Friday, April 27, 2007

Week two in 5.0

I apologize for the brevity and the tardiness with the 5.0 report. The teams have not reported their scores so I had to track down some information through a couple of friends.

Based solely on ratings, the Rice team looked like it wouldn't be that competitive in 5.0 this year. They have 2 5.0's, 6 4.5's and a 4.0 on their roster. Hardly intimidating. But through week two they're undefeated. The lesson is clear: when you have a (singles) horse, you ride him. Arun Nanjappa is 2-0, this week taking out the formidable Marlon Mazique rather easily. (I believe it was straight sets, but haven't heard the scores). In the 5.0 division, one player can provide half of the lines you need to win a match. That's huge. The Rice doubles lineup looks weak. In week one they got a win from a guy (Allen Tran) who has spent many years playing 4.0. I'm still thinking the doubles will catch up with them, but with a guy like Nanjappa, they've always got a puncher's chance.

The Met made their debut last night, and pulled out a victory by taking both of the doubles lines. Their lineup is littered with names unfamiliar to league and tournament players. Many of them are rich country club types "slumming" with the rest of us. But they can play some ball. I don't THINK they have that one super stud singles player that so many successful 5.0 teams rely on. But who knows. The jury is still out on most of their players. It's nice to have some new blood in a 5.0 league that has been quite stale for years.

Week Two in 4.5

The much-anticipated battle between Kingwood and Hangovers lived up to its billing, with a few surprises along the way. When Raymond Santiago joined the Kingwood roster, it seemed like he would be nothing more than a filler. Last summer playing for Rice he was 3-4 playing mediocre competition (with mediocre partners). Santiago had been quite a player many years ago, but he seemingly had regressed. Last night he and Adam Paschal pulled off a stunner as they straight setted the mighty duo of Green-Morton. The other doubles went according to form: Li/Huffman fairly easily over Ullrich/G. Stevens and Hurlbert/Pekar over Bobo/Burkhart.

It all came down to the singles. David Guy pulled out a somewhat surprising routine victory over Phi Huynh, four and three. Thus, with the match all square, it came down to Armstrong and Deluca. On a cool night, fitness was not a huge factor. The key, clutch points went Armstrong's way, as he sandwiched two tiebreak victories around a lackluster second set and secured the win for Kingwood.

Assuming that the Yutts took out MIB and that the Kingwood appeal is denied, we now have a four way tie for first in this division.

In Division I, Ssshhhwing again put out a very weak singles lineup but managed to hold on to all three doubles lines to secure a harder than expected 3-2 victory over Lost Forest (who apparently WILL field a team). If Ssshhhwing could just borrow Rice's singles players they'd be in good shape (they're not doing RICE any good!). It looks like a 3-way battle for the two playoff spots between Jedi Knights (who should win division), Shwing and No Way Out.

In Division III, Rice fielded a doubles lineup riddled with 4.0 players and wasted the singles wins of Magid and Kudva. Sugar Creek appears to have moved John Day into singles this year (where's Cooney been?), but he didn't have enough to really test Magid. Not many in this league do.

The Black Sheep moved to 2-0 with an easy win over the Ball Busters. The Black Sheep also have a doubles lineup riddled with 4.0 players. That will catch up with them in the long run.

Week Two in 4.0

There was a heavyweight battle in division IV of 4.0 last night as the Hurricanes faced Rice's Saints. After dispensing of their "warmup matches" last week, both teams entered the match undefeated and looking to settle some scores from last year.

The Hurricanes showed that they're much more than a one man team as superstar Sarosh Ahmed was not in the lineup. Eddie Janek has straight setted two very competent 4.0 players in two weeks, beating Wade Karel 6-2, 7-5. In an interesting strategic decision, Chris Reese played #2 singles while Brian Goldberg played #3 doubles. Reese came up short against Quack Bui but Goldberg and Richard Patton had little trouble at line 3. Both of the other doubles were also straight setters. Knutson and Wood won easily at line 1 while the Saints Swartley and Lemus dropped Morris and Tran-Park to 0-2 on the season.

