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Wheelchair tennis stars show passion

By Nancy Morgan, Times Sports Correspondent
Published February 20, 2008


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For the third consecutive year, professional wheelchair tennis players will stage an exhibition at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg. The public is invited.

Beginning at noon Friday, four professional wheelchair players will showcase their skills and interact with spectators. The activity involves a partnership with the school and the Baseline Wheelchair Tennis Foundation, initiated by Academy graduate and foundation founder Bob Waldman.

Waldman, a 20-year-plus tennis official, was drawn to wheelchair tennis several years ago after watching some matches at the U.S. Open. Assisting wheelchair players in raising funds for their competition expenses and enriching the recognition of the sport has been Waldman's passion ever since.

"The exhibition has been so well received in the past," Waldman said. "The players thoroughly enjoy the ambience that is created by the Academy and all the fans. ... One of the things we want to show is that you can overcome anything if you have passion. Our wheelchair athletes certainly show that's true."

Wheelchair tennis entered the 1992 Paralympic Games as a competitive sport and is played in more than 80 countries.

On Friday, the exhibition matches will include John Johnston of Gainesville, Paul Walker of Lakeland, Karin Korb of Atlanta and Sarah Casteel of South Carolina. Johnston was ranked No.24 in the world, and Walker reached as high as No.5 nationally. Walker has coached the U.S. Women's national wheelchair team.

Korb, a two-time Paralympian, is a former No.1 U.S. player and the first female to compete in a USTA tournament against able-bodied players. Casteel, 24, is a newcomer to the circuit and is a recent college graduate.

"The kids just love this day and are always amazed at the players," said Alison Lescarbeau, the Academy's director of public relations and communication. "In the past, they have been really moved by them, and I know will be again this year, especially with Sarah being so young."

Assisting Waldman will be Jay Snyder, a former U.S. Open tournament director 1993-2002, acting as the umpire during Friday's exhibition.

The school is located at 501 Park St. N., and may be contacted at 384-5500. To learn more about the foundation, visit www.baselinewheelchairtennis.org.

LEAGUE NEWS: An Adult League captains meeting is scheduled to begin Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Feather Sound Country Club. League action should begin by mid March.

NET SHOTS: Among the winners at last weekend's Winter Super series at Harbour Island Athletic Club were singles players Emily Dvorak (girls 16-and-under) and Jasen Norris (boys 10). Claiming wins in doubles were Robert Dvorak and Stephen Goldman (boys 14), Adam Ambrozy and Gabriel Pilones (boys 12), and Norris and Noah Makarome (boys 10).

ONE-ON-ONE DOUBLES: The public is invited to observe NCAA-approved one-on-one doubles action when the University of Tampa hosts Bates College from Maine beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday. A free one-on-one doubles clinic will follow. For more information, contact Ed Krass at (813) 684-9560 or oneononedoubles@yahoo.com or visit the Web site at www.oneononedoubles.com.

COMING UP: Seminole Lake Tennis Center hosts a Local Winter Classic beginning Saturday. Call 394-1733. ... St. Petersburg CC hosts its Raymond James Super Senior Grand Prix beginning Monday. Call 867-9105.

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

[Last modified February 19, 2008, 23:18:10]


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