Singles competitor learns game in a hurry

Published October 26, 2005

Some of Elizabeth Leitner's opponents refer to her as the human backboard. Others are amazed at her speed. The Austrian's results in the St. Petersburg Singles Flex League bear out the references to her consistency and quickness.

Leitner was unbeaten in 10 matches of the A-1 summer season to collect her second straight title in the women's top singles division.

"I started out in the city league five years ago in the B-1 division and hadn't played competitively before then," said Leitner, 51. "The last couple of years, I've played in the A-1 division.

"I started playing very late," she said. "There was no opportunity for me to play growing up in a family with 11 kids in Austria. Then, I was a skier and a runner."

Tennis came into Leitner's life when she moved to Southern California 15 years ago.

She saw a lot of people playing, so Leitner bought a wooden racquet for less than $2 and checked out a book from the library.

"I bought some balls and took my racquet and book out to start playing," Leitner said. "I truly started to love the game, from the the ball-and-racquet challenge to the running, exercise, thinking and skill."

Leitner moved to the St. Petersburg area in 1992 and started competing in the city league in 2000.

After winning the B-1 spring season in '02, she advanced to the A level. Wins in the summer A-3 in 2002 and the spring A-2 in '03 moved her to A-1. "This is a fun league and a good way to meet people," Leitner said. Leitner describes her style as that of an all-arounder willing to attempt to get to every ball. Though in doubles she generally plays the forehand side, Leitner works at being equally strong and consistent on both sides.

With the city league's fall season in progress, Leitner hopes to defend her A-1 title among the six-player division as it competes in a double round-robin format.

"I've also hooked up with some octogenarian players who are very fit," Leitner said. "Ultimately, my goal is to stay as fit as they are and one day start my own league for 80-plus-year-olds."

NET SHOTS: The Treasure Bay Sharks, a 12-and-under intermediate coed team, won 57 games and the Treasure Bay Ducks, an 18-and-under coed squad, added 106 to help USA Tennis Florida win its second straight Georgia-Florida Challenge. In all, 20 teams each from Florida and Georgia competed in the eighth challenge, with Florida collecting 1,858 games to Georgia's 1,631.

Among the winners in last weekend's Haunted Rookie Tournament at Largo Tennis Center were top seeds Kelly Taylor (girls 12-and-under), Jackson Kettell (boys 12) and Michael Rainwater (16).

Other winners included Lauren Jensen (girls 16) and Megan Johnson (14). Runners-up included Yasmin Franco (girls 12), Mary Wynner (14), Mason Beiler (boys 10), Steven Bruzek (12), Manjot Sodhi (14) and Richard Wilson (16). Collecting consolation victories were Taylor Kreis (girls 12), Erica Scaglione (14), Brendan East (boys 12) and Brandon Myers (14).

LEAGUE NEWS: The Renaissance Vinoy recorded its first victory in the USTA Adult Mixed 7.0 Doubles League with a 2-1 decision over East Lake Woodlands. Carolyn and Nick Pavonetti produced a straight-set win in No. 3 doubles, and Jodi and Jim Matson clinched the team victory at No. 1 in a three-setter.

The Vinoy raised its mark to 3-1 in the 8.0 division with a 2-1 victory over McMullen/Spa. Carol Fontaine and Don Mathias won in straight sets in No. 3, and Sharon Cowan and Thi Duong secured the team win at No. 2 with a three-set victory. Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club posted its second win in 8.0 with a 2-1 decision against St. Petersburg Tennis Center. Gale Nickerson and David Marger in No. 1 and Yvette and Jon Bean at No. 3 scored wins for Treasure Island. Joan Simmons and Dale Reed won in No. 2 for SPTC.

Shipwatch Tennis Club improved its record to 5-0 in the Senior Women's 7.5 Combo League with a 2-1 win over East Lake. Shipwatch is first in the five-team division. Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club is leading the 6.5 competition.

In Senior Men's Combo League action, Feather Sound is first in 6.5, East Lake is on top in 7.5 and Countryside leads 8.5.

Super Senior Doubles for players at least 60 and Super 70 Doubles action for those at least 70 begin in January. Teams in the men's and women's divisions consist of three doubles positions per squad in 2.5-5.0 NTRP levels. Contact women's coordinator Carol Levin (clevin01@tampabay.rr.com) or men's coordinator David Wisotsky (adswiz@msn.com)

There's time to register for the South County Men's Doubles League. Call St. Petersburg Country Club, 867-9105.

PERFECT GIFT: If you're in search of that special present for a player or potential player, consider a life membership in the U.S. Tennis Association. Through December, the cost is $400. In January, the fee increases to $750. The money is directed toward developing the sport. For information, go online to www.usatennisflorida.com and click on membership.

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 796-5559; e-mailed to namorgan46@msn.com or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.