Palmira hosts the first Southwest Florida Pro League (SFPL) event of the 2016-17 season on Friday, October 21, beginning at 4:00pm. For those new to Pro League competition, the league consists of four teams of 12 tennis professionals and other top level players who play doubles and mixed doubles matches every other Friday at some of the area’s leading country clubs.
Matches consist of four men’s doubles and two mixed doubles matches, using a three-set format with the match-tiebreak constituting the third set. There are 12 regular season events and one playoff session, and the season runs from October 21, 2016 through April 7, 2017. No major event can be as successful as the SFPL is without substantial support from local businesses, and a number of local businesses have recognized the value of being affiliated with the SFPL. Summit Broadband and Ritzman Tennis are this season’s Title Sponsors, which means their significant financial backing provides the foundation upon which the League is built. Yet, without teams there is no League, and quite a few businesses have lent their support to this tennis community favorite by becoming Team Sponsors.
Seven local businesses have combined to support the four teams competing this season. Dina Marie Realty and Cedar Brook Financial (DMR/CBF) are sponsors for the team captained by Erica Cossairt, Director of Tennis for Sundial on Sanibel; The Blagojevic Group of Morgan Stanley and Harborside Dental Associates (BG/HD) provide the support for the team led by Christie Pollin, Head Pro at Colonial Country Club in Fort Myers; Arch Capital Advisory Group of Raymond James and Welch Tennis (RJ/WT) are sponsors of the team with Shawn Hedrick, Director of Tennis at World Tennis Club in Naples, at the helm; and ProGraphx (PG), the graphics division of Lee County Reprographics and Midwest Reprographics, provides the backing for Captain Jim “Katman” Katterfields’ squad. Katman is Director of Tennis at The Strand in Naples. The League also counts on Banner Sponsors, and there are a number of them as well, including Dr. Marius Espeleta; Park Meadow Tennis Shop, Lamar, Madisen’s Match, Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, Lily Co., and Apricot Lane
Okay, the above are the nuts and bolts, or main course of the Southwest Florida Pro League administered by John Ramsey of Kelly Greens. But like any good meal, it’s the dessert that we can hardly wait for, right? Well the tastiest of tennis desserts will be found on Court 1 at each Pro League venue. On Court 1 is where you’ll find the biggest hitters, and the highest-level competitors. For example, Dave Rowat, playing for DMR/CBF, won the doubles event and was the Finalist in the singles event at the ITF sanctioned Steve Stevens senior National Tennis Championships in Ontario, Canada this past summer. Paulo Barros, Sergio Rebolledo, Manny Encalada, and Mike Curran recently competed at the USTA Nationals in Las Vegas, Nevada, the former three in the Open Division, and Mike (who went undefeated) in the Over 40s. In addition to his appearance at the USTA League Nationals, Paulo was the Finalist at both the USTA National Men’s 35 Grass Court Championships and the USTA National Men’s 35 Indoor Championships. He also reached the semifinal in doubles of both events. Also of note on the top-level court will be Ryan Sherry, a former University of Florida standout and SEC Tournament MVP, and Dean Tsamas, a recent graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University who finished his career as the winningest player in that school’s history. Yep, the action will be worth more than the price of admission.
There will some some other action worth watching on other courts as well. One of the top players in this coming season’s Pro League will not be playing Men’s Doubles, but will be playing on the Mixed 1 Court for ProGraphx. If her opponents are smart, they will hit to her male partner, because as recently as this past May, Dominique Levin of Bonita Bay’s staff was playing world-class women’s doubles for Germany in the International Tennis Federation’s Suzanne Lenglen Cup. Oh, and she won the three matches she played against Latvia, Ireland, and the United States, losing just six games in three matches. Think she’ll do okay this season? Jeff Timmer of Colonial will have the pleasure of teaming with Dominique and they should be the odds-making favorites every time they take the court. Kimberly Jones, Director of Tennis at Lexington Country Club, who will also be playing on the top mixed doubles court is no slouch on the court either. Although her WTA Tour days are over, you don’t win a US Indoor Championship, reach No.25 in the world, compete in World Team Tennis, and coach a college team (University of Cincinnati) without knowing what you’re doing. She may have slowed down a bit, but you can learn a lot about the game by watching Kimberly play. She’ll be serving it up for DMR/CBF with her Assistant Pro at Lexington Christian Karlovits at her side.
I’m guessing that you have gotten the drift by now. As always, there will be some exciting matches at some of the best country club venues in Southwest Florida this Pro League season. You can check out the lineups, the schedule, etc. at swflproleague.org. I could give you my take on what I expect on Friday, but I better not go there. I will tell you that the match I would pay for is Court 1 Men’s Doubles when Manny Encalada and Mike Wardell (a sub and former student of Mike Curran’s) of DMR/CMF take on Mike Curran and Dean Tsamas of BG/HD. Definitely Match of The Day potential in that one. See you around the courts! Game, set, match…T. A.