Monday, August 4, 2014

Another Tucson Trip for Freeman

There was great drama at High Point on Sunday morning as the Unicorns and Hurricanes battled for the fourth time this season, with a trip to Nationals on the line. The Unicorns were without perhaps their best player, Olivier Le Coz, who was back in France. They'd handled his absence well all weekend, with Gary Chen and Raul Paniagua filling in well in singles.

The three doubles lines finished first, with Thang Pham and Byron Hailey winning quickly. Hunter Emmott and Collin Hodge won a competitive match at line one, and Chen and Kevin Nguyen pulled out line 3 doubles in three for the Unicorns.

Despite the most benign conditions I've seen at Sectionals over the last 20 years or so, cramps played a role in the two singles matches. In both line one and line two, the seemingly fitter guy was victimized. Teenager Biola Kuku's conditioning was tested by grizzled veteran Shishir Mohan, who has a way of extending rallies. The long weekend and hard hitting of Evan Fontenot may have worn down Guage Krask, who fought on gamely after collapsing in pain.

Both singles went to third set breakers almost simultaneously, and the fortunes of both teams ebbed and flowed. Krask was out to a good sized lead (7-3?) and Kuku and Mohan were seemingly always within a point or two of each other. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep track of both courts. Krask may have had a couple of match points. At one point, I think it was 10-10 on one court and 8-8 on the other. This paragraph was a long-winded way of saying: It could have gone either way.

As it turned out, both Fontenot and Kuku won their match points almost at the same time, and the Hurricanes won a 4-1 victory that was much closer than that.

This makes three trips to Nationals for Freeman (and yours truly, record-setting benchwarmer!) in the last four years, truly a record without equal in these (or any?) parts. 

Monday, July 28, 2014


I'm not going to do any kind of detailed preview, mainly because I haven't paid close enough attention to know who the strongest teams and hidden players are.

In 4.0 my perception is that Waco and Austin may be the two toughest (non-Houston?) teams. Unfortunately for the locals, both of those teams ended up in "our" flights. The Unicorns play Austin in their second match on Saturday after a morning match against Midland. One online ratings guru has Midland 4.0's with the highest average DNTRP of any city. Take that for what it's worth.

The 4.0 Hurricanes open up with Waco Friday morning, bright and early. At one point I had a lot of confidence in this team, thinking it ranked right up there with the 2011 team which finished second in the nation. That was before the Ronnie Cline DQ, injuries and defections all hit at once. It will take a monumental effort to get past Waco and its roster littered with ex-supers, former Juco players and Sectionals veterans.

I am not privy to the travel plans of all of the 4.5 Hurricanes, but this does not appear to be as strong a roster as some of the previous teams. They open up with Corpus, who usually show up with the same cast of characters while attempting to add a questionable ringer or two. Amarillo may be the team to beat in their flight. Also present is Wild Austin. Interestingly, Andrew Merritt has qualified for both that team and the Austin 4.0 team. I have no idea which team he's declared for, but if it's the 4.5 time, please remove the Austin 4.0 team from favorite status.

The Good-er Guys ended up in a flight with (usually mighty) Dallas, but may have a chance, as Dallas doesn't appear to be unbeatable. They do have a roster of 26 players, so it's hard to figure out just who their top lineup will be.

Best of luck to all of the locals.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Don Rios

It is with a heavy heart that I pass along the news about Don Rios. Details are scant, but my understanding is that he was vacationing with his family in Florida and his daughter was in danger in the water. Don saved her, but in the process he drowned. Apparently they were able to get him to a hospital, but his condition was irreversible and his family has decided to let him go.

Don was a quality player and person and a great family man who will be missed by many. 

Please send your thoughts and prayers to his family. As details emerge regarding funeral arrangements, etc. I will pass them along.

Give your loved ones an extra hug today.

Monday, July 14, 2014


City Playoffs are over. The Hurricanes won both 4.5 and 4.0 again. Also making the trip to Sectionals will be the Good-er Guys and the Unicorns. Apparently the Marnitz-Waters match was a really good one. The Unicorns appeared to be content with the Wild Card slot, as they didn't field a great lineup in the finals.

