Since everything has slowed down until October, I thought I’d take a look at the first half of the 2016 year and see what we’ve accomplished. I have only included, for the most part, Green Machine Inc. players, as well as those that played for 7.5 combo Smash! and women’s teams captained by Phuong, which, I believe, is just about all of them:
Best first half performance: Sakre and Ricketts.
This was easy. Julie Sakre and Chris Ricketts had never played together when they took to the court on Feb. 14, 2016. But Cupid must have shot an arrow through their racquets that day GOOD LORD THAT IS AWFUL WRITING I DIGRESS…and they hit it off immediately. The tandem was 2-0 for the 7.0 Green Machine 40-over mixed team in the regular season, and then turned in a spectacular 4-0 performance at sectionals, playing line 1 in each victory. They fought off a match-point in the most crucial match of the weekend, Julie taught Chris that yes, you can twerk on the tennis court and still play well, and while everyone else had their ups and downs at sectionals, Ricketts and Sakre were a RAKRE. Get it, like Rock, but I combined their OH FORGET IT. But seriously….it was awesome. Definitely the best sectionals performance I have seen. Solid like a Rakre. (Oh, shut up, like you can do any better).
Men’s MVP: Ricketts and Tom Layton.
Well, let’s see — after a spectacular 40-over mixed season, Ricketts decides to leave the Green Machine and in 18-over, without that certain win every week, they don’t make sectionals. However, even without Ricketts, the 18-over would have made sectionals if West Meadows and their damn hard courts hadn’t prevented Tom Layton from playing; as the team lost both those matches, as well as the finale against Brandon when Tom was sick. So, uh, yeah, it’s pretty obvious. Can’t decide if I admire the two guys for their automatic wins, or hate them.
Runner-up: Ron Reiter
So this guy from Pinellas County named Ron Reiter calls Tampa Palms, and they can’t use him, so Allegra Campos passes his number on to Cotey, who signs him up for the 6.5 combo team. Cotey didn’t expect much. He would just be a warm body, probably. Well, turns out, he might be the key piece that gives the Green Machine the depth to win sectionals. Reiter was 7-7 overall in Pinellas, but he played with five different partners as a Green Machinist, and went 5-0.
Women’s MVP: Cherie Smith.
She just won’t lose.
Cherie is 21-0 this season, which we’re guessing will be her last as a 3.0. In mixed doubles playing for the 6.0 and 7.0 teams, she was 12-0 and dropped just two
sets (while also going 3-0 at the Morningstar Tennis Tournament at Carrollwood and winning that, too. She probably had an incredible partner that weekend, though, if I had to guess).
In regular doubles, she is 5-0 and hasn’t dropped a set, and eight of the 10 sets she has played have been by 6-3 or worse scores. And at singles, she is 4-0 playing for the 3.5 team and would likely rank among the top 5 singles players when you include all the 3.5s at Hunter’s Green.
It’s going to be a sad day when she loses for the first time and just becomes a regular old player that we can go back to ignoring.
Runner-up: Tie, Sharon Patterson and Nini “Niiiiniiiiiiii!!!” Torres.
I may be wimping out by splitting this, but these are two very different players who produce very similar results, which is to say, all they do is win, win, win.
Patterson is the definition of steady, putting up a 25-7 record so far this year, playing exclusively doubles. She was 4-0 in the 7.0 mixed 40-over season, picking up a fifth win at sectionals. But she also played 8.0, and went 2-1 against much stiffer competition. In the recently completed 7.0 18-over season, she was 4-2, with both losses coming in third set tiebreakers.
Nini is also a good doubles player — she is 5-0 combined in the past 18- and 40-over mixed doubles seasons, and 12-5 overall in doubles, but sometimes you forget how good of a singles player she is. Utterly dominant, Nini is 9-0 in singles this year, and check out her scores:
6-0, 6-0 (forfeit).
Men’s Rookie of the Year: Jeff Lucas
Lucas finally signed up for USTA tennis, joining the prestigious Green Machine and then promptly going out and losing his first set 6-4. But playing with fellow 3.0 Jimmy Dicesaro (making that a 6.0 combo, by the way), he rallied to a victory in his 6.5 debut. Though he hurt his knee in the process and may have ended his tennis career, he was able to smile through the pain while enjoying a victory chicken sammich. We’re pretty sure with a little work, Lucas could contend for the 3.0 club title next year.
Women’s Rookie of the Year: Joy Allee
Joy’s competitive fire makes her one of the club’s rising hot shots. Generally, it is the men who can be ill-tempered and foolish-looking racquet-throwers (oh, shaddup!), and I’m not saying Joy is that at all. But she has that same I-hate-losing-Damn-I-mean-I-really-really-really-hate-losing attitude. Personally, I think that can be a good thing, if harnessed, and Joy seems to use it to her advantage. When you mix in her ever-improving strokes and athleticism, you have the next Hunter’s Green stud.
Most Improved Man: Stephen Hunter.
Hunter has put a lot of work into his game, and it shows. Hunter was 0-2 in USTA action in 2015, but in 2016 is 10-12. That includes 2 wins in 6.5 combo playing for Tampa Palms, and a 5-0 record playing 6.0 mixed, a team he stepped up to captain this season that will be playing in sectionals in October. He plays Ultimate Tennis, where he was 6-0 and earned the No. 1 seed in the -3.5 division before falling in the quarterfinals, and in the MP Tennis ladder, and is a regular on the courts at the club. He still lacks that signature win, but he’s working harder than anyone else at achieving it.
