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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Park Closed - Harold Evangelista Park



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.



The fifth game was where we knew we had something special going on today.   At 30-30 we had an amazing point that lasted about 20 balls and featured almost every shot in the book.  This point featured drop shots, wide angles, hard shots and finally after a brilliant Scott drop shot bringing Stan to the net with a great get Scott hit a perfect lob over his head for a sure winner.... except it wasn't because somehow Stan ran back and was able to hit a ball in play which a stunned Scott promptly dumped into the net with a backhand volley.

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!

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