All in all, the match lacked the drama that might have been expected with no third set tiebreakers or nerves to worry about. While the Hurricanes are in the driver's seat for the division title, Rice can comfort itself with the fact that they will be in the opposite bracket from Rice in city playoffs (assuming they get there) and will still have a good shot at Sectionals.

In 4.0 Division I, Copperfield's Copperheads have established themselves as the main early contender to mighty Lakeside. The Copperheads have several players with 4.5 experience and crafty veteran Sam Ahn will be a tough out for any 4.0 in singles. The Lakeside match is late in the season and may be for the Division Championship.

Division two is a tale of the haves and have nots. Three teams are winless and three undefeated. The JCC dudes have dropped just one line so far. We may find out what the Dudes are made of next week when they take on Chancellor's. Jerry Pham is always tough to beat at #1 singles. Phuong Le has improved...but is he good enough to consistently win at line 2?

On paper, Division III seems a notch below the others. Sienna Plantation has the early lead.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An hour from kickoff

Well, we're an hour from the start of week two matches and there has been surprisingly little roster activitiy. Typically, you can count on last minute week two additions to be in the starting lineup, but this year teams have done little scrambling and little unveiling of "ringers" despite a few marquee matchups.

In 4.5, Kingwood has added Ricky Barrera, who has been a fixture on their past teams. Expect to see him in the singles lineup tonight against the Hangovers, perhaps with Gary Armstrong or Phi Huynh. The Hangovers added just David Guy, who will probably also be playing singles. I won't be surprised to see the match decided 3-2 tonight, with a third set tiebreaker or two being the difference. I'm still surprised that the Hangovers have stood pat with what they have. Ssshhhwing added Adrian Melchor, who appears to be a weak player on paper. Rice added 3 4.0 players. One would hope they don't need to use them tonight.

In 4.0, there has been little roster movement. The big matchup between Rice and Hurricanes has produced no last minute roster moves. About the only notable addition to a roster is Chancellor's addition of one of their stronger players from last year, Tom Le.

In 5.0 there has been no roster movement, but the 5.0 division is famous for its last minute moves as captains play cat and mouse with each other. I'm sure there will be a move or two in the next hour.

Good luck to everyone tonight.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm sure this will bore most of you, but...

Some captains might be interested to know this stuff. The question about DNTRP's in a retired match was asked because Sarosh Ahmed, the top 4.0 league singles player, won by a 2-0, retired score in the first week against David Romero, a very good 4.0. If the match went into the ratings computer as a 6-0, 6-0 he might be in danger of being red flagged.

Here's Cheryl's answer: As usual, she is doing a superb job.

Below is the rule question answer. This is in our HTA rules under General Information (Scoring and team Format; scheduling match times)
Once lineups are exchanged, matches are to be played in good faith and according to the exchanged lineups. HTA does not schedule the match times for the teams and therefore cannot adhere to defaults from the bottom up. For example, line # 1 singles is scheduled to play at 8:15 PM and the player cannot arrive for the match promptly and is defaualted. That exchanged scorecard stands as exchanged and agreed upon by the team captains. However, if teams call in advance to default a line, it must be from the bottom up in accordance with USTA rules.
During the Citywide Championships HTA does dictate the time schedule for the matches. For example, if we do not have all five lines playing at the same time, then it is stated that # 1 and # 2 singles and # 1 doubles play at 7:00, followed by # 2 doubles and # 3 doubles. Also at the Citywide Championships HTA does enforce the USTA league rule that matches must be defaulted from the bottom up, if a team has to default. This is in our citywide championship guidelines.
Concerning retirements due to injury. etc:
The score should be reported in Tennis Link in accordance with what the scores were when the match was retired. Example: 2-1 and marked as a retirement instead of a completed match. The system will give the winning team the balance of the games won to complete the match in calculating the scores. The NTRPs will not be affected by this. It is also important when a team does default as match it is recorded as a default and not a completed match. Defaults are not used to calculate NTRPs, completed matches are.

