TAMPA — The Green Machine 7.0 mixed team inched another step closer to a sectional berth with a victory over Arbor Greene Sunday morning, but grew more shorthanded after losing another player.
Already down Tom Layton (injured hamstring) and Mike Culumber (golf), the Green Machine suffered another blow when John Slatniske walked off the court and announced his retirement at an impromptu press conference.
Despite the Green Machine’s 2-1 victory, Slatniske was despondent after losing the only line of the day, at line 3, with Laura Baker.
Slatniske said he was disappointed by the score (6-4, 6-3), but seemed more upset that he lost to a guy wearing long pants and a thick sports sweatshirt.
“How did he not take that damn sweatshit off,” Slatniske asked, fighting back tears. “It was hot out. I was trying to run him all over the court. And he wouldn’t take his sweatshirt off. He taunted me by keeping that sweatshirt on. Maybe I’m not mentally strong enough for this game.”
Slatniske was coming off a tough win last week, when he and Baker blew a 5-1 lead and then scrambled back from 4-1. Friday, he failed to answer a single Family Feud question at the Hunter’s Green Club House. Saturday, he lost at 3.5 doubles with Bob Schmidt.
“I’ll miss him,” said Baker. “Not enough to beg him to come back or anything, since last week was such a chore and this week was just my second loss of 2016, but I guess I’ll miss that salt-and-pepper goatee of his, and that sparkle of hope in his eye before matches, before that sparkle was extinguished by a wave of forehands into the net, backhand slices that went long and the usual mishits at the net.”
Sunday capped a rough weekend.
“He’s one of the founding members of the Green Machine, so losing him will be tough,” said captain John Cotey. “I hope to sit down with him this week at Panera Bread at the Wiregrass Mall and talk some sense into him.”
Cotey said the return of Erik Hajek, who just returned from an overseas charity mission, could help get Slatniske back on the court. Some in the tennis media say it was Hajeks’s destruction of Slatniske at the club championships that started his downward spiral. Slatniske retired after that match, too, though he was talked back into playing.
“Listen,” said Hajek, another Green Machine founder. “Slats has retired 27 times since I’ve known him. We’re used to it. But are we concerned that 11 of those times has been in the last 12 days? Yes. Yes we are. I’m hoping a hug from the Big Bear can fix that and get him back on track.”
Slatniske’s teammates were distraught afterwards, holding back the sobs as they spoke of their departed teammate.
“Which one is Slatniske again,” said Julie Sakre, who played with Chris Ricketts at No. 1 doubles and posted an impressive 6-4, 6-3 win.
The win was Sakre’s second with Ricketts, who played his usual flawless game as the ladies on the courts nearby swooned over his silky soft game.
At No. 2 doubles, Cotey and Sharon Patterson won 6-2, 6-3. Their victory clinched the victory for the Green Machine, pushing their record to 5-0 officially, but 6-0 unofficially.
“When we saw Jim collapsing on the court next to us, we knew we had to wrap it up quick,” said Patterson. “I know Laura Baker is very good, and Jim is usually decent enough, but I knew when that sweatshirt stayed put, it was trouble. Not sure I’d retire just because of that, maybe his wife Lara can talk Jim into playing again.”
The Green Machine is now 6-0. Brandon is now 3-3. There are three matches remaining. Next week, the Green Machine hosts Brandon. You do the math.
OTHER NEWS: The Green Machine 3.5 team, suffering through a season filled with disinterest and uninterested players and little interest, lost 5-0 to Cheval on Saturday. The team had to forfeit two lines, and it was the first 5-0 loss in Green Machine history. The 3.5 scene at the club is dead. RIP, Green Machine 3.5, RIP.