Friday, July 25, 2008

Sectionals Picks (I use the term loosely)

Sectionals are less than a week away. Here are some quick predictions (believe me, not much thought has gone into them, so don't put any money down in Vegas...)
In 4.0 Division I (Dallas, Wild Valley, Waco, Houston, Abilene) I've got to pick my team to emerge. The big match figures to be the Saturday afternoon battle between Wild Dallas and Houston.

In 4.0 DII (Austin, Setx, Amarillo, Midland, Wild Houston) I'm picking the Austin team to emerge. I think the feature match will be Wild Houston v. Austin. Colin McKinsey has publicly proclaimed that he will not be attending Sectionals for Austin, but I doubt he was being honest.

In 4.0 DIII (Wild Austin, San Antonio, Corpus, Netx, Lubbock) I really know absolutely nothing about any of these teams. I'm sure Freeman could tell me about the line 3 doubles on each of the teams, but...I'll pick San Antonio just based on city size.

In 4.0 DIV (FtWorth, San Angelo, Wild Dallas, Valley, Noho) The Wild Dallas team "took it easy" in the city finals. They're the prohibitive favorite in this division. Perhaps Fort Worth can give them a battle. I'll be pulling for Noho, but they'll have their work cut out for 'em.

In 4.5 Division I (Corpus, Wild Dallas, Waco, Houston) I have reservations about Kingwood's singles, but I still think they're the strongest team in this bracket. Remember one thing: The computer will NOT be run during Sectionals (assuming I was properly informed), so players like Henry Gonzales are "safe". As previously mentioned, I'm not a big fan of this, though I guess they didn't want to get into a situation like last year where a match could have been reversed and players had to wait around to make sure they'd actually advanced. Bobo and Whitsett lost what they thought might be a meaningless third set breaker in a match that became 3-2 after a DQ. This year we may see captains pull their players off the court after securing three wins.

In 4.5 DII (San Antonio, Valley, Austin, Noho) I think we will see fireworks, if everyone is giving 100 percent. I do think it's ridiculous that the Valley team is here. They are super-talented and could easily win this bracket, but playing league matches of just one set is just not right. First of all, it screws up the DNTRP calculations, but it's hard to believe that it's a real "league" when there are just 3 teams and matches are just one set in length. I'll pick San Antonio here...I just have a feeling that they can win this thing if they want to. But they could just as easily finish fourth. Toss a coin on most of these matchups.

In 4.5 DIII (Fort Worth, Dallas, Wild Austin, Abilene) I know there's been a lot of talk about Abilene's young guns and even about Fort Worth's Henock Terefe (I've never seen him play, but don't know what all the fuss is about based on his results), but I've just got to go with Dallas here. Those guys have been through the wars and their team is much stronger than last year's shell of a team.

Feel free to post your opinions or even talk some smack.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Locals

In a desperate attempt to deflect attention from myself, I think I'll focus on the local Sectional representatives and take a quick look at their brackets and possibilities for advancement.

Let's start with the 5.0 division, which has gotten little attention in this blog in 2008. Lost Forest is our representative and they have an extremely talented roster which, unlike last year, has a legitimate shot at making it to Nationals. One local keen observer has told me that the Lost Forest 5.0 team has a better shot at Nationals than do the Kingwood Crush or Met Hurricanes. There is exceptional talent on the roster, with Alim Mambetov, Antonio Rivera and former Longhorn Otis Sadler leading the way. Throw in veterans Robert Bickmore, Brian Taylor and others and it's clear that Lost Forest can definitely put out a 5 man lineup with few weaknesses. If everyone makes the trip, we could see a Houston 5.0 team back at Nationals for the first time in a long time (was Allen Teague's David Pierson-led team the last 5.0 team to make it from here or have I forgotten someone?)

