Tennis Prose



It All Happened At The Larry Turville Grand Prix National USTA Tournament

By Scoop Malinowski

Playing in the Raymond James Super Senior Larry Turville Grand Prix National USTA Level 2 Tournament at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center provided more thrills and excitement than I could have imagined.

In no particular order, there was a Grand Slam finalist working as a volunteer at the tournament assigning courts and times – Janet Newberry played the 1973 Wimbledon mixed doubles final with Raul Ramirez, losing to Billie Jean King and Owen Davidson. Newberry said King was the best player on the court in that final. Her route to her only slam final included a surprise walkover vs Ilie Nastase who left Wimbledon after losing singles and doubles. Newberry said she feared having to play Nastase in the QF because he would make fun of opponents with his antics. Relieved of that pressure, she won the semis and made the finals. She also beat Martina Navratilova at US Open 1976 when the legend was the 3 seed. How did she do it? Attacking her backhand, Martina couldn’t pass me under pressure that day. Newberry also won the Italian Open and was once no. 17 in the world.

Newberry just loves watching and talking about tennis and camaraderie of it all. Her husband Ralph, who played no. 1 at Yale, is a distinguished racquet sport figure too, he’s won national titles in three racquet sports – Court Tennis (7 national and 14 senior titles), Squash (21 national and 3 senior titles) and regular Tennis (5 senior national titles). Howe has authored a book “Brothers & Champions” – “the story of two brothers Sam and Ralph, who were racquet sport artists and warriors, a delightful look at a nearly forgotten time.” It’s available at Millenium Printing Company

A friend from NJ Glen Andersen came from the Florida East Coast to watch me and another Packanack Lake Tennis Club member Alan Hughes (70s doubles finalist) play and found a wonderful surprise – also competing at this Larry Turville tournament was someone he had not seen since 1979, an old Doane College teammate named Jim Concotelli. Doane, in Crete, Nebraska (also the home of Alpo Dog Food), had a total student enrollment of 700 but “we had an awesome small college tennis program due to the coach Robert Travenchek, was was a doctor with a practice in Wilbur, Nebraska. He used his personal funds to lure good tennis players to Doane. For a period of five years Doane defeated all of its conference opponents 9-0 in duel matches.” By the way, “Dr. Travenchek later took a job as a public health official in Mississippi and became a hero during hurricane Katrina. Dr. Trav was also regarded as the foremost bird expert in the Midwest.”

My playing experience was bittersweet – first round main draw loss to an Argentine machine who reached the semis and eventually lost 64 60 to the eventual champion Ken Thome. My first day at the tournament I asked the only guy there with me at the time to hit and it was Ken, who told me he was coached by Larry Turville at Rice University in the 1980s and he came to play the tournament from Miami to honor his coach Turville who passed away a few years ago. Thome is currently the Davis Cup captain for Costa Rica and has played in Davis Cup doubles with Juan Antonio Marin, who was ranked ATP 55 in 1999. Marin has singles wins over Gaudio, Puerta, Portas, Squillari, Agenor, Schuettler, El Aynaoui, Magnus Norman, Chang, Berasategui. Marin won his only title in Bstaad in 1999 and extended Pete Sampras to five sets at 1999 Roland Garros first round 76 46 57 76 (9) 46. So Thome was another level with his fine form and extra power, he won the final 61 61 vs Pascal Convers, who was once the top ranked French 16s junior and plays often with Richey Reneberg in Bethesda, MD. Thome looked unbeatable, perhaps inspired by the spirit of his old coach Turville. Convers was overwhelmed by the Thome’s arsenal, “I couldn’t do anything.”

Pascal Convers (finalist) on left with champion Kenneth Thome.

I watched the 75s final on center court with ITF world no. 1 Michael Beautyman, a practicing lawyer, vs a Czech player. It went to a third set tiebreaker after three hours of grinding. After the second set ten minute break Beautyman sought the advice of Newberry, who I was sitting next to during the entire final. She said he was playing beautiful tennis but to bring the Czech to net more, he hated coming forward and looked awkward on short balls and drop shots. Also, to move his serve toss slightly forward. Beautyman was down 52 in the third but eventually prevailed 86 in the tiebreaker. The Czech was fist pumping, smiling and celebrating cockily with his 5-2 lead in the set but perhaps he was counting his chickens before they hatched.