There will be some DQ fallout in the coming days. Also, it won't be long until midyear ratings are released, I assume. It's usually right around this time. I have no clue as to whether combo and/or Tri-Level will be using the midyears.

Friday, May 30, 2014

4.0 Wild Card

Does ANYONE know the format of the 4.0 playoffs? I tried to search the HTA website, but that always seems like a fruitless endeavor for me. Early in the year, someone told me that there would be two wild card teams, based on percentage (of lines won? of games won?).

Anyway, one of the more interesting results from last night was the Unicorns 3-2 win over a bad Sugar Creek team. One of the Unicorn lines lost was due to retirement. With the Hurricanes' 5-0 win over Chancellor's last night, the Unicorns are most likely competing for a Wild Card spot, and still have a tough match with Chancellor's on the schedule.

Teams in the hunt for the Wild Card right now include:

Shock n Awe 21-4
Thors 19-6
JCC Dudes 19-11
WS Warriors 25-10
Unicorns 24-11
Chancellor's 23-12

Friday, May 23, 2014


Yet another remarkable streak ended last night. Erik Kiser has been playing summer league for three plus years now since moving to Houston in 2011. By my (possibly inaccurate) count, he was 25-0 in the regular season and 5-0 (plus one asterisk match where he was trailing when Connell retired) in City Playoffs.

That streak came to an end last night as he and Pete Rios fell to Kristian Rodriguez and Srdjan Blum in two close sets as JCC lost a tight 3-2 match with the Good-er Guys. Great win by Blum and Rodriguez.

Week Six

I can only speculate on the backroom deals that went into the makeup of the flights in 4.0, but I'm pretty sure a damn good team is going to get left out of the playoffs as a result. Maybe two damn good teams. The three top teams in 4.0 division VI all went into this week at 4-1, 19-6, and that is a fair representation of their relative strengths. They're even. It will be a travesty if only one of these teams makes it to Citywides.

Last night, the Hurricanes managed to eke out a 3-2 win over the Unicorns. Evan Fontenot was the big story. He had been straight setted by smooth Kevin Nguyen in the first match between these two teams, and lost the first set of their rematch decisively. However, he hung in there, made some adjustments, and won the second and third sets. Olivier Le Coz took down Hunter Emmott in the other singles match in two tiebreakers. There is no 2013 Chris Rossi or 2011 Vu, Rios or Yamaguchi on this Hurricane team, and the singles has suffered against the big dogs (1-5 against Unicorns and Chancellor's).

I had to work late yesterday and didn't get to see any other results. I heard that the Gooder Guys continued to roll in 4.5. Many people are picking them as the favorites, and I wouldn't bet against them. The Hurricane 4.5 team is not nearly as strong as it has been in past seasons, though it looks as though the roster was strengthened with the additions of Jazz Sulemanji and Arata Yamaguchi. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tommy Connell

It probably went unnoticed in last week's results, but Jorge Guerra and Lee Henley beat Tommy Connell and Stephen Ash in three sets at line 1 doubles. Connell, as most of you know, is a nationally (world?) ranked player in his sixties.

Connell has been playing 4.5 League since 2010 and that was his first legitimate doubles loss in all that time. (He did retire in one city playoff match despite being up a set when his team clinched the victory) Connell's doubles record now sits at 23-1 by my count. Still not too shabby.

Friday, May 16, 2014


I got to check out a little bit of the Chancellor's-Unicorns 4.0 match last night after my match was over. The Ace-Kings pulled out a 3-2 victory. Neither team appeared to be at 100% full strength, but the level of play was still clearly well above almost all other 4.0 matches. Notable absences included Kevin Nguyen and Eli Harper.

Chancellor's used Forehand Phuong (Alastair) Le and Jerry Pham as their singles guys. A dozen years or so ago, we all worked in the same complex. I would go running every day at lunchtime and those two were invariably out at the local court, practicing or playing doubles. To be honest, Phuong was not much of a player back then, a guy with a decent forehand and not much else. He's really come a long way as a player, and came up big last night against Varun Gouthaman, who was occasionally serving and volleying. Jerry continues to move so well on the court, and even at age 53 is competitive without much in the way of power. I sure wish I could move like that. Olivier Le Coz had too much game for Jerry last night, however.

