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Senior doubles teams battling for playoff spots

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2000

Playoff competition looms for top teams in the doubles league for players 60 and over that is sanctioned by the USTA Florida Section.

Following Tuesday's matches, the top two from the North and South divisions of the Super Seniors Men's Doubles League will meet for the right to advance to state competition in May. The semifinal playoff round is April 4, followed by the championship round April 11. The semifinal sites are to be determined, with the finals at Royal Racquet Club. That winner will represent Pinellas County in the statewide tournament in Pinellas.

Before Tuesday's matches, Shipwatch Tennis Club's 3.5 team, captained by Al Heller, and St. Petersburg Tennis Center, captained by Fred DeJohn, were tied with 6-1 records. They have split two meetings.

"We made it to the playoffs last year but lost," Heller said. "I think this year we're pretty equal with the others in the league."

Henry VanDrunen and Gerry Peace regularly defend the No. 2 position for Shipwatch and Charlie Eikner and Johnnie Howard protect the No. 3 spot, Heller said. The remaining five -- Heller, Billy Oliver, Buzz Zinn, Jim Mullins and Bill Nelligar -- mix and match for the top position.

"We've had pretty good success so far with this arrangement so we'll probably stick with it," Heller said.

The St. Petersburg Tennis Center's squad of nine mixes its players in all its positions, team member Doug Eadie said, and that strategy has been successful. In its six wins, it has won 17 of 18 individual positions compared to Shipwatch's 14.

Competing on the SPTC team with DeJohn and Eadie are Michel Antoine, Nick Karamessinis, Woody Woodberry, Brian Limberg, Bob Allen, Bob Rosenkranz, Andy Chau, Charlie Dorrell, and injured Jim McDonald.

Shipwatch and SPTC's North division opponents will be Timber Pines Tennis Club and one of the Innisbrook teams.

Also competing in the league has been Shipwatch's 4.0 team with injured Gene Biittner its captain. The team automatically advances to the May 18-22 state tournament. Playing the No. 1 position for Shipwatch is Al Blackburn and Harry Erbe, followed by Doug Godinho and Charlie Brusovich in the No. 2 spot.

"We use different combinations for the No. 3 spot and pretty much keep the same top two positions," said Biittner, who was instrumental in establishing the 60-and-over doubles league three years ago. "The top two have been together off and on over the years and are tough teams. We did pretty well last year and have a good chance at a good showing at state this year."

Rounding out the Shipwatch 4.0 squad are Alan Smith, John Finlayson, Peter Priston, Leon Hibbs, Harold Kligman and George Tochterman.

While the men's league is winding down, the women's is in its fourth of 10 weeks of competition. Participating are Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club, Innisbrook, McMullen, East Lake Woodlands and Timber Pines.

Hosting the super seniors and seniors state tournament in May are the St. Petersburg Tennis Center, Royal Racquet Club and Countryside Country Club. More than 150 teams are expected to participate among the two leagues.

SOUTH PINELLAS LEAGUE: Competition in the South Pinellas Ladies Doubles League concludes today with a makeup match between the two Isla del Sol Yacht and Country Club teams. Feather Sound Country Club's A team is in first place with 14 points, but a 2-0 win for the Isla B squad would result in a two-way tie for first.

The nine-team league was started by Sam Vuille, tennis director at Lakewood Country Club, four years ago and consists of two doubles positions per team. Each session lasts approximately 7-9 weeks and concludes with a luncheon and round robin.

CHALLENGER SERIES: Lakewood Country Club hosted the third contest in the Suncoast Tennis Foundation/District 12 Challenger Series 2000 for juniors 16 and younger last weekend. Winning for the girls were Morgan Basil, 8s; Shannon Parham, 10s; Kiara Lovett, 12s; and Kiashi Hosey, 14s. In boys competition, Robert Perry won the 8s; John Paul Owa the 10s; Jeffrey Singer the 12s; and Sammy Vuille the 14s. Consolation winners included Jerica Coley (8s), Kimberly Vuille (12s), Bishop Toupa (12s) and Gordon Ballingrud (14s).

Nearly 40 participated in the one-day competition. The fourth event in the Challenger Series 2000 will be in April at a time and site to be determined.

TUNE IN: Florida Tennis Talk, a 30-minute talk show, airs tonight at 9 p.m. on the Sunshine Network. Dave Kozlowski, a U.S. Professional Tennis Association master professional in Sarasota, is the show's host and executive producer. In its second year, the show features player/celebrity interviews, playing tips and tennis trivia contests among its lineup of activities.

SHORT SHOTS: The CASA Sportstacular scheduled for March 18 at the Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club was postponed to a date to be determined. Call the Center Against Spouse Abuse office at 895-4912 or Patti Ebadie at 593-9373. ... A USA Tennis Free for All is slated March 25 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Treasure Island Golf, Tennis and Recreation Center. No experience is necessary and equipment is available. Junior activities are at 9 a.m., intermediates at 10 and beginners at 11. Call Phil Girardi at 321-1135 or the center at 360-6062 for other details.

COMING UP: The Sarmiento Annual Championships begin Saturday at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center for players 18 and under in singles competition. Call tournament director Al Sarmiento at 360-2643 before today's deadline.

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