Week Two Preview

As you can tell from the comments to the previous post, the Kingwood - MIB default has sparked quite a bit of controversy. I believe there is an appeal board which decides these things. They have their work cut out for them. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.

In the 5.0 division this week, the Met team makes their debut. The team seems to have some potential, but the jury is still out on several of their players, almost all of whom I've not seen play and have little history. The Met may not get a good test this week, however.

The Lost Forest "dynasty" appears to have run its course. With Eliot Lopez's departure it seemed logical that Robert Bickmore would pick up the slack. He was absent last week and Don Rios is just not going to get the job done at #1 singles. Frederic-Saint Louis appears to be a very good player, but wasn't enough to get past 4.5 player Red Benzon in doubles.

Team Teague has to be considered the early favorite, though Varun Pandit probably won't be the answer. Can't see him taking out Arun Nanjappa this week, but Teague's team should sweep the doubles. Won't be surprised to see a different singles player for Teague this week. Carpenter or Sombito, perhaps.

In 4.5 we have some heavyweight matchups this week. Of course, the main bout will be between Kingwood and the Hangovers. I'm still expecting Burkhart's team to add some firepower for singles. Kingwood should have all their top guns there (perhaps even on time?) for such a big early season matchup. Somehow I doubt we'll see Jimmy Kilshaw playing singles this week.

The Jedi Knights will make their on court debut on Thursday against a tough Ssshhhwing squad. Ryan Cooper is too tough for Reynaldo Leija in singles. Chris Hunckler might be able to give him a run for his money. We might find out this week where Andre Dafel's game is at right now.

In the other division, Westside has an easy one and will be 2-0 if they dispatch of the Ball Busters. The big match is between Rice and Sugar Creek. Sugar Creek doesn't look to have the strength they've had in past years, at least so far. Rice looks like they'll be a mirror image of past Rice teams: a few really good players on a team that misses the playoffs. I don't believe they've EVER made the playoffs, due mainly to a lack of commitment and some questionable lineup choices in the past. Even with a new captain, it may be more of the same this year for Rice.

In 4.0 there is a matchup equally as intriguing as the 4.5 heavyweight battle as Rice and the Hurricanes mix it up yet again. Bill Hunt and Jason Freeman will be having nightmares about each other. Last year Rice took out Freeman's team in the city finals. The teams look poised to meet each other three times again this season.

Lakeside plays MIB II in a battle of two teams that may contend for spots. Lakeside is always dangerous. We may find out something about their singles players this week. Bret Hern and Eddie Perdomo appear to be the singles guys, but they may have their hands full with Steven Hoysan this week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

4.5 Update

First off, Cheryl has told people that the 4.5 division citywide playoffs will include two teams from each division. I'm assuming there will be two divisions of 3 teams each playing round robin format, similar to the 4.0 division.

Secondly, the Kingwood-Men in Black match is in dispute. Apparently some of Kingwood's players WERE quite late, but there are other issues at play as well. Even if the match is a loss, Kingwood should have no trouble qualifying for the playoffs, as it appears that 50% of the teams will make it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Shocking Opening Day

I have to admit that from a fan's perspective I find the 4.5 division the most interesting. There are enough good teams to make it intriguing, but also enough potential upsets to make every week potentiall disastrous for the "good" teams.

However, I would never have believed that the "JV" Copperfield team could pull off an upset over mighty Kingwood. They did it the old-fashioned defaults. Kingwood captain Jimmy Kilshaw is perhaps the most likeable captain in the city, so I feel bad for him. Apparently he had some problems getting his players out there. Copperfield's Men in Black have just 5 players rated above 4.0 on their roster, yet won both singles and #1 doubles by default. (This brings up a totally off topic question that I would love hear Cheryl address in the "comments" section: According to the USTA rules, lines are supposed to be defaulted from the bottom up: line 3 should be defaulted before 2, etc. In a league with staggered starting times, are captains supposed to ignore that rule and just default whoever doesn't show up?)

