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Thursday, May 04, 2017

We don't need no stinking warm up! - Heman Park


The month of April 2017 was mostly a deluge of rain and ended with 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.



The no warm up led to an interesting start to the match.  After 4 games the score was Stan 3-1 with no point going more that two shots and Stan winning all 8 points on his serve.   The wind was really a factor with many balls sailing long on both ends of the court because it was swirling and changing directions.  On the next game Scott served and fought to an ad point which ended with Stan at the net hitting a drop shot which Scott retrieved and deftly flicked a lob over his head for the game.  3-2 Stan who answered the challenge with a strong service game which included a ace out wide to Scott's backhand to finish it and go up 4-2.   Scott won his serve by serving and volleying to Stan's backhand and then hitting a volley behind Stan.

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.

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