There's not much to say about Kingwood that hasn't already been said. There doubles strength and depth is on a par with any team in the state. Valentine and Dibua straight setted a super team in the city finals and probably won't see too many better teams in Dallas. We all know that Hurlbert and Armstrong have been absolutely untouchable. I really feel that this is the year that Jimmy will have to dip into his doubles lines and pluck Hurlbert out for some singles strength. Based on his strokes and age and movement on the doubles court, I'd have to wager that he would be a stud in singles. The status of Juan Lopez's hamstring is still a mystery to me and many others, but having him in Dallas would greatly aid the cause.

In Kingwood's division, it appears that Corpus' Division I signee Andrew Maingot is still eligible, and as noted, Dallas Wild can throw out two exceptional singles players in Phat Bui and Henry Gonzales, so if Kingwood doesn't find some singles strength, the season may end in disappointment.

The other area representative in 4.5 is Craig Bobo's NOHO squad. They're in a stacked division, with the Valley and Austin and San Antonio. There are a bunch of wild rumors about this division: Doug Langford of Austin will not be playing, the San Antonio team will be "packing it in" in an attempt to keep everyone at this level for their big push to Nationals next year, and even a rumor that many of the stars of the NoHo team will not be traveling to Sectionals. Most or all of these are probably untrue and should be taken with a grain of salt, but it certainly makes this pool the one to watch up in Dallas.

Dave Wanja snuck his two matches in under the gun. If Heim is as good as advertised, then Bobo/Whitsett and Benzon/Wanja will definitely give them three lines that nobody will take lightly. Who will be the #2 singles guy? Antoine Ford didn't look to be the answer earlier in the season...

In 4.0, the Met Hurricanes have gotten much of the attention across the state due in great part to Jason Freeman's stellar track record for getting his teams to Nationals. This year's bunch looked extremely vulnerable in citywides, and in fact was quite lucky to escape an underrated and talented Sienna team. Their pool is tough, with Bill Sanders' Waco team (National Champs two years ago) and a Dallas Wild team which features former 5.0 players Gene Davis and Mitch McGowan leading the team. Merhi and Foster looked stellar during city playoffs for the 'Canes, but even the vaunted singles players showed some warts. Captain February will have to push all the right buttons this year without Kern/Ahmed type players.

Chancellor's chances will be bolstered by the return of a couple of their top players. Jonathan Hao Nguyen has been money this year, and will allow grinders Jerry Pham and Ismael Dutchover to get some rest after wearing down their opponents. Chancellor's also looked very vulnerable during city playoffs, but should show renewed strength with their talent re-infusion. Austin and their super-ringer Colin McKinsey appear to be the biggest hurdle to Chancellor's making it to Sunday.

The Noho 4.0 team hasn't gotten any pub in these parts, but they are a solid, underrated group of guys who will give teams trouble up there. Will Norton returned last year after a tennis layoff and has beaten almost everyone in his path. Peter Razeghi is an unknown, but his scores indicate that he could surprise some folks. Former marathoner Kevin Burke is as fit as they come, and shows a lot of power on the doubles court, and Mohan Jacob is perhaps the most unorthodox doubles player in the area, but his style can give some players fits.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sectionals News

The Mob Squad has decided to pull out of Sectionals in Dallas. A combination of injuries, a small roster, travel plans and commitments to other teams has left us shorthanded. Unfortunately, our spot does not go to the runner-up in city playoffs. Had we defaulted match point against Copperfield, they would have gotten the berth, but we just couldn't be sure of our plans at that time.

I believe the second place team in Austin may receive the spot, although both San Antonio and Fort Worth's second place teams were "in the hat" as well. The order for replacing a team has already been determined.

MidYear Ratings

A list of the midyear ratings is posted on the Dallas League Blog. It is not posted officially anywhere yet. I looked through the list and will list out those who I noticed were bumped to 4.5 and 5.0

Remember, these are midyear ratings. For Houstonians they're fairly meaningless, other than as a guide to where you may end up or how much "strike" jeopardy you may be in. Usually these do not include the Houston city playoffs, but my hunch is that this year they do include them, as well as HTA results. (Peter Strasser, for instance, is listed as a 4.5 despite no USTA league play, and some people who had good playoff results are now bumped up. But I'm just guessin'....)

