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It was only natural for Janet Matthews to become a tennis player.
Growing up in St. Petersburg, Matthews' entire family was involved in the sport at St. Petersburg Country Club.
Not until Matthews was a sophomore at Lakewood High School in the mid 1970s, however, did she decide to give the game a try. What she found was a sport she could play in her youth and as an adult.
"I played on Lakewood's team in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades, although we weren't a strong team at all," Matthews said, "and certainly nothing like the boys team that was a top team in the state with players like Jeff Davis and Eddie Reese.
"There just weren't many opportunities for organized sports for girls then, except maybe track," she said. "I was always into athletics in the neighborhood, but that was about it."
After her prep years, Matthews played socially at the University of Florida. But when she worked as a manager at Tyrone Square Mall, tennis took a backseat.
"I got back into tennis a little around 1993, but really only about three years ago did I decide to play more," Matthews said.
"Now that I'm working for my dad (Dr. Ray Wunderlich), who practices preventive medicine after many years as a pediatrician, I work at home and can better fit tennis in my schedule."
Matthews first played in St. Petersburg's singles flex league in 1993 and not again until 2000, when she won the top women's division in the fall season. In the spring 2001 schedule, Matthews won again.
Entered in the 2003 winter league, Matthews is 3-0 in the A-1 class.
"I'm trying to be a better serve-and-volley player," she said.
"I realize that to go to the next level, you need a good net game. I've always pretty much stayed back, but I'm working on being more aggressive and getting up to the net."
Matthews credits her improvement to Sue Gutierrez, who teaches at the city's Denver Park courts. "Sue is quite a player herself, and she's helped me become more aggressive at the net," Matthews said. "I'm pretty quick and have a good reaction, so Sue is helping me put all that to good use."
The city's flex league, Matthews said, helps her apply what she's learning from Gutierrez. Plus, its structure is a perfect fit for Matthews' schedule.
"Between working my job and juggling family responsibilities, this league suits me beautifully," Matthews said.
"I find the level of talent differs in each season and you have an opportunity to meet new people each time. It's a very good competitive league," she said.
Matthews says one of the best attributes of tennis is that it's a game you can play forever.
She plans to do just that.
LEAGUE UPDATES: The Vinoy won its first match in the women's 3.5 division of the USA Senior Doubles League last weekend with a 2-1 decision over Innisbrook.
Netting wins for the Vinoy were Kathy Caffrey and Carol Craig in the No. 1 position and Caryl Wendkos-LaTorre and Xuan Duong at No. 3.
Paradise Island's 4.0 women's team extended its lead in the standings with a 3-0 win over the Racquet Club of St. Petersburg last weekend.
A straight-set victory was produced by Carol Hancock and Barbara Brutus in the No. 3 spot. Three-set wins were scored by Marion Murch and Henriette Skoczen at No. 1 and Susan Hobbs and Ann Worthington in No. 2.
In senior men's 3.5 Central competition, Racquet Club No. 2 won its third match with a 3-0 decision over Royal Racquet Club.
Vaughn Haight and Ron Whitaker in No. 1, Newton Rogers and Gary Elliot at No. 2 and Russ Barlow and Tom Shevlin in No. 3 were two-set winners.
In the men's 4.5 division, the Racquet Club defeated Phil Green Tennis Academy for the third time last weekend on the play of Tim Brady and Ralph Howe in No. 1 and Michael Carroll and Mike Reilly at No. 2.
NET SHOTS: Second-seeded Bob Meyerdierks of St. Petersburg won three matches to reach the men's 75-and-over singles final in the Sterling Oaks Senior Classic in Naples.
In the championship, Meyerdierks won by default.
He teamed up with Naples' Scott Calkins to advance to the doubles final.
In singles for players 65, Don Mathias took one round in the main draw.
Twenty-three girls and 22 boys participated in the Suncoast Tennis Foundation Rookie Grand Prix in Clearwater last weekend.
Among the winners were Simone Berger of Pinellas Park in the girls 14-and-under division; Zachary Weiss, Palm Harbor, boys 14; Zach Holt, St. Petersburg, 12; and Phillippe Novikov, St. Petersburg, 10.
Consolation winners included Ariana Zayac of Safety Harbor (girls 12), Dalila Chiadni of St. Petersburg (16) and Julianne Gruber of Palm Harbor (10).
This weekend, Treasure Island Recreation Center plays host to the STF Rookie Grand Prix.
For information, call 360-6062.
Treasure Island Recreation Center is offering a Cartoon Network Tennis Club, a national program sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association and the Tennis Industry Association, to players 5-11.
For a $99 fee, participants receive two hours per week for eight weeks of classes, a Cartoon Network T-shirt, back pack, Scooby-Doo bobble-head, practice ball, activity book, water bottle and cap.
For information, call Phil Girardi, 360-6062.