I didn't see much of the doubles, but my impression was that Quan Vu and Jeff Lin won fairly comfortably, and that Calvin Miller and Gauge Krask did the same. Miller and Krask cover a lot of territory at the net. Their convincing victory over Hunter Emmott in week one was certainly not a fluke. At two all, the match came down to captain Lewis Lu's court, and he and Jeremy pulled it out in straight sets, I think. The combination of LLTC lighting, a distant court, and missing glasses made it hard for me to see much of that one.

It's a bit ridiculous that possibly two of the big three teams in this division will be sitting at home during City Playoffs. The 4.0 Hurricanes dropped at least one line against Sienna last night. At this point, that could come back to haunt them.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Not much to say

I really have nothing to add, but just felt like putting a new post up.

I'm sure most people were more focused on the NFL draft last night than USTA tennis. Should the Texans go with Derek Carr tonight? I hope people aren't influenced by his brother's stint here. I'm a Texas Ex, but will certainly be pulling for JFF and rooting for the Browns.

There has been only one interesting result posted thus far: Sugar Creek's 4.5 team continued to roll, beating the Deucebags 3-2. The Dbags continue to use Paul Nguyen in singles, and he was trounced by veteran Thach Ho. I'm surprised that they're using Nguyen while they have David Hall playing doubles. Paul may not be a doubles guy, but Hall is clearly a better singles player. Antoine Ford continued to roll. Nice to see Peter Rothe making a big contribution to Sugar Creek.

The 4.0 Hurricanes won 5-0 in Missouri City last night. That's the first time I've played there in years and was impressed with the lighting, especially after playing most of my matches at LLTC. It's a nice facility. The host team was very friendly also. Thanks for the beer and the hospitality.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Early Returns

It's only April, but here are my (very early) impressions and random thoughts.

I'm not super impressed with the Hurricanes 4.5 roster, but I can't really figure out who to pick ahead of them. Right now it'd have to be the Good-er Guys.  It's nice to see Hai Vu and Phi Huynh playing (and winning) together at 4.5 again. I've heard good things about this Gulzeb Niazi guy. I'm trying to figure out the Deucebags best lineup: Hall and Chavarria in singles? Does Ken Douds have any other roster adds to make? His team has potential, and another guy or two could push it over the edge. The matches this week don't look very exciting/interesting.

A friend opined that the 4.0 Hurricanes/Unicorns/Chancellor's division has 3 of the top 5 teams in the state. The USTA version of the SEC West, I guess. I think that's going a bit too far, but 3 of the top 10 wouldn't be a stretch. Sienna will try to prove they belong in the conversation this week against Chancellor's. The Hurricanes season was a few points away from ending last week. With only 2 wild cards, an 0-2 record in that division is a death sentence. I was surprised to see the Westside Warriors with an early loss.

5.0 League sure starts late this year. No matches until next week. Rosters aren't finalized yet, but Westside-Church Group looks strong.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Season

In case you hadn't noticed, I haven't so much as glanced at this blog in months. My interest level in tennis has waned, so I wouldn't expect much updating. That said, the League season has a way of rekindling interest.

I don't have many thoughts on the new year as I've barely glanced at the rosters. I am going to assume the Hurricanes are the 4.5 favorite based completely on history and without any knowledge. I'd probably put money on it blindly.

I am somewhat intrigued by the HTA decision to put the Hurricanes, Chancellor's, Unicorns and even Sienna in the same division. From an unbiased perspective I think I like it. It provides competitive matches for those teams almost every week, and also limits the blowouts in the "weaker" divisions as also-rans play each other more frequently. I guess the only negative is that it may result in a really talented team being left out of the playoffs, but given the double round robin schedule, the cream should rise to the top. It should make every week crucial since the second place team may not qualify. Plus, tanking will be virtually eliminated, one would think.

Best of luck to everyone in the major zone this weekend (too lazy to look up its current name). Feel free to post your bets on the winners.