end was missing some fencing and had tape around the remaining construction area to keep folks out. The courts were truly a beautiful sight with brand new surfacing, new nets, etc. In fact, it appeared the entire park was getting some investment with new basketball courts and LED Lighting being a couple items we noticed. We were surprised to discover this park. It is a very large park located on a long narrow strip of land surrounded by lots of open acreage. We are always amazed at the amount of land and trees in North County, although close to the City of St. Louis it has a more rural feel.
Finding conditions satisfactory we hiked back to our cars and decided to move them away from the gate so we did not attract attention and then retrieved our equipment and hiked back to the courts. We exchanged a few Christmas gifts - Truffles, Nike Long Sleeve Shirt, String Theory Tennis Book and of course a Stan Angelov ReMax Calendar! Then we unpacked our equipment which on this day included Hats, shirts, tights, gloves in addition to our tennis gear.
This match was highly anticipated with Scott coming off several good wins over strong singles players and Stan continuing his practice of Yoga along with playing with the "Morning Wood" group at Creve Coeur Racquet Club several times per week.
As we began our warm up the first thing we noticed is we believe we were the first humans to play on the redone surface of these courts. We picked one of the middle courts which was dry and clear since the shaded courts still had patches of snow and ice. The courts were supremely grippy and balls with spin really held up short especially if the swirling wind was blowing the right way. After a quick warm up we began to play.
What a glorious day it was with the Sun shining and nobody around to disturb our focus on the match. Scott won the toss and elected to serve. Scott started out quickly winning his serve but the points were really short as both players were struggling with the wind and the grippy surface. Several balls by both players were missed as we lunged at balls that weren't where we thought they should be.
Stan battled back to 2-2 as we began to settle down and get a feel for these courts. The first four games all had multiple deuces with each player fighting hard to stay in the game. Stan looked like he was getting the hang of it as he started to hit winners down the line on both sides wrong footing Scott each time.
Scott fought back to get an Ad in this game and then the second great point was played. Scott hit a drop shot which Stan dropped back and Scott got it and tried to push a ball down the line which led
to a 6 volley exchange with both players at the net finally Stan hit a great cross court volley but Scott anticipated it and punched a backhand volley winner down the line to go up 3-2!
Stan held serve easily for 3-3 and then Scott held a deuce service game sneaking in with a great volley to cut off a Stan cross court shot. 4-3 Scott. Again Stan held for 4-4 powered by a great wide angle ace to Scott's forehand side. Scott's serve was again a battle and after multiple deuces the speedy Bulgarian came to the net and Scott fed him a weak lob which he easily put away to go up 5-4. Stan was finding the mark on his serve and closed out the set easily for a 6-4 first set win.
The second set continued to provide more great tennis with many excellent points by both players but Stan was gradually winning a higher percentage and Scott's normally reliable first serve began to falter. Stan took advantage and moved out to a 5-1 lead. The next two games were huge with Stan going up 40-15 in each. Scott started hitting some powerful ground strokes and played amazing defense and was able to win both to get to 5-3.
Stan served for the match and again went up 40-15. An error by Stan made it 40-30 and gave Scott a little hope that he could continue his run. Stan served and Scott returned with a strong cross court backhand which Stan looped deep back to Scott's backhand. Scott tried to change direction and hit a down the line backhand which curved and landed about 1 foot outside the line to give Stan the victory 6-4, 6-3. A hard fought victory for our last Forgotten Court match of 2016!
After we packed up and hiked out of the park we headed to a nearby O' Charley's for some ribs and beverages. On the way we drove past the abandoned Jamestown Mall and the former indoor Jamestown Racquet and Swim Club which featured indoor courts and a swimming pool now converted to a church facility.
Honestly these courts and location on this day warranted a 10 on both counts. The location was quiet and we were able to focus and the courts and nets are in perfect shape. There is a also a nearby BBQ grill so this would be an ideal location for a small tournament!