4.0 to 4.5:
Peter Ackermann, John Biers, Ian Bird, Kevin Burke, Stephen Coyle, Mohan Jacob, Andy Kahan, Dan Le, Tom Le, Ricardo Martinez, Reef Merhi, Alex Montes, Bill Morris, Duc Nguyen, Hung Nguyen, Jonathan Hao Nguyen, George Orchard, Eddie Perdomo, Jerry Pham, Robert Pritula, Jason Rawls, Justin Smith, Dan Solis, Chris Towle, Chris Trevino, Kook Youn

4.5 to 5.0
Gary Armstrong, Craig Bobo, John Burrmann, Omon Dibua, Billy Heim, Tim Hurlbert, John Kudrick, Jonathan Magid, Miguel Morales, Ben Whitsett

I may have missed a bunch. I looked at it quickly.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A few quick notes

For me, this is the best weekend of the year for tennis in this city, even ahead of the Coke weekend.

Thanks to Cheryl and Diana, who can finally get a little rest now. As always, they did a great job and put in a lot of hard work. Also, thanks to the classy captains and players I came across this weekend: Jimmy Kilshaw, Tommy Ristau, Mike Salinas, Jason Freeman and many others.

My observations: The energy in the lower divisions amongst the fans and players dwarfed that of the 4.5 division. Their strokes aren't pretty, but some of the 4.0 guys (Dutchover, Jerry Pham and many others) are every bit as gutsy as their 4.5 counterparts.

Kudos to my teammates Thang Pham and Adrian Santesteban who pulled out a crucial 3rd set breaker to again send the Mob back to Sectionals. Mob Squad doubles have taken a lot of flak this year but they pulled out two doubles lines against Copperfield when it counted. I wish Adrian and Thang had played better against Hurlbert and Armstrong for Kingwood's sake...I'd be slightly worried about three strikes if I were Jimmy. If The Crush can get their singles in order, they'll be tough to beat in Dallas.

Like it or not, there have been pretty much three powerhouses in 4.5 in this city in this decade: Kingwood, the Mob and the Burkhart/Green teams. This looked to be the year someone else would break through, but it just didn't happen. It'll be interesting to see if Copperfield remains competitive next year with the inevitable 5.0 rating for John Kudrick.

So much for Predictions...

So much for predictions in 4.0. All of the matches today came down to singles and 3rd set tie breakers.

Chancellor's edged out Copperfield 3-2 as Ismael Ducthover beat former 4.5 player Tommy Sawaya in a close tiebreak. In the other singles Jason Rawls pulled out a 3rd setter against Jerry "the backboard" Pham.

The real action/drama was over with Met playing Sienna. I suppose I was off in the 5-0 prediction last night as Sienna came to play.

The Met took 2 lines of doubles with Sienna taking the third which left the singles to decide. Both lines went to 3rd set breakers and were very close, with the Coke champ from this year (Roberto Narajos) taking the 3rd line to put the Met over the top. Just a couple of seconds later Sienna took the other line making the score 3-2. Lots of drama and a very close match.

The Met and Chancellor's should be on court now deciding who will go as Houston and who will be Wild Houston at sectionals.

In the 3.5 match ups of the AM there were no surprises as Sienna beat Spam-a-Lot 3-2 and the MP-Racqueteers won as well only dropping a single line all weekend. These teams should be on the court as we speak playing for a spot in Dallas.

In other surprises today, the Mob squad took down a tough Copperfield team 3-2 to knock them out of contention. The Kingwood team rolled as expected, having only dropped 2 lines all weekend. The Crush and Mob Squad will both have a spot in Dallas.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Give the 3.5 Guys some action on the blog

Not sure how popular this one will be, but here we go on the 3.5 predictions. I have a family member playing in this bracket and he asked me why the 3.5 guys never get any mclovin on the blog-o-sphere.

My personal opinion (and this goes for 4.5 too) is that with 6 teams they should have one bracket where everyone plays 5 times. This two groups of three crap is silly as some guys played on Thursday and don't play again until Sunday AM. Not much for continuity.