The 70s champion Joachim Rasgado once beat Bjorn Borg at Orange Bowl. He said that win changed his career, instead of going to play tennis at a college in the north east, the Borg win got him into Miami University. Rasgado has a UM tattoo on his ankle. His game is fascinating, very smooth, ball control, extended follow through on slices, he’s like a surgeon out there. Glen Andersen said he’s inspired to try to imitate Rasgado’s form and how he gets very low with his legs for every ball.

Hearing Glen’s words also inspired me to try to play like Rasgado, stay low and emphasize follow throughs. And it worked, I won my first two backdraw matches 63 60 and 60 63 and then the backdraw final 75, opponent retired.

Another interesting match was in the 60s, a clash between two former Purdue University standouts who had not played each other in over 35 years. Randy Nistler and Adam Abele both starred at Purdue in the early 80s, Abele twice won the Big Ten singles title. But it was underdog Nistler who upset his old teammate, and as one onlooker noted, “Abele didn’t expect to lose this match.”

Another Herculean effort was Byron Smith making the semis in both singles and doubles of the 75s. His energies were so targeted on playing two events that he lost his phone on Sunday, but after some moments of uncertainty and exhibiting Borg like focus during the search, Byron eventually found the missing device lodged between his car seat and console.

The St. Petersburg Tennis Center is a historical monument, as so many greats have played there – Laver, Ashe, King, Chang, Courier, Agassi, Roddick, Newcombe, Chris Evert won her first pro title on court 16, the same court I played the backdraw final. The clubhouse also has a museum area showing its history.

Another cool story I heard was from 65s beast Jonathan Fears, who is a phenomenal athlete, always goes deep into the singles and doubles draws with his partner Kerry Clapper. With his old Head oversize Titanium with strings at 28 pounds, he made the finals in singles as usual. Rumors say his dad was a Hall of Fame football player named Tom Fears, who once coached the NFL Saints. Fears is about 6-4 and at 65 still has the fitness and agility that defies age. Despite always wearing surf trunks or a swimsuit and non tennis sneakers (“because they’re so light”) he looks almost like an NFL wide receiver or tight end playing unorthodox but still graceful, winning tennis.

Off the court he’s a great guy, friendly, engaging with a ton of good stories. He lives on an island in a town about an hour north of Orlando, Lady Lakes or something. He said he and his wife found a baby raccoon at their motel and decided to raise it. The raccoon became a great pet, but only because they raised it since it was a baby with it’s eyes closed. That’s the only time you can successfully raise a raccoon if you get it that early, otherwise their wild savage side takes over at a certain age. This baby raccoon was so friendly it would sleep with you and put his paws on you to make sure you didn’t move or get up. But this amazing little raccoon met a disastrous fate a few weeks ago, one night it disappeared, the unfortunate victim of an alligator attack in the lake. Fears said he cried for a week.

A friend years ago had a baby raccoon at her house and it was extremely friendly and needy of affection but she warned that at a certain age, the raccoon’s instincts take over and if you have food in your hand, it could bite your finger off. That’s why it’s so important to raise a raccoon from the earliest possible age, to become a good pet. Sorry if this sounds like but I thought it’s a good story to share… You never know what you’re gonna learn at a tennis tournament, from being around so many accomplished, intelligent, experienced people of diverse backgrounds…

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  • Bob Dreyfus · February 28, 2023 at 7:29 am

