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Once-retired Sarmiento can't stay away from game

By LUCY MORGAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001


Since his first tournament in 1975, Al Sarmiento couldn't calculate how many events he's directed, but he knows there have been many.

Even when Sarmiento retired in 1993, he promptly was asked to direct the state-sanctioned tourneys at St. Petersburg Tennis Center, which he's done the last seven years.

"Doing the tournaments was a good way for me to keep in touch with the players, my friends, the pros and those at the academies after I retired," Sarmiento said. "I've been doing about eight tournaments a year at the center."

Sarmiento's credentials for conducting well-run tournaments include an award in 1993 for the best adult tournament in the state. In addition, the center began to see a profit from the events Sarmiento directed as the players flocked to his tourneys.

Perhaps Sarmiento's own competitive experiences have contributed to the success for juniors and adults. The Cuban-born Sarmiento is an accomplished jai alai player and in 1992 was inducted into the International Frontennis Association's Hall of Fame.

Frontennis is a combination of jai alai and tennis that uses a shorter court and a ball similar to a racquetball. After playing jai alai in Tampa in 1953-1961, Sarmiento directed a bowling alley for 13 years in St. Petersburg.

"I became the general manager at Treasure Island while it was being built in 1973," said Sarmiento, "and after that, I was at Paradise Island until it closed in 1993."

That was when Sarmiento began his short-lived retirement. It was during that time he competed again -- in tennis. He and his partner, Bob Shoaf, won the state's 65-and-over doubles title and were second at the national level.

In 1999, while playing in the state closed 70s singles final with a 6-2, 4-1 lead, Sarmiento suffered a rotator cuff tear. Through a long period of therapy, his goal was to play the same tournament the following year, which he did.

"I've competed all my life," said Sarmiento, "and I guess I'll just keep on competing."

Keeping up with the competition always hasn't been easy for Sarmiento. A bout with colon cancer 10 years ago and prostrate cancer last year sidelined him for a while, but he just keeps bouncing back.

Earlier this month, Sarmiento won the 70s singles competition in Royal Racquet Club's Spring Fling. In last weekend's Sarmiento Annual Championships at the center, Sarmiento saw aspiring area juniors bounce back to finish at the top of their age group.

Among nearly 80 players, Stacia Fonseca won the girls 18-and-under title in straight sets, as did top seeds Ryan Buchanan in the 16 division and Alex Gillott in 14.

Finishing second in the state-sanctioned tournament were Kaela Kennedy in the girls 18 class, Allison Sakiotis in girls 12 and Geoffrey Gilchrist in boys 14.

SENIOR MIXED PLAYOFF: Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club clinched the 7.5 doubles league playoff last weekend with a 3-0 win over the Racquet Club of St. Petersburg.

It took three sets, but Bardmoor's Mickie and John Gelestor defeated Janet Schafer and Tony Damouny 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the No. 1 position.

Erika Boardman and Bob Simister played three sets at No. 3 and won 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 over Racquet Club's Rosemary and Steve Uebel. Sylvia Hagerman and Jim Foster scored a 6-1, 6-2 victory in the No. 2 position over Suzanne Earle and Jack Weldon.

LINCOLN-WILSON FEST: Countryside Country Club has been selected as one of 25 sites nationwide -- the only one in the Tampa Bay area -- to play host to a Lincoln-Wilson Tennis Fest. The event is scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Adults should call Countryside, 796-1136, to reserve a spot. Countryside will be having an Open House on Sunday that includes an advanced junior clinic from 1:30-2:30 p.m., followed by a pee wee activity at 2:30. IT'S OFFICIAL: Terry Logan, chair of the District Officials Committee, encourages anyone interested in becoming a certified U.S. Tennis Association official to contact her at 864-3188 for training opportunities.

NET SHOTS: In last month's Seminole Winter Classic, Ashley Hood won the girls 12 singles title and Amanda Yogus the 14 crown. Nicholas Berning reached the 14 final, but the top seed was upset by No. 3 Denis Nayberg 7-6, 6-1. Local consolation winners included Simone Berger, in the division for 12-year-olds, Yumi Hasegawa, 16, and Michael Brady, 14. ... A National Tennis Rating Program evaluation clinic begins Friday at 7 p.m. at Countryside Country Club, 796-1136. ... April's Suncoast Tennis Singles meets at the Racquet Club on April 22. Call 527-0777 or (813) 926-6370.

THIS WEEKEND: Shipwatch Tennis Club is the site for the Junior Challenge. The tournament, for players 18 years old and younger, begins Saturday. To register or for more information, call the club, 596-6862.

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