Court Cents......just my 2 bits worth
by Nancy Morgan
   Regardless of a player's skill level, the desire to compete is inherent. This month's feature highlights our local players that put their skills on the line and achieved at least a top-10 state ranking in 2010.
   At the head of the singles class are Ria Graham of New Port Richey and Jeff Davis of Treasure Island. Ria claimed the top spot in 70-and-over singles with an 8-1 tournament match record and Jeff finished No. 1 in the men's 50s after collecting a 22-1 win-loss record.
Ria Graham

"If you love tennis well enough, you may choose to go this route of tournament play, even though there are other opportunities to play and may feel that's enough," said Ria. "These days, I'm always practicing against players 20 years younger than me because it seems so many stop playing singles after 50 - not playing singles is not in my book!"

Ria said when she first began playing tournaments, especially in the Les Grandes Dames circuit, she always felt humbled by her opponents, many of whom brought impressive tennis backgrounds.

   "When you get into some of these tournaments, you're gonna be humbled at first," said Ria, "but, don't be devastated if you lose - you just go out again and again as you learn the ropes. Just think about playing a good game and try to get better."
   Ria certainly took her own advice and has become a formidable player in the National Senior Women's Tennis Association. Last year, Ria was selected to represent the USTA in Turkey in the 2010 Super-Seniors World Team Championships. Ria and her four teammates beat Ireland, Switzerland, Australia and Germany to claim the world championship!
   "I'm not sure why more women in Florida don't compete in tournaments - maybe they don't even know about them - but they would like it if they did," said Ria. "I don't plan to stop."
   Last weekend, Ria outplayed her competition in the Les Grandes Dames Spring Cup at East Lake Woodlands and won both the 70s singles and doubles (with Susan Martin from Sarasota)!
   USTA Florida's 2010 Male Player of the Year honoree Reinaldo Valor completed the 2010 season with a No. 2 state ranking based on a 23-7 win-loss match record.
   Claiming a No. 3 ranking for their singles success were John Miller in the 40s, Tom Avirett the 90s, Rick Workman the 55s and Kim Scullion women's 40s.
Rick Workman
   Rick Workman says tennis keeps you young at heart, and since leaving as East Lake Woodlands' tennis director over a year ago, he's kept himself young with a lot of tournament play.

"Tennis has been my family's lifestyle - for me, my parents, my brother - and it's always been all about having time," said Rick. "As a tennis director, you take care of a lot people and because of that I really hadn't had time to play singles in 30 years, although I always have loved to compete. With more time now available, I've really enjoyed competing - even played a tournament with my dad, who's ranked No. 4 in the 80s, and have had fun playing Florida's super senior circuit."
   When not competing, Rick keeps himself busy directing the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships, Little Mo International Open, U.S. Open Qualifying and Club Corps Team Championships, as well as still training some players and traveling a lot with his wife Mari.

   Ranked No.4 were Marc Mazo in the 60s and Dick Crawford the 75s. Debbie Hobbs in the women's 55s and Alex Deeb in the men's 60s were ranked No. 5.
   With dedication to their training, both Peter Haggar in the 35s and Greg Reardon in the 40s raised their rankings to No. 6.
"I'm really enjoying the competition and typically compete every weekend," said Greg. "I played high school and college tennis, and about four years ago started being competitive again."
   Greg gives indoor cycling a lot of credit for his No. 6 state ranking and plans to continue improving. Cycling has improved his confidence in knowing he's able to handle two consecutive grueling matches in a day.

"I play every day and try to hit with some of the best players in the area," said Greg. "I have some really good hitting partners, cycling has definitely helped me tremendously and my diet is better. Even though I'll be 50 soon, I plan to keep playing the 40s and to keep getting better."
Greg Reardon

Peter Haggar
   Peter is convinced his first win in the annual Dan Sullivan Invitational Tournament in Dec. 2009 launched his success in 2010 tournament play. That, along with losing 35 pounds, rigorous training directed by Vinoy tennis director Hans Gallauer and workouts with his brother Paul were vital to his raising his ranking in the 40s from No. 16 in 2009 to No. 6 last year in the 35s.

"I hadn't done cross-training since college, so that with before-work drills like side-by-sides, had a big impact for me and gave me confidence that I was in good shape and could stay out there in the sun if I needed to," said Peter. "Confidence is a huge part of tennis success, I believe. My goal this year is to play at least one national just to see how I do, and then, just keep competing."

   Other top-10 rankings were earned by Bob Meyerdierks (No. 7 in 80s), Jack Culley (No. 8 in 80s), Don Mathias (No. 9 in 70s), Jimmy Gatza (No. 10 in 45s) and Yaozhong Zhang (No. 10 in men's open).
   Leading the doubles teams in the No. 1 spot were Marc Mazo and Bradenton's Jared Florian in men's 60s, Don Mathias and Lakewood Ranch's Elmer Mangrum in 70s and Tom Avirett and Boca Raton's John Benn in 90s. Finishing second were Bob Meyerdierks with partner Clem Hopps of Sarasota in the 85s and Tom Grayson and Tony Ruggiero in the 60s. Ranked No. 3 were Leon Kennedy and Sarasota's Jim Tarsay in the 70s and Dick Crawford and Naples' Neil McDonald in 75s. Bud Steckman and Englewood's Richard Collier finished seventh in 85s.
   Tom, who turned 90 in August, started playing tennis at the insistence of a Long Island neighbor and after a trip to the Silver Thatch Inn in the Pompano Beach area, he fell in love with the game.

   "I joined the New York Athletic Club and played a lot of tennis, but when we moved to Florida, I realized I wasn't tournament qualified,”  said Tom. I was about 45 when we moved here and when I saw that practically everyone in Florida competes, I started competing, too. First, I played the 35s and 45s doubles, and then just kept on going."
   Tom played a variety of sports since he was around eight and earned a physical education degree in college. Over the years, he’s worked at clubs and ran courts with a son. One of the best things about tennis compared to golf, Tom said, was that one bad shot in golf and you ruin your score, but one bad shot in tennis and you can still recover!   

Tom on the far right with some of his tennis buddies at the St. Petersburg County Club

Congratulations to everyone who took the challenge of tournament play, and special kudos to all those that achieved success, big or small!
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