    I loved your story about the Larry Turville St. Pete tourney. I, too, had a fascinating
    time at the tournament. Very good competition and fun seeing players I haven’t seen in a while. I have met Janet Newberry before. Not at the tourney. I met Janet at “ Janet’s “ an antique store on Central Ave. in St. Pete. We talked tennis for a while when I saw some old newspaper articles about Janet’s tennis history at her store. I believe she said she was Larry Turville’s cousin. I had no idea that Janet was married to Ralph Howe, who I have watched for years in tourneys. His book about he and his brother sounds fascinating. I got to see Jim Nelson from Shreve, Ohio. I first met Jim many years ago at the LBKTC tourney. He used to own an Amish restaurant, Essenhaus, in Wooster, Ohio. His brother now manages it. A while back he sold the restaurant to a man who owns Sarasota’s Der Dutchman Restaurant. The new owner has another Der Dutchman in Indiana. Jim plays a lot of tourneys. He and his son play the father/son tourney in October at the Landings. He has won father/son and father/daughter tourneys. Very nice guy. His doubles partner was Kevin O’Neill from Plymouth, Mass. I asked Kevin if he knew Bill Litwin a 75+ tourney player. Bill Litwin lives in Cohasset, Mass. Bill and I used to play singles between 1974 – 1978 at some hard courts in North Scituate, Mass. Kevin goes skiing every year with Bill Litwin. I asked Kevin to say hi to Bill for me.
    I haven’t seen Bill since 1978. I lost in the first round 75 singles to a former U. Of Maryland college player. In the backdraw I had a close match with Pavel Rancic, a Czech, who went to the 75 consolation finals and lost to Jan Kofol, another Czech
    native. I happened to be at a lunch table when Joachim was holding court. Joe Bouquin, Jim Nelson, Kevin O’Neill, and Noble Hendrix were at the table munching on hot dogs and sausages when inevitably Jaochim’s match and win vs. Borg can up. Noble Hendrix, from Boone, NC, a former surgeon, who is on the board of directors of the USMTA, came to our lunch table to ask Joachim’s opinion whether
    seeded players in USMTA, who often get a bye in the first round at tourneys, should get points for that bye. Joachim felt points for a first round Main bye should get points. I have followed Jonathan Fears play since this year’s LBK cat 2 tourney. He is fun to watch. Very athletic, unorthodox and a real gamer. I hung a bit with a new friend Jacques Mistrot, from New Orleans and Colorado. He knows all about the inner city tennis scene in New Orleans. I watched Randy Nistler, who as you wrote beat Adam Abele unexpectedly and then played a fellow named Terry. They had split sets. In the third set, which I watched, it was very close but Terry won. Sometimes I go to Cedar’s on Saturday morning to watch their 5O’s Suncoast Teams play. I have seen Randy N. play many times there. I always pictured him as a surfer dude, with his bandana and his surfing shirts, but in conversation with his wife I found out they were from St. Louis. Randy is fun to watch, great personality and a great player. I think of Randy as the Kevin Costner of the courts. I saw Will Rodgers there who I played in the 70’s consolation doubles finals at Meadows but lost. Bill had some sage advice for me. He quoted Tom Brady, “ You’re either winning or learning “. He also said that one has to play tournaments because one learns what one needs improve. Bill has an amazing back story. He comes to the tourneys with a service dog. He had a stroke 2.5 years ago at a Louisville tourney where he played 3 matches back to back, 6 hours, and had a stroke. His comeback story is truly inspiring. I, like you, had an amazing time at the St. Pete tourney. All the best. Bob Dreyfus

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2023 at 8:05 am

    Bob thanks for continuing the article with another perspective. Could almost write a book about this tournament, so many stories and interesting characters involved. We only got the tip of the iceberg. Somehow I didn’t even see you there, first day (Tues) I had to play 1R main draw at SPCC which was dead, nobody was over there at all and the court I played on was dry with bad bounces. SPTC was 100x better to be at.

  • catherine · February 28, 2023 at 11:58 am

    Scoop – nice piece about the tournament. Refreshing to get away from pro events for a while.

    Kerber has produced a girl, Liana. She still intends to continue playing, which I think is maybe not the best decision.

    I find her obsessive secrecy bizarre. But in character.