Most Improved Woman: Tibbie Farnsworth
Tibbie might be the luckiest unluckiest tennis player in the world. First, she gets bumped down to 2.5, which knocks her off a number of Hunter’s Green teams and almost to the brink of tennis retirement. But she then finds a home on a West Meadows 3.0 team, and it goes to sectionals. At sectionals, Tibbie plays five matches, winning twice at doubles and once at No. 1 singles. She parlays that performance into a spot on the 6.0 mixed team, going 3-0, and guess who is headed back to sectionals again! Yep. Tibbie. The luckiest unlucky player in the world.
Top Teams of the First Half
1. Green Machine, Mixed, 40-over.
This 7.0 team was so damn good. It went 8-1 in the regular season, and went to sectionals where it started out 1-0, then suffered a crushing loss. The Green Machine went into the last day needing to beat Collier but without dropping more than one set (we did) and needing Innisbrook to win 2-1 over Orlando but not in straight sets (it did). That sent the 7.0 squad to the semifinals, where it lost 2-1. Totally overachieved. It was awesome.
2. Green Machinettes, Combo, 6.5
Phuong’s squad is headed back to sectionals after a 6-0 regular season in which it just wrecked everyone, dropping three lines all season. Thanks to the strength of its 3.0 class — Cherie, Sakre and Marisa Martin — the 6.5 team could repeat last year’s strong performance at sectionals. Either way, it’s gonna be a party, y’all.
3. 7.5 Smash
When Cotey and a few others started trying to organize a 7.5 team, there wasn’t a lot of interest. There were about four 3.5s committed, but the 4.0s, we were told, preferred to play up at 8.5. So we scrapped the team. Then we decided to try it again, sent in the form to the USTA… then scrapped it again after a few more rejections. So Cotey pulled in a doubles team from Arbor Greene and the great Chris Ricketts while Greg Morrissey helped recruit a few guys, and the day AFTER the deadline we called USTA and said never mind, we’re in! That team went on to finish 7-1, clinched a sectional berth with two matches left to play in the regular season, and is goooooood!
4. Green Machine, 6.5 Combo
You know how when you have multiple children, and you have that one favorite? OH COME ON JUST ADMIT IT! Anyway, this is that kid. This is the kid that gets dirty playing in the mud, breaks an arm every two years falling out of a tree, comes home from school wearing just one shoe…and is always there on father’s day, to give you an ugly tie and a hug. Sniff. IS IT DUSTY IN THIS DAMN ROOM???? Anyway, the original brainchild of Cotey, Hajek, Daws and Slatniske, I love me the Originals, the Ol’ Gangstas, the Genesis. Three seasons, three league championships, and if they are ever going to win sectionals, this is the year.
5. Green Machine, 7.0 Mixed, 18-over
It came down to one final match….I can’t. I just can’t….
Men’s Breakout Player: Hunter.
Dear Steven, don’t let this go to your head. You are still the second-best player in your household. (Hi Marisa!)
Women’s Breakout Player: Julie Sakre
Cotey was tooling around on the USTA site one night when he noticed this hotshot 3.0 playing on the Tampa Palms 3.5 team, and winning at singles, no less. So he nudged his wife and said ‘You oughtta get her.” What a brilliant man.
Sakre was awesome during mixed seasons, going a combined 8-1 (see above). And playing for Phuong’s 6.5 combo studs, she was 3-0. She will go to sectionals with that team, and we’ve seen what she does at sectionals already, haven’t we?
Predicted Bust Out Player, Men, Second Half: Patrick Rairigh
Rairigh has been threatening the youngsters for months while he rehabilitated his new knees, and he is already predicting that his first singles win with the new joints will come at the hands of John Slatniske. He’s a frisky old man, and might be a little delusional. Or, he’s not. I’m glad Slatniske will be the first to find out. But a Rairigh resurgence could be the difference between the upcoming 3.5 men’s team making sectionals or not.
Predicted Bust out Player, Women, Second Half: Janice Fisher
Fisher took her lumps last USTA season in mixed doubles, losing all seven matches she played. But her captains, Nikki Spirakis and Phuong, speak highly of her. She is scrappy and tough, and when there isn’t any tennis to be played she’s rocking out on Stadium Court to some tennis aerobics. She notched her first USTA win on Aug. 13, teaming up with Sharon Patterson to win 6-4, 6-3 in over-50 combo ball. It won’t be her last win this season, you can bet on that.
SportsWoman of the First Half: Marisa Martin
If you don’t love playing with Marisa, then you are dead to me. D-E-A-D. Martin is one of those players that doesn’t mind taking a few tips you might have, enjoys winning more than just about anyone, and takes defeats just about harder than anyone. And that includes practice matches. Marisa is as likely to text her captains for two straight days after a win, breaking it down. But after a loss? It’s more like five straight days. Not only is she 21-5, including 10-0 in mixed doubles, but she is is capricious, chatty, congenial, courtly and chivalrous, but she’s a treat to have around.
Captain of the First Half: Phuong Cotey
I used to think I was good. I mean, what, four sectional appearances in the past two years, team shirts that are club famous, and a blog for God’s sake. A FREAKING BLOG!!!!! But then I saw Phuong sit down with her roster and map out her lineup for the whole damn season, which took her three days. She took a 6.5 combo team that lost its top-rated player and guided them back to sectionals with a perfect record. She is apparently so good, some over-50s approached her about captaining an over-50 combo team, even though she’s like, what, 32? Or something? Regardless, she is captaining an over-50 combo team she isn’t even playing on. And if you’ve ever seen her work her cell phone to set up practices every night of the week for her players, well….but the clincher is, Phuong is a beloved captain who seems to be adored by her players, and other than an occasional kiss on the cheek from Erik Hajek or a pat on the ass (and sometimes, a long, lingering squeeze) from Slatniske, who can match that?