I'm not sure what happened to Kilshaw's players. With a roster of 15 it's hard to believe only 4 could make it. With two lines starting at 7 and 3 at 8:15 I'm shocked they couldn't get people out there by 8:15 and try to sweep the three played lines.

There was another big upset in 4.5, this one taking place on the court. Westside took out Rice. Jonathan Magid didn't play and Ryan Kudva was taken out in straight sets at line 1 singles by Atushi Fukanaga. Fukanaga had a spotless record in the HTA doubles league, including a win over 5.5 player Blessing Bvunzawabaya Westside is more of a factor than I thought. Rice's line 3 doubles of Mike Palladino and Roy Coe put up a feeble effort and got crushed by a team that is not that strong.

As usual, the 5.0 captains have not yet reported their scores. They often take weeks.

I'm off on tangents today, but I wanted to give credit to Jochen Moser's 5.0 team, which lost its first match 2-1. Nowadays with so many sandbaggers and tankers and overly competitive teams, it's nice to see a bunch of guys play a bit above their heads in order to get some good competition and practice and maybe improve their games.

In 4.0 the presumptive favorites (Rice and the Hurricanes) rolled on. The Hurricanes had a bit of a scare, winning 3-2, but were just points away from a sweep against a Heat team that many thought would prove difficult. Sarosh Ahmed won his match 2-0 retired. Another totally off topic question: For DNTRP purposes, does that go down as a 6-0, 6-0 win? (I'm not sure even Cheryl would know the answer to that one. Anyone who knows, please post in the comments section. Thanks)

Back with more later.

Roster Updates

Unlike in previous years, there was little last minute roster activity yesterday. The 5.0 division saw its usual last second scurrying to sign up on a couple of teams. Lost Forest added some of its usual cast of characters (Bryan Taylor) and a new name in Frederic Saint-Louis. I've got no info on him, but I'm guessing he's a player. Allen Teague, as always, filled up his roster at the eleventh hour. His roster has some new names: 19 year old stud Varun Pandit, John Guerrero and Pedro Gedda (who self rated as a 3.0).

In 4.5 there was little activity. Maybe the Hangovers have no ringers this year? Doubtful. I'm sure they're saving them for their "big" match next week with Kingwood. Ssshhhwings filled out their roster a bit, but nothing earth shattering. Justin Benoit might help them out, but their singles still seems weak. Maybe the most interesting development in 4.5 rosters was the fact that Lost Forest didn't fill theirs up. Lost Forest was not going to be a factor regardless, but if they DO try to play and field 4.0 talent each week or even default lines every week, the other teams in that bracket (Ssshhhwings and a surprising Westside (more on that later)) might dramatically improve their chances of taking the wild card spot by fattening up their records. Kingwood or the Hangovers could get left out of the playoff mix. I doubt that will happen, but it's something to keep an eye on.

In 4.0 the rosters were almost completely filled well in advance. There were a few late additions, but it remains to be seen if any of them are difference makers.

I didn't get a chance to make it out to the courts last night, so my results update will have to wait until I get a little more news and info on the matches last night. There was at least one upset on the night, however...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

2007 Preview: 4.0 Division

This one will be brief, as there are too many teams and too many unknowns at this juncture.

Clearly, the heavyweights of Rice and Jason Freeman's Hurricanes are the teams to beat. Both are in the same division and both made it to the state semis last year (slightly different teams). There is another seemingly decent team in their division (Heat), but it's doubtful they have the firepower to compete with the heavyweights.

Lakeside is always a factor. Those old guys know how to play doubles. But will their singles hold up without Corbin Cooke? Last year Lakeside appeared to slip a notch.

Chancellor's is another team to watch. They've lost a couple of studs from their playoff team of last year but there's still talent on the roster. There are also some new names with no history (I sure can't pronounce them!) that could be potential studs.

