Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another week

First off, thanks to Scott Carr for his frank comments regarding Atsushi Fukunaga. I've always felt that perhaps more players should be disqualified midyear, but I really haven't made up my mind as to whether Fukunaga "deserved" it. Fukunaga's disqualification got me to wondering about how the "three strikes" rule works in a city like Houston where the HTA results are in the tennis link computer. I really don't know what goes on behind the scenes, but Fukunaga had some really strong wins in the HTA season. My thinking is that he entered the USTA season with a very high rating, perhaps even ALREADY high enough to push him up to 5.0. The win agains Kudva and then the doubles win against Burrmann certainly suggest that he can hang in the 5.0 ranks (which in Houston are already littered with 4.5 players). But is he too good for the 4.5 level? I'm not really sure.

Anyway, props to Carr and Fukunaga for playing it straight and avoiding the all-too-common game dumping and tanking which goes on everywhere. Unfortunately, USTA league often ends up penalizing those who play it straight and rewarding those who know the ins and outs of the system and choose to exploit them.

There are just a few marquee matchups this week. The 5.0 division, for the first time in many years, is this season's most interesting one due in great part to a lack of playoff. Teague takes on Rice this week. A win by the Benzon/Teague team would create a tie for first place with Teague ahead on lines and the Met and Lost Forest lurking.

Teague has so much talent on their roster and is so focused on things that I just can't see them bringing a weak lineup today. I certainly won't be surprised to see a sweep from Teague. Rice has continually surprised me this year, and I plead guilty of underestimating them, but I just can't see them keeping it up.

In 4.5 Rice and the aforementioned Black Sheep face off in what will probably decide the second playoff spot in Division III. Lukas Jendek will have to pick up some of the slack left by Fukunaga's absence if the Black Sheep are going to remain competitive. Rice has yet to field anything remotely resembling their "best" lineup. It's interesting to note that Ryan Kudva was added to the Rice 5.0 roster this week. 5.0 matches are often scheduled on days other than Thursday, but if there's a conflict I'd put my money on Kudva playing 5.0.

There's a rematch of two super-heavyweights in 4.0 as the heavily favored Hurricanes again try to hold off nemesis Rice Saints (the Rice teams are dominating the headlines this week). While both teams will make the playoffs, this battle of the titans is always interesting. I suspect Rice is not quite on the Hurricane's level this year. Karel and Bui will have to put a dent in the Hurricanes' strong singles lineup for the Saints to have a chance.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Well, I did see this coming...

It looks like Atsushi Fukunaga from the West Side Black Sheep 4.5 team was disqualified. I'm assuming it was for a "three strikes" violation, though I have no details as of yet. Interestingly, it puts the mismanaged Rice team back in the playoff hunt, where they could be somewhat dangerous, believe it or not.

A Couple of Short Notes

There were a couple of results that were reported this weekend that I found interesting.

First off, in 5.0, Lost Forest kept hope alive by beating Teague. Teague has added a top ranked Open player, Alim Mambetov (second seeded in Open in Waco this coming weekend) who dispatched of Lost Forest's new hope Dustin Phillips while barely breaking a sweat. However, Teague was not competitive in the doubles and lost 2-1. Rice is now in sole posession of the top spot in 5.0. Red Benzon, who is playing very well this year and was 4-0 in doubles in 5.0, was benched for this one.

Mike Salinas' record this year is fascinating me. The guy has got to be in his mid to late forties. He still has the same ugly, annoyingly effective game that he's had for decades. How does a guy his age turn around his results so dramatically? Last year he was 0-4 in singles, losing to (4.0) Champlin, Santesteban, Shaw and Deluca. The previous two summers he was a combined 5-3. After going 7-0 in the spring singles league he's now 4-0 in summer league with a win over Giordanelli and two shockers over Hunckler and Cooper. I was ready to write off Cooper as overrated until Salinas took down Hunckler. Is Salinas improved this year? Sharper? Or is the 4.5 division a little "down" in 2007? I suspect it may be "all of the above".

Monday, May 28, 2007

Somewhat Off Topic

I just came across these statistics from the Southern section. I'm sure the Texas numbers are quite similar. I've always felt that 4.5 and 5.0 players were a bit snobbish and overly cocky, but now that I see that they're among the top 5 percent of tennis players perhaps it's a bit more justified than I thought.