I think I have heard the counter-argument to this is court time required to support everyone playing 5 times, but I don't see how it could not be accommodated somehow/someway.

We are talking about having to play 30 total in a weekend versus 13 matches under current format, so the court time needed would approximatly double. I think that the clubs involved could support some of the court time.

I know from past experiences that captains struggle to play their whole roster knowing the one line lost here or there could cost them. Under the proposed format I think that everyone would get to play more and in the end be happier.

HTA should listen to their constintuency on this one as no one that I have talked to in 3.5 or 4.5 is cheery about the current format.

It looks like in Flight 1 that the Racqueteers will face the boys from East San Antonio (Willowfork) to see who represents them in the final. I like the MPTC team as they seem stronger throughout the season and some inside info says that most of the guys could hang at 4.0.

In Flight II, Freddie's Spam-a-lot team takes on a loaded suburbian Sienna team that went to Dallas last year and nearly made it to the final. I am not sure of their retention rate from last year's team but I think they will edge out Freddie 3-2 to represent this flight in the final.

Apperantly this final actually means something as only one team from HTA will go to Dallas. I like the MPTC to upset Sienna 3-2 to go represent Htown in Dallas.

Good luck to all.

What's Going to happen tomorrow in 4.0?

After watching today and having played against nearly all teams involved I think it will end up like this:

Freeman's Met team will crush Sienna. Freeman will bring the "A" lineup as he will not risk a trip to sectionals as this is the match that gets them to Dallas once again. Having played Sienna in the season, they are good, but they will not compare to the "A" lineup on Freeman's team.

In the other bracket, I think Copperfield will edge out Chancellors. I do not feel it will be lopsided, but the Copperfield will win. Unless Chancellor's brings some doubles guys they did not have today, then Copperfield will win.

The final will be a useless event as Freeman will put out a lineup that can win, but does not have to. I am sure he has already done the research and knows which bracket he wants to be in come two weeks (Houston or Wild Houston). Copperfield should be tired after playing their top lineup all weekend. They will take a line, but Freeman's crew will win 4-1.

Greg, hope you don't mind but I took you up on your offer to contribute.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Playoffs Night #1

Lee Leclear tennis center was hopping last night as the citywide championships got underway. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time watching my own teams play and didn't get to watch TOO much else...

The once-mighty Mob Squad limped into the playoffs with a depleted roster and pathetically could only get six players to play in these playoffs as all attempts to change team committments were denied. All six are high quality players, however, and as the old adage says, it only takes four players to win a match. The Mob has always had singles strength, and this year they counted on 19 year old Aadrian Hasker and veteran Ted Phoummarath to carry them through. Hasker edged previously unbeaten Brian Mills in the first set breaker, and then rolled through the second set. Ted P. relies on quickness, fitnesse and consistency, and that combination was a little too much for Sarosh Ahmed last night as Pumma won comfortably.

The Met figured to have the edge in doubles. Ward Jannuzzi and Michael Chec were at line 3 and received the default, and David Yang and Phong Regent were very impressive at line 2, beating Santesteban and Pham three and three. David Yang is quite a player. It was my first time watching him and every one of his strokes were solid and impressive. At line one, the match of the night featured the Phan brothers against Jacob Vernon and Daniel Duplechin. Steve Phan has historically been the Mob's best singles player, but they desperately needed some doubles strength. Vernon and Duplechin played magnificently and took the first set in a breaker. Their play dipped ever so slightly in the second and the Phans turned it up a bit and then overcame Minh's cramps to capture the super-breaker and giving the Mob its third line.

In the other 4.5 match, the Black Sheep pulled out a 3-2 win over Ssshhhwings. Peter Rothe was again out of the lineup for Shwing. Three of the five matches went to the third set as the teams seemed evenly balanced.