I'll have more on 4.0 as the season unfolds and I figure out the teams. For now, I'll pick the Hurricanes over Rice in the finals of the City playoffs.

2007 Preview: 4.5 Division

This year the 4.5 league has three different divisions. With 4 teams qualifying for playoffs, the one wild card spot will be based on record. Sets and games may come into play, so the season should be interesting.

The biggest news in 4.5 is the absence of the Mob Squad. They have dominated the league for the last five or six years, but their team had seen better days. The much whispered rumor of a Mob Squad - Sugar Creek merger appears to be off, but rosters still have another day to fill up. If that happens, that team will be a big factor.

In Division I, there are two heavyweight teams: Jedi Knights and Schwing. Both teams have very good doubles and are a bit soft in singles. Schwing might be smart to move Huckler into singles after his win in the 5.0 division in Kingwood. Jedi Knights have Ryan Cooper and possibly Andre Dafel for singles (is he healed?). Jedi's doubles are a bit stronger, as are their singles. They're my pick. There are two other decent teams in the division. West Side had a surprising year last year, but their talent is still somewhat inferior. Copperfield has some nice players, but little depth. Adam Kent and Mike Salinas are decent singles players, but not good enough to hang with the big boys. Pencil them in for third. Lost Forest team is a mess at this point.

In Division II we probably have the two best teams in the city. Kingwood has been a perennial power and appears to have improved slightly with the addition of the Dibuas. However, their singles seems very weak. Adam Paschal is an unknown commodity; if he's a singles stud their team improves tremendously. Phi Huynh and Ricky Barrera are solid but not good enough to get it done at Sectionals. Kingwood's doubles are tremendous, however. Burkhart's Hangovers are equally strong in doubles. Green/Morton and Li/Regent are a great 1-2 punch. Rest assured Green and Burkhart have some ringers on the sidelines waiting to sign up at the last minute. That will tip the scales in their favor, as clearly the singles players they have signed up now are not good enough. The good news is that the other two teams in the Divsion are quite poor. The second place team should be able to beat up on them enough to secure the wildcard into city playoffs.

In Divsion III we have what appears to be the weakest divsion. Rice has a huge 1-2 singles punch in Kudva and Magid. Their doubles is quite poor however. Interestingly, there are a couple of 4.5 rated players (Jamshidi and Nanjappa) that are on the Rice 5.0 team that could turn them into City champions probably. So we'll see how that plays out. Sugar Creek seems to be the second best team here, but without any Mob Squad castoffs they're clearly not good enough. Burmann/Day and Cooney (and perhaps Eric Bedient if he signs up) are quite solid, but the remainder is average at best.

Basically at this point it looks like the City playoffs will come down to Jedi Knights, Kingwood, Hangovers and Rice. It will certainly be a dogfight, but the Hangovers will probably prevail.

2007 Preview: 5.0 Division

Well, the season starts tomorrow, and as usual the 5.0 rosters are still fairly empty. However, I will do my best to preview the division based on limited information.

Ken Sjoberg's Forest Oaks team has pulled out (mercifully for them, as Bickmore was their lone legitimate player) and Lost Forest has made a nice pickup in Robert Bickmore. Bickmore beat Eliot Lopez twice last season, so Lost Forest will have two strong singles guys to use. How much the "leftover" will help the doubles lineup is certainly a big question.

As usual, Allen Teague has his troops wait until the last minute to sign up. He's an old captain who's seen the wars and hates to give out any information about his team. Suffice it to say that he will have a strong singles player, probably a new guy, as Lawrence Sambito seems to have lost a bit off his old game. The team's success will depend in great part on how much Teague and Deluca play. They're no longer much of a factor on the 5.0 level and indeed were very average last year in 4.5.

The sleeper team may be the Met. They have some unknown commodities, but suffice it to say that Danny Weingeist, Craig Hiddleston and John Sullivan are very solid 5.0 players (Hiddleston has moved down from 5.5). I expect them not to be an easy out, but Bickmore's addition to Lost Forest may have tipped the scales in their direction.