It's interesting to see that about half of the self rated players have their ratings adjusted at the end of the year. Perhaps more of these players should be "bumped up" during the season as opposed to after year end. Only 3 percent of players were moved down. That number seemed higher this year in Houston and Texas, especially 5.0's being moved down.

Friday, May 25, 2007


I'm out of town for the weekend so I'm at the mercy of Tennis Link for any information regarding matches yesterday. I will keep my comments to a minimum.

First, one other issue with regard to the "comments" section. I really do wish people would sign their names to comments, but given my anonymity it would be hypocritical of me to require it or even suggest it. I do have the ability to delete comments and have done so when I think they cross way over the line. However, I don't monitor things that closely and occasionally a negative comment will PROVOKE other comments. In those cases I think it's counterproductive to delete the original comment in most cases. Comments such as "Ken Burkhart belongs in 4.0" (not picking on Ken, just an example) are, in my opinion, not necessarily malicious and may just be one person's opinion, so I will often let those be. Incidentally, I do enjoy hearing what other people have to say. I was bored one day and decided to write a preview of the league this year, which is how the blog came into existence. But I'm really enjoying the byplay and opinions in the comments section, which is part of the reason I'm still blogging. As Ken noted, I've tried not to put too many people down but I suppose occasionally I have been guilty of that myself. However, hopefully I've limited it to tennis strokes and not personal attacks.

OK, enough of that. As for the tennis this week, as noted earlier it was not an exciting slate of matches. One match I may not have mentioned in the preview was between Kingwood and the YUTTS. Kingwood brought out a strong lineup, not taking this one lightly. Wisely, I might add. The YUTTS are dangerous. Tor Krosby seems to have regained the form of a decade ago. It's fun to see old warriors like him, Gary Armstrong and Jody Deluca battle it out week after week. Alas, Krosby was the only one to take a line last night, though Rich Ryu gave Omon Dibua all he could handle. Kingwood is back in the driver's seat for a playoff spot.

In 4.0's weakest division Sienna Plantation pretty much clinched things by again beating Pecan Grove. Pecan Grove's #1 singles player Randy Strnadel remained undefeated, but just hasn't gotten enough help from his mates. All of the other 4.0 heavyweights had little trouble.

None of the other "interesting" scores have been posted. I may comment some more later. Keep the (clean) comments coming.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Slow Week

Rain again is in the forecast for tonight. As is typical for this time of year in Houston, afternoon thunderstorms are in the forecast. There has been some discussion of moving the USTA league to weekends, as is done in NOHO, Austin and Dallas, but the idea has never really gotten any traction. I don't think there are that many tournaments using the courts during league season. Opinions seem to be mixed...a couple of people were fearful that some unnamed teams would bring in MORE out of towners for their teams, but I don't think that's anything to worry about.

Clearing up some playoff questions: Cheryl has confirmed that two teams from each division in 4.5 will qualify for the playoffs, and that there will be no playoff in the 5.0 division. 4.0 will also have two teams in each division qualify. Teams will be placed in two pools in the 4.0 and 4.5 division playoffs as in past seasons.

This week in 5.0, there is an interesting matchup between Teague and Lost Forest. Lost Forest has its back to the wall. Another loss will eliminate them from contention after dominating the division for years. They still have the talent on their roster to compete, but can't seem to get it together this year. As noted, Teague has a huge roster to choose from. No truth to the rumor that HTA has increased its budget because of increased revenue from Teague's team.

In 4.5 Division III, there's a long awaited matchup of the two undefeated teams. In truth, this division has been extremely weak. Sugar Creek has been a nonfactor in league in the last few years, failing in city playoffs when they managed to qualify. Two of the stalwarts from those teams, Jason Cooney and Eric Bedient, have yet to play a match, they've added no talent this year and yet the team is still undefeated. This is either a testament to their depth or an indictment of the talent in the rest of the division. I suspect the latter. I'm curious, for a couple of reasons, to see how Fukunaga does this week.

In other 4.5 news, the Hangovers have added a couple of players to their roster. Kingwood has scared them, apparently. Phong and Henry are not playing as well as in past seasons, Tim Green has lost both doubles matches to Kingwood and the singles guys have been in dogfights. Don Rios is a very good pickup for them. He can beat anyone in the 4.5 league on a given day. More questionable, to me, is the addition of Kingwood teaching pro Grant Murphy. His bio claims the 28 year old was one of Australia's top juniors. I've not seen him play, and his face looks chubby so I'm sure he's not in top shape, but if the bio is accurate his addition is questionable.

