Chicago Charities – Wayne Dollard covered one of his favorite events

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PTM Editor Wayne Dollard reported on one of his favorite tournaments:

The sun rose at 6:25 am on Wednesday, November 3rd over the Glenview Club as 76 women arrived to prepare for a long day of battle at the 33rd annual Chicago Charities tournament.

At first glance of the tournament draw sheet there were gaps that had previously been filled by top national ranking players: Aery, Shea, Hogan, Prendergast, Zink, Debbs, Mangan and Delaney. Was this Chicago Charities going to live up to the expectations set by the previous 32 events? After further review of the draw the #1, #4, #5, and #6 teams in the country were all represented. Perhaps more important, Chicago showed up with some fresh new talent taking the tour by storm.

On display the traditional first weekend of November was the power and depth of the Chicago area women’s field featuring: former State Champions Sally Cottingham and Chris Sheldon, 2004 National Champions Susie Keane and Mary Doten, and 2005 Nationals semi-finalist Terry Miller with Jane McNitt.

On a roll from their win at the 2005 APTA National Championships, the top-seeded team of Aila Main and Kerri Delmonico (New York City) were regarded as the team to beat.

The opening day proceeded as expected when the top four seeded women’s teams advanced to the quarterfinals. The scheduled matches were: Delmonico-Main (#1) vs. Budde-Goldberg, McNitt-Miller vs. Tarzian-Viant (#4), Cottingham-Sheldon (#3) vs. Doten-Keane and Frei-Sierks vs. Dardis-Shay (#2).

Like most tournaments, it is hard to top the late day thrill and excitement of quarter-final match play. These four no-holds barred match-ups began at 4:00 pm and exhibited driving and volleying skills that equaled the best competition seen on platform tennis courts in years.

With the top seeded teams Delmonico-Main advancing over Budde-Goldberg (6-2, 6-3) and Dardis-Shay defeating Frei-Sierks (7-5, 6-4), all eyes were glued to the six locals remaining in the quarter-finals.

After losing the first set 0-6 to the overpowering Chicago duo of McNitt and Miller, Tarzian and Viant rallied back 6-4 in the second to force a third set. The match ran past 6:00 pm before McNitt and Miller closed the door, 6-4.

Without a doubt, the most anticipated match of the day was on court one between Chicago rivals Cottingham-Sheldon and 2004 National Champions Doten-Keane. 2005

Cottingham and Sheldon were mentally poised to advance after recently winning the Milwaukee Women’s Open two weeks earlier when they defeated Doten-Schaefer in the semi-finals and McNitt-Miller in the finals.

In front of a capacity crowd, Cottingham and Sheldon lost a surprising anticlimactic 6-1, 6-3 battle, setting up the semi-final match-ups between Delmonico-Main vs. McNitt-Miller and Doten-Keane vs. Dardis-Shay

For Terri Miller, she saw her opportunity to get revenge against Kerri Delmonico and Aila Main who defeated her (with partner Nancy O’Suilivan) in the semifinals of the 2005 APTA Nationals Championships.

While Miller and Main put on a backhand driving exhibition, Delmonico and McNitt traded well-placed forehand drives on key points. After two hours of battling. Miller and McNitt walked away three-set victors (6-3, 3-6, 6-2).

The other semi-final match featured unseeded Doten and Keane defeating the second-seeded team of Dardis and Shay in straight sets. The finals were set as an all-Chicago event featuring two former world-ranked tennis players (Susie Keane #27 and Terry Miller #14) and their partners. In the end, sophomore superstar Terry Miller and veteran Jane McNitt dominated the field and walked away the victors. Look for this young team to excel and be a major threat at the 2006 APTA National Championships in Chicago.

The 2005 men’s Charities began on Saturday, November 5th and saw one of the deepest draws in recent memory. The eight seeded teams were Gambino- Ohlmuller, Goodspeed-Mansager, Cochrane-Marino, Fiedler-Stulac, Caldwell-Cordish, Browne-Estes, Hough- Rahaley and Englesberg-Kelly.

The top five seeded teams advanced to the quarter-finals as expected.

Although last season’s third and fourth-seeded teams were not in the draw, the addition of 2005 Nationals finalists Cochrane-Marino and the reemergence of Chicago spinmaster Brian Uihlein made up for the absence.

Saturday night quarter-final play saw one upset when the local unseeded team of Keevins-Uihlein defeated former National Champions Goodspeed-Mansager 6-3, 6-3. With this, semi-final action was set for Sunday morning between Fiedler-Stulac and Keevins-Uihlein and a 2005 APTA Nationals quarter-final rematch between Gambino-Ohlmuller and Cochrane-Marino.

The Chicago Charities semi-finals began at 10:00 am at the Glen View Club. In the first match, Fiedler and Stulac defeated Keevins and Uihlein 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 with an incredible display of reflex volleys, booming serves and clever drives.

In the second semi-final match-up, Cochrane and Marino continued their winning streak against Ohlmuller and Gambino by winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

The finals pitted Canadian Mike Stulac with Bill Fiedler (Chicago) against New York native Mike Cochrane and partner Mike Marino (Chicago). The four men battled for two-and-one-half hours before Fiedler and Stulac closed the match in a third set tie-breaker 6-4, 5-7, 7-6.

The big winner for the weekend belonged to Chicago who fielded all four women’s finalists and two of the four men’s finalists.

Platform tennis is certainly on the rise in the Midwest with the competition getting deeper each passing season. Next season’s Charities promises to offer more new faces from the most exciting platform tennis region in the country.

Source: Platform Tennis Magazine, Vol 7. Issue 3, January 2006