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Wet weather can't douse tennis spirits

By NANCY MORGAN, Times Sports Correspondent
Published August 30, 2007


Last weekend's Ultimate Tennis Summer Championships at Countryside Country Club in Clearwater may have been dampened by rain, but the intensity level never waned for the competitors.

Despite rain delays through Sunday, Tampa Bay league champions were named in five of the nine women's divisions and nine of the 12 men's. The remaining matches are to be played within a few weeks.

Pinellas winners include Indian Rocks Beach's Sonja Stubblefield in the women's 2.5, Shipwatch's Robyn Wittleder 3.0, McMullen's Deanne Horn 3.5, East Lake Woodland's Jim Cassidy 2.5 men, East Lake's Rohn Wright 3.5-minus, Bardmoor's Keith Lyle 3.5 and St. Petersburg Country Club's Gregg Greene 4.0.

Tampa Bay champions Horn, Wittleder and Lyle scored a second win after defeating the Southwest league champions to claim the Ultimate Tennis Regional title.

Horn had played tennis in the 1990s but gave up the game for about five years before returning three seasons ago.

"I had started thinking about playing again, and then I got a league brochure in the mail," Horn said. "It was like it was meant to be. In my first season back, I got to the 3.5-minus final but didn't win. This time I had good back-to-back matches. My strategy is to get back to basics, watch the ball and be in position."

Wittleder felt perhaps the tennis spirits were on her side when she faced Jane Forina in the Tampa Bay 3.0 final. Last season Farina won, but this time Wittleder prevailed to collect the league title and advance to the regional championship. Wittleder won 6-2, 6-3 to claim her first regional award in five seasons.

Wittleder began playing two years ago after she was introduced to cardio tennis by Linda Kettell at Largo's Southwest Tennis Center. Later, she began tennis lessons and now does both as often as possible.

Wright won his first season in three attempts with five match wins to the 3.5-minus title. Wright had played tennis regularly since college, but for the last 10 years has suffered from an irregular heartbeat that left him without much energy or stamina.

"I had a procedure done at the Cleveland Clinic to correct that, and I've been able to get back to a level that allows me to compete," Wright said. "This year, early on, I had some problems but I've progressed. The return of energy and stamina, plus a gain in consistency, have been factors in my success."

Finalists in the Tampa Bay championships include Pinellas players Hudson 2.5, Farina (3.0), Marian Fierro (4.0) and Jane Robinson (4.5) among the women. Finalists among the men include Brian Nash (3.0), Adam Packer (4.0-minus), Al-Abed (4.0) and Milan Matous (4.5-minus).

Tampa Bay final matches yet to be played place Seminole's Suzy Petrocelli against Tampa's Rachel Mayberry in the 3.5-minus, St. Petersburg's Kathy Moll versus Tampa's Denise Lyn 4.5-minus, East Lake Woodland's Donna Roberts opposite Tampa's Anna Fotopoulos 5.0, St. Petersburg's Brian Penney against McMullen's Ron Bedlack men's 5.5 and St. Petersburg's Clark MacCullough versus Clearwater's Phil Hubbell 6.0-minus.

CONNECTION AT THE OPEN: Among the eight players receiving U.S. Tennis Association wild cards into the women's singles main draw into the U.S. Open Tennis Championships are Ahsha Rolle of Miami Shores and Madison Brengle of Delaware.

In 2005, Rolle won the $10,000 Jim Coats Clearwater Women's Open, a USTA Pro Circuit event and is currently ranked No. 124. This year, Brengle reached Clearwater's USTA Pro Circuit final. Brengle, 17, is ranked No. 251.

LEAGUE NEWS: Countryside's finish in the 2.5 women's division was raised to second overall in the USTA Florida Adult League Championships after double disqualifications from opposing teams.

NET SHOTS: Today, Countryside Country Club teaching professional Mike Edison and partner Brett Johnson of Daytona Beach are leading a demonstration of beach tennis before heading to the national championships in Long Beach, NY.

Last month, the duo finished fourth in a Beach Tennis USA tournament in California.

- Royal Racquet Club hosted the state's mixed doubles championships this month for almost 50 players. State champions named were local players Karen Randazzo and Craig Hajdich in the 35-and-over division, Mary Jane Evertz and Kevin Manning 45 and Judy and Pat Siracusa 55.

- Royal hosted the Summer Classic, a designated singles tournament, for over 90 players. Local winners included Danielle Collins in the women's open, Nancy Boyce 55 round robin, Judi Morris 35 round robin and Marc Mazo the men's 55. Alex Deeb was a men's 55 finalist and Juan Segovia won the 35 consolation.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Next month is the 14th Annual Charity Tennis Tournament to benefit the Humane Society of Pinellas at Royal Racquet Club. Contact Judy Foster, 725-3681, for information on the Sept. 26-30 event.

The 23rd Annual Charity Pro/Am Tennis Tournament is Oct. 12-13 at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center. Contact All Children's Hospital, 767-8422. Amateur players can register with Jackie Keller, 823-2225, or Maria Cercone, 391-2205.

Nov. 2 presents Pretty in Pink, a one-day women's doubles tournament, at East Lake Woodlands. The Friday event will raise funds for local breast cancer patients. Contact Lisa Durkin at or Mari Workman at

Frenchy's 15th annual Gumbo Tennis Classic is Nov. 16-18 at the McMullen Tennis Complex. The Big Brothers Big Sisters benefit offers men's, women's and mixed doubles.

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.

[Last modified August 30, 2007, 01:00:18]

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