The addition of "ringers" is always a tough call. (I'm not saying Murphy is or isn't a ringer...this is a general discussion)I have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, it's frustrating for the other players who've worked hard on their games and put a lot of effort into assembling a competitive team to play people clearly above level. On the other hand, let's face it, the Hangovers' players have been to Sectionals many times. They have their eyes on a higher goal: Nationals. And clearly they were not gonna' get there with the roster they had assembled. They would have had their hands full trying to get out of the city. So I won't pass judgment either way. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

In 4.0, there's a matchup of the top two teams in Division III: Sienna Plantation plays Pecan Grove. Their first matchup was a 3-2 win for Sienna despite dropping both of the singles. Neither of these teams seem to have the talent to make any noise in city playoffs. A Pecan Grove loss today will have them battling Willow Fork for the second place slot and certain destruction in cities.

Friday, May 18, 2007


The Hollywood screenwriters couldn't have penned it any better. It was Kingwood-Hangovers part II. With rumors swirling about the playoff format in 4.5, it was hard to tell just how important this match was, but with the MIB fiasco still staining their record Jimmy and his boys needed another win to feel secure about their chances. Fittingly, it all came down to Deluca-Armstrong and another third set tiebreaker, again with the match squared at 2. This time, Jody came up big and the Hangovers took their place atop the standings.

The two teams are so evenly matched. This time there were 3 third set breakers. Kingwood took two of them, but got blown out in the other two. It was a night of redemption for the Hangovers. Jody got the monkey off his back from the last matchup with Armstrong. Old partner Allen Teague has been hearing the whispers that he's "lost it", but came up huge at number one doubles with Craig Bobo, spanking Glenn Wright and Rob Pekar. Finally, Li and Regent, fresh off an embarassing performance in 5.0 last week, played flawlessly in an easy victory.

Cheryl's on vacation right now. I'm still hearing so many different versions of how the playoffs will be run, so I will let everyone know when I hear something official. It will be interesting to see if the Kingwood-Hangover rivalry will have four chapters this season...with the City Championship on the line in Chapter IV. Kingwood's got its work cut out for it if that's gonna' happen.

Elsewhere in 4.5, Ssshhhwing kept rolling along, beating No Way Out 5-0. The big matchup with Jedi Knights (who just barely escaped Copperfield last night) was rained out a few weeks ago. Unless they play a makeup before then, they won't play 'til June 7th. Ssshhhwing had a competent singles lineup last night with Hunckler and Vu taking care of business.

At the midpoint of the 5.0 season, the top team has yet to be determined. It's been a roller coaster thus far. After last week, I was ready to write off the Rice team. Sure, they were still 2-1, but had "snuck up" on people. Surely they couldn't hang with a Lost Forest team that has waltzed through the league for five years or so. Last night's doubles lineup featured a guy who played 4.0 last year (David Yang) and another who played 4.0 two years ago (Alain Tran). Moving from 4.0 to 5.0 is supposed to be a huge jump. Tran came up big a few weeks ago, but yesterday was Yang's turn. He and Amit Garg trounced Hernan Guevara and Philippe Arnold and Arun Nanjappa again took care of the singles as Lost Forest dropped to 0-2.

I heard that Teague's 5.0 team shut out the Met team, but haven't heard details as the score hasn't been reported. If so, the 5.0 division now has 3 frontrunners with one loss, and a very talented team in Lost forest that still has a mathematical chance to get back into it.

In 4.0, there were no surprises yesterday. No drama either. The heavyweights kept rolling along. Lakeside finally dropped a line. The Hurricanes trounced a very weak Acers team. Rice had no trouble. The unheralded JCC dudes moved to 4-0.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Week Five Preview

There's really only two or three matchups this week that are really interesting.

Nothing jumps out at me in 4.0. The 4.0 division is a case of the haves and have nots. I still see it coming down to Hurricanes and Lakeside, with Rice also a potential factor. I don't see anything this week significantly changing any of the playoff picture.

In 4.5, the two historical powers meet up again this week, as Kingwood faces the Hangovers. The last time they met it was a barnburner, with Gary Armstrong outgutsing Jody Deluca for the win. Much to my surprise, neither team has really added any significant talent since then. Will Burkhart and Green adjust their lineup this time? Will the Dibuas find their way into the lineup for Kingwood? I doubt we'll see Phi Huynh out there this time after his disappointing showing last time. Will the dangerous Green-Morton duo get untracked? Will Burkhart put himself back in the lineup?