Jochen Moser's Memorial Park squad is clearly over their heads and playing 5.0 for practice. The Rice team will be dangerous, as Arun Nanjappa appears to be the best player in the league. He crushed Bickmore in a tournament just a month or two ago. Ira Jamshidi is probably a strong player as well, but it will be interesting to see how much damage they can do in doubles. Li and Regent can hang in 5.0, but will probably be spending most of their time in 4.5. The rest of the doubles guys are very poor players for this level. Jorge Cuesta is an unknown.

My picks: Lost Forest in a close race over the Met. (I'll waffle and say this is subject to change when the rosters are in.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

2006 Recap

This blog intends to provide a look at the USTA League Tennis season here in Houston, focusing mainly on the men's 5.0, 4.5 and 4.0 divisions. With the season starting in a week, I thought I'd start with a recap of the postseason last year in these divisions, including City Playoffs and Sectionals in Dallas.

City Playoffs

The 5.0 division never has enough teams to require an end of the year playoff. As usual, Hernan Guevara's Lost Forest team dominated the competition (there really wasn't much last year) and qualified for Sectionals. Eliot Lopez again anchored the singles lineup. Lost Forest has pretty much kept the same roster for several years and has had little success in Dallas. Clearly they need a talent upgrade to make a little noise at Sectionals.

The 4.5 division provided drama as usual. For the fifth consecutive season, the Mob Squad qualified for Sectionals. Kingwood received the wild card spot. The Mob Squad won the City Championship in the final match with Kingwood despite losing 3-2. Danny Vu pulled out a clutch win against old teammate Phi Huynh to allow them to be city champions based on sets lost. Sugar Creek also managed to go 2-1, pulling off a huge upset against Kingwood in the process. Burmann and Day took out the seemingly unbeatable duo of Green and Armstrong to provide the margin of victory.

The 4.0 division has the biggest field, with 8 teams qualifying for City's. Jason Freeman's Reiland Rhinos waltzed through their bracket without even losing a line. In the other bracket, Rice got by perennial power Lakeside and won their bracket while dropping just two lines. Both Rice and the Rhinos were in the same flight during the regular season (as well as the Gladiators, a team at least as strong as any other in 4.0). Cheryl grouped the teams geographically, but clearly the flights were extremely imbalanced. It looks as though that may again be the case in 4.0 this season.

In the championship match, Rice beat the Rhinos, taking both singles in the process. Sarosh Ahmed is almost unbeatable at this level, but David Yang took him down in 3, providing the winning margin. Both teams would make it up to Sectionals.


In 5.0 Lost Forest went 3-2 in the round robin format. Lopez was 3-1 in singles, but the doubles didn't pull their weight as Lost Forest won less than half their lines. Austin was clearly the best team in the field, and advanced to Nationals.

In 4.5 the Mob Squad fared disastrously as its two best singles players decided not to make the trip to Dallas. The Mob went 1-2, winning a meaningless match against a very poor team.

Kingwood was placed in a tough bracket, with both the Dallas and Austin champs in their bracket. Had they pulled out the City playoffs, they would have gotten a much easier bracket. Still, Kingwood managed to beat Beaumont and won a huge match with Austin, losing both singles but sweeping the doubles. That set up a match with Dallas for a trip to the final 4. Unfortunately, Dallas had too much and won the first three matches completed, retiring in the other two.

In 4.0, the Rhinos were without their top player, Ahmed, who was getting married. John Cox, Brian Goldberg and Eddie Janek picked up the slack and they won their bracket without losing a match and advanced to the final four. Rice's singles players (Yang, Monsigny, and Phong Hau) cleaned up in their bracket, and they breezed through to the semis.

Without Sarosh, the Rhinos didn't have quite enough firepower and lost 3-2 to Corpus. Brian Goldberg lost a 3 setter that might have been won otherwise. Rice was overmatched by a Waco team that went on to win Nationals. Three of the first four off were losses (the other line was trailing badly) and only David Yang pulled his match out.