I have always thought of Peter Hansen as a doubles guy, so despite his impressive singles win earlier in the season it surprised me to see him at number one singles last night. Hansen was a key doubles guy on the SWAT team that made it to Nationals in 2005 and won a tight two setter against Mike Giordanelli last night. Westside's singles don't look that imposing on paper, but they won both lines last night as Sean Lacy also won at #2. Ssshhwin is always tough in doubles, and took two of the three lines, but dropped the match tie breaker at line one as Ristau and Alzate took out the strong partnership Benoit/Judson.

In 4.0, the Hurricanes manhandled Willow Fork in the singles, but showed vulnerability in the doubles, losing one line and going three sets in another. Reese and Montes rolled for the 'Canes in the third doubles line.

The 4.0 match of the night featured Sienna and Lost Forest. Chris Trevino had been spotless all season for Lost Forest, but got crushed last night by Justin Smith at one singles. Ace Melchor eked out a win at line 2 for Lost Forest. Each team one a doubles line and the match came down to Ronnie Kwan and Scott Boarman, who survived some confusion over the score to pull out the win for their team.

I'm not sure what happened in the Chancellor's-Smokers match, but it looked like Chancellor's was in control. Ismael Dutchover dropped the first set but survived a tough match with Nathan Huynh, winning in three at one singles.

In the other matchup, Daniel Goodwin's SAP team lost 4-1 to a Copperfield team that looks strong and has a solid shot at a berth in Dallas. Tuyen Nguyen won the only line for SAP. Thomas Sawaya dominated at one singles for the Copperheads.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Playoffs starting..

There are four matches in 4.0 tonight and a pair of matches in 4.5.

In 4.0 Division I, Copperfield faces SAP and their controversial captain. Interestingly, Captain Goodwin protested the Chancellor's players but didn't complain about the Copperfield team he plays tonight. Copperfield was victimized by Louis Lu from Chancellor's, whose team will face another Asian team, the Smokers, at 7 PM tonight. Cheryl and Diana will have a tough time picking a team to discriminate against in that one! JUST KIDDING! :)

In Division I of 4.0 Lost Forest takes on a Sienna Plantation team that quietly dominated its division in as resounding a fashion as the Huricanes and Chancellor's. Freeman's Hurricane team opens its playoff season against Willow Fork tonight as well.

In 4.5 there are two matchups. Ssshhhwings will try to take one of the singles lines and then count on its reliable doubles teams to try and topple a West Side team that got nosed out of first place in its division and has not gotten much respect by many of the posters here.

Also, there's an intriguing matchup between the 4.5 Hurricanes and a Mob Squad team that is trying to keep its Sectionals streak alive. Most people would give the edge in singles to the Mob and in doubles to the Hurricanes. Both teams wil be trying to prove they're more well-rounded than people think.

P.S. Our readership here is at an all-time high. Controversy is good for business. Please patronize the sponsors. If you've seen (or heard) the car I'm driving, you know I can use a few extra shekels. :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Timex Social Club

Look at all these rumors...

Lots of stuff flying around. I'm sure Diana is very busy. There are numerous rules questions and possibly even some protests to sort through...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sectionals Brackets Are Out

Someone was nice enough to pass along the Sectionals brackets to me. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that Houston managed to get only one team in the 3.5 bracket. There are 20 teams in the 3.5 bracket, but it appears Houston was unlucky in the Wild Card hunt this year. Even Lubbock got a wild card spot in 3.5. I've forgotten the exact procedure, but the number of entries each city gets "in the hat" is dependent on the number of teams it has at that level. I believe you get one chance for each four teams a city has above the total of four. In other words, a city with 8 teams gets one entry in the hat. Twelve teams get you two, etc. Names are drawn until all wild card slots are filled. Someone please correct me if things have changed or I've misremembered.

The good news is that Houston has two teams in the 4.5 and 4.0 draws this year. There are a few wrinkles to iron out in the 4.5 draw as it hasn't been decided which slot will contain the Houston city champ and which will have the runner up. Regardless, it will take the pressure off of the Sunday afternoon matchups in 4.5 and 4.0 and make that 3.5 city final very pressure-packed.