Also in 4.5, Ssshhhwing travels to WestSide to play No Way Out in a matchup of unbeatens. The winner will be poised to compete with Jedi Knights for the Division Championship. Look for Ssshhwing to take this one.

In 5.0, Teague faces the Met in a must win matchup for Allen's team. The much talked about duo of Putterman-Weingeist will have its hands full, as Teague has continually added players in an effort to be competitive. This week's new addition is James Robinson, another self rated 3.0 player, (what's up with that?) who helped Teague squeeze past MPTC earlier in the week. The Met can not look past Teague despite their unimpressive results so far.

There's another nice matchup in 5.0 as Rice faces Lost Forest. Lost Forest has the talent to compete with any team in the league, and has just one loss on their resume. I expect them to be a major factor in the race before all is said and done. The singles matchup in this one should be interesting, as Lost Forest has a couple of choices. Nanjappa has handled Bickmore, but Nico Heidari could be a real test if he plays.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Last week's action

As you know, there were very few matches played to completion on Thursday. However, the 5.0 division did have one interesting matchup which probably cleared things up a bit.

The Met hosted division leading Rice and had a chance to make a statement in its first "real" 5.0 match of the season. Rice had been riding Arun Nanjappa and stealing a doubles line as its formula for success. However, that all came to an end on Thursday. Former University of Oklahoma player John Sullivan took out Nanjappa in straight sets. Without a Nanjappa win, Rice has little to no chance of winning a match by sweeping the doubles.

The most interesting matchup of the match occurred at line 3 doubles. Li/Regent have been at the top of the 4.5 heap for many years, winning the Coke several times and having great league success. They faced two 4.5 rated players in Toney and Jannuzzi. Supposedly, Jannuzzi had been deemed not good enough to play for Phong and Henry's 4.5 team, so he was extra motivated for this one. Phong and Henry went down to a humiliating 3 and 1 defeat, quite possibly their worst league loss in many years, dropping their record to 0-2 in 5.0 league play.

The 5.0 league is expanded this year, but the expansion is mainly at the lower end of the talent pool. In fact, only 20 of the 48 players in the 5.0 league are even rated 5.0. It's quite common to see 4.5 doubles matchups in 5.0 matches this year.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rain in Forecast

It looks like things might get rained out again this week. Even if they don't, it's kind of a slow week with not too many exciting matchups on the slate.

Maybe the most entertaining matchup is the MIB-Kingwood "rematch" at Copperfield. It's just a hunch, but I have a feeling Jimmy and his boys will be there a tad early this week. The only drama will be the captain's meeting, however. Copperfield's best eight players couldn't even put a dent in Kingwood's worst eight, so I don't expect much drama once things get started.

Really the main matchup I'm looking forward to this week is in 5.0 where the Met takes on division leader Rice. Rain won't be a factor here as it's being played indoors. Arun Nanjappa has been carrying his team on his back, but I don't expect that to continue. I expect the Met to put its nose out in front of what promises to be a four horse race in 5.0.

The last news I heard from Cheryl is that there is supposed to be a playoff in the 5.0 division. I'm not sure if these plans have changed. I must say I'm not in favor of playoffs in a one division league. I can see the argument that a weekend playoff would produce the team that would best represent Houston under the same format up in Dallas, but I just prefer to see teams get rewarded for excellence throughout the season.

Likewise, the drama in the 4.5 and 4.0 divisions is definitely missing this year. With almost half of the teams qualifying for playoffs in 4.5 all of the "big" matchups (like Kingwood-Hangovers) are mainly for bragging rights with little of substance really hanging in the balance. I've never been a fan of the playoff formats of the NHL and NBA, where seemingly everyone makes the playoffs. MLB has a much better system, in my opinion. The real drama this year is in the matches of teams that are not elite...those teams fighting to move from third place to second. Most or all of those teams will be totally outmatched at City playoffs, but can take pride in qualifying at least.

Other somewhat notable matchups this week:

Jedi Knights against West Side's No Way Out. Knights finally get to show what they're made of and where there singles players stand.

JCC Dudes versus Briargrove Park. Winner takes control of Division II in 4.0. Loser will try to hold off Chancellor's for a trip to cities.

Rice Saints versus HTC Heat. On paper it's a blowout, but Heat have the firepower to make it close.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Weekend Thoughts

There was a major zone and some other tennis stuff going on this weekend. Some newsworthy things happened.