    Petko’s doing commentary – something she swore she’d never do. They all say that.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    Kerber still has plenty of Ws in her Yonex, might as well keep the checks rolling in a few more years. She still loves to compete. Why did Petkodance swear she would never to tv broadcasting? She’s a superb interview with top media skills.

  • catherine · March 1, 2023 at 2:42 am

    Andrea said that a while ago. She may have been referring to tennis admin rather than media, in which case she would certainly have been correct. Tennis politics definitely not her thing. On the talk/analysis side I agree – she’s one of the best around, talking and writing.

    (I wish her book had been translated. It got good notices in German.)

    Giorgi – wins a tournament, out first round the next.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2023 at 7:25 am

    Catherine she also kind of said it here too in the Biofile I did with her at US Open about 8 years ago, one of the best tennis Biofiles I ever did…

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2023 at 12:32 pm

    Catherine, WTA site article announces Kerber’s baby Liana. But no mention of the father, husband or male partner? Why was the male in the equation canceled?

  • catherine · March 2, 2023 at 5:08 am

    Scoop – you’ll notice above I commented ‘I find her (Angie’s) obsessive secrecy bizarre’. This strain runs through much of Kerber’s life and no exception here.

    General chat has it her male partner/fiance is a guy called Franco Bianco. Don’t know much about him. I’ve seen pix of them together in BILD, German tabloid. I was slightly surprised that there was no marriage, Angie being a Catholic.

    I find Angie rather more than slightly manipulative and I suspect the roots for this lie in her past. She has a right to a private life, of course, but she’s made a bit of a thing of it which puts me off. Steffi managed that balance much better.

    Petko also does the public/private aspect very well. I’ve never heard any gossip about her, mainly because she does good PR and there’s nothing to gossip about.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 2, 2023 at 8:03 am

    Catherine, the wta canceled Pegula’s husband too, they did an article about her around the time she was married yet no mention of the husband at all. The pattern is clear.

  • catherine · March 2, 2023 at 11:40 am

    You know of course I won’t agree with you. The WTA site isn’t for gossip. If players don’t want publicity then they or their team won’t supply the pix/info. I think the site’s uninspiring but not for that reason. Actually I haven’t seen anything about Pegula’s husband anywhere.

    Angie just never talked publicly about her partner. Not on her own social media, nowhere. If anyone did any ‘canceling’ it was her.

    Barty was often seen with Gary and her wedding was pictured on the WTA site.
    No ‘pattern’. It’s up to the people involved whether they want publicity or not. Serena eg obviously did.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 2, 2023 at 12:18 pm

    Catherine, or maybe Kerber hoaxed this male figure like Jan Brady’s “George Glass.” And Azarenka’s charade. When there are no photos together or anything, it looks like image control propaganda. Seeing Osaka on court this week with Agassi and Brad Gilbert and not looking pregnant is another suspect possible hoax pregnancy. Barty clearly has a relationship with the Gary fellow. The others, who knows.

  • catherine · March 3, 2023 at 11:22 am

    Well Scoop, some people must spend 99%of their waking lives inventing false pregnancies and creating ‘image control propaganda’ around the issue of childbirth. Sounds pretty medieval to me.

    BTW – Madison Keys and Brian Fratangelo have got around to engagement (the ring’s nice too) – an event the WTA have celebrated with a nice picture. I’m 100% sure that Maddie is a woman and Brian is a man. Someone must have slipped up 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 3, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Madison Fratangelo sounds better than Bjorn Keys. ) Hey, shouldn’t Billie Jean King have gone back to Billie Jean Moffitt after her marriage didn’t work out?

  • catherine · March 4, 2023 at 3:30 am

    BJ and Larry married when they were very young and since Billie Jean only really became famous under her married name she decided to keep it after the divorce, partly, she said, as a gesture to Larry for supporting her as a player in her early years.

    At Wimbledon she was always posted on the scoreboard as ‘Mrs L W King’. Along with ‘Mrs B M Court’ and ‘Mrs R Cawley’. (BTW there two Mrs R Cawleys)

    How quaint.



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