Tourney organizer Sarmiento receives honor

Published February 16, 2005

Any player who has entered a Pinellas County tournament in the past 30 years knows Al Sarmiento .

What they may not know, however, is that the 76-year-old enjoyed outstanding careers in frontennis, jai lai and tennis. During a recent ceremony in Miami, Sarmiento was inducted into the Cuban Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in frontennis, a sport combining jai lai and tennis.

"I was very humbled by this recognition," Sarmiento said. "I was one of four recognized."

The induction was started two years ago by Spanish journalists in Miami who wanted to honor Cuban athletes. Cuba has a Hall, but President Fidel Castro refuses to recognize athletes who leave the island.

Havana-born Sarmiento learned to play frontennis at 8. By the time he was 17, he had captured the first of three national championships, 1946-48. Sarmiento also won four national doubles titles. In 1946, he represented Cuba in the Pan American Games, winning a silver medal.

"I retired from frontennis in 1951 because I wanted another challenge, and in 1952 I was amateur jai lai player of the year," Sarmiento said. "I left Cuba in 1952 and came back four years later playing jai lai. By then, I had lost contact with the other frontennis players because I was so young when I stopped playing."

Sarmiento competed in jai lai in Tampa in 1953-1961. After running a St.Petersburg bowling alley for 13 years, he became general manager of the former Paradise Island Golf and Tennis Club in Treasure Island. He remained there until it closed in 1993. It was then Sarmiento retired, began running St.Petersburg Tennis Center tourneys and stepped up his competition. Sarmiento achieved Florida's title in 65-and-over doubles with Bob Shoaf , and placed second nationally.

NET SHOTS: Among the singles champions in last weekend's Treasure Island Junior Challenge was Adam Ambrozy , the boys 10-and-under top seed. Finalists included Agathy Ambrozy (girls 12), Jennifer Floyd (16) and Michael Kopelman (boys 14). Consolation winners were Tiffany Easton (girls 14), Michael Beller (boys 12) and Brett Apter (18).

Joan Simmons defended her top seed to win the women's 35-and-over singles title in last weekend's SPTC Adult Championships in St.Petersburg. Jonathan Bloom was runner-up in the men's 35 class, and Steve Talner won the 45 consolation draw.

Among the singles winners in last week's West Coast Grand Prix at St.Petersburg Tennis Center were Mike Reilly (55), Ralph Howe (60) and Oscar Steckman (80). Jeff Lahm won the 55 consolation draw and Marc Mazo 55. In doubles, top seeds Dave Krebs and Ed Hamilton won the 65 and Peter Crewe and George McCabe won 70. Tom Avirett and John Dennis upset the No.1 players in a semifinal, then the second seeds in the final to win men's 80.

Nicholas Berning won the boys 18 consolation draw in the Orlando designated tournament.

LEAGUE NEWS: In the Senior Women's Doubles League, St.Petersburg Tennis Center (4-1) defeated Heritage Springs 3-0. Winners included Hedy Hunyady and Sarah Baile and Ursula Carroll and Theresa Walker . Kathy Light and Joan Malone collected a point by default.

In 3.5 senior, undefeated Shipwatch Tennis Club handed Renaissance Vinoy its first loss with a 2-1 victory. Posting Shipwatch wins were Lynne Norring and Cathy McTaggart and Karen Phipps and Judith Dunne . Scoring Vinoy's point was Xuan Duong and Ruth Ann Ott . Shipwatch, 3-2 in the 4.0 division, claimed a 3-0 win over the Racquet Club of St.Petersburg. Carol Nelson and Irene Haggar won in two sets. Linda Miller and Margaret Wood and Donna Dilonardo and Dixie Thompson won in three.

In the Senior Men's Doubles League, Shipwatch avenged an earlier loss to the Racquet Club with a 2-1 win. Scoring three-set victories for Shipwatch were Patricio Dillon and Pat Bitonti and Doug Godinho and Tom Borst . Recording the Racquet Club's point was John McQuillen and Hernan Molina .

In Super Senior Men's 3.5 Doubles, first-place St.Petersburg Tennis Center (6-0) scored its sixth consecutive win with a 3-0 decision over Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club. Straight-set winners for SPTC were Fred DeJohn and James Schroeder , Dennis McDaniel and Charles Smith and James Kelly and William Wallace . Second-place Shipwatch (5-0) beat Largo Tennis Center 3-0 on the play of Evan Odden and Henry Van Drunen , Leland Hibbs and Alan Smith and John Todia and Johnie Howard .

In Senior 8.0 Mixed Doubles, Shipwatch (5-0) took over first in the five-team league after a 2-1 win against Royal Racquet Club . Victoria Tuller and Mike Carrigan won in straight sets an d Janice Stone and Anthony Ruggiero captured a three-setter for Shipwatch. Royal's Debbie McCleery and James Liles posted a victory.