One interesting development in Corpus Christi was that Red Benzon won the 5.0 singles title. Even with his "rotten backhand" Benzon can play some singles. Some people forget he was once the #1 4.5 player in the state. I've always thought Red was underrated as a singles player (and perhaps OVERRATED as a doubles player). There's been some talk of him playing singles for a 4.5 team. It might be interesting to see how he'd do under playoff pressure and extreme heat on the singles court.

When the ratings came out in the offseason, there was a lot of talk about Greg Dwyer "tanking down" to 4.0 and that he was now a "ringer". After what I hear was another disastrous loss this past weekend, it's pretty obvious that's not the case. Even when playing 5.0, Dwyer has always had 4.0 strokes, but now it appears his legs, guts and mind have fallen to the same level. He and his team appear to be a nonfactor.

Speaking of 4.0, the Hurricanes brought a bunch of their players down to Corpus for the tournament. Many had great success. Eddie Janek won the 4.0 singles, Richard Patton was a finalist in doubles and consolation singles winner. There have been some teams in recent years in Houston that have had success in league but fizzled out and maybe even choked up at Sectionals. These teams avoided tournaments and rarely played anything but summer league tennis. The Hurricanes are "battle tested" and look poised to repeat or exceed the success they had last year.

Finally, in a week 3 match, the JCC Dudes took out last year's playoff qualifier Chancellor's with relative ease. The Dudes have taken a strong lead in Division II and have pretty much cemented a playoff spot. Despite lacking a backhand, wily veteran Joe Warren gutted out a tough 3 setter to help cement the win agains the Outlaws.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Week Three Rained Out

Obviously last night's matches were a washout. Even the indoor teams were playing on the road.

The roster movement this week was minimal. In 4.0, Lakeside further strengthened its roster by adding Carl Poston, who has been a solid member of their team in past seasons. Lakeside is definitely in contention to win the City Championship. In 4.5, Ssshhhwing attempted to strengthen its singles weakness by adding former Mob Squad member Danny Vu. Surprisingly, none of his former teammates have landed on league rosters. In 5.0, Lost Forest looked to regain its spot at the top by signing up Nico Heidari. Nico went 6-1 at #1 singles in 2005, so he'll definitely help. Heidari lost a 3 setter to Vinny Pandit in the first round of the Coke this year...they may have a rematch in 5.0 league this season.

One last note: John Kudrick wanted to pass along a reminder about the Copperfield Adult Levels Open which will take place on May 18-20th. The deadline for entering is May 11th. Tournament information can be found here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Week Three Preview

Last week, we had matchups of two of the elite teams in both 4.5 and 4.0. This week doesn't have any heavyweight battles, but it does have several several playoff-caliber teams jockeying for position. After this week we will have a much better grasp on just who are the teams to beat in several divsions in 4.0 and 4.5.

In 4.0 Division I, conventional wisdom says that nobody is going to touch Lakeside. It's early, and that prediction could be way off. However, if Lakeside is as strong as usual, then two teams who will be furiously fighting for that second place slot will be butting heads on Thursday. The Copperheads visit Lost Forest's hackers in a battle of two 2-0 teams. The Hackers have lost at one singles both weeks. Sam Ahn is 2-0 at one singles for Copperfield. Will Lost Forest throw a sacrificial lamb at one singles and hope to take three out of four other lines? Strategy could be important.

Chancellor's Outlaws look weaker on paper this year, but still have Jerry Pham and some others. JCC Dudes are an unknown commodity but have been solid thus far. I'll pick Chancellor's in a tight one. Nothing too exciting in the rest of 4.0.

The 4.5 division has a couple of good matchups: Perennial playoff qualifier Jedi Knights takes on Ssshhhwing, who underperformed last season. If Ssshhhwing can't take a singles line this week, they're dead in the water. Jedi Knights don't have a soft spot in their doubles lineup if their top players show up.

The battle between Sugar Creek and the Black Sheep will decide the frontrunner for division III. Will John Day be able to give Atsushi Fukunaga a battle? Or will captain Ken Douds place him at number two...or back with Burmann for an almost unbeatable line one doubles? The key may be the other singles slot. If Alzate takes his singles line, West Side has a very good chance despite their poor line 3 doubles.

In 5.0, the early leader, Rice, has the week off. Lost Forest may again change their singles choice this week in an effort to find an answer. The Met had a newcomer (Jon Evans) playing singles last week. I won't be surprised to see John Sullivan playing there this week.

The other matchup features Team Teague with a breather against Moser's MPTC squad.