Tahoe Classic returns after one-year absence
August 12, 2009
The Tahoe Classic Tennis Tournament returns to the South Shore on Friday. Last summer was the first time in 25 years that the doubles tournament was not a part of the annual August events at Lake Tahoe.
The Tahoe Classic Tennis Tournament had become the highlight summer event of so many players that the absence of the event made it necessary for the tournament to return, according to tournament directors Hersh and Sheryl Herschman.
The three-day tournament in Zephyr Cove includes seven doubles divisions: men’s A, men’s B, women’s, mixed A, mixed B, century and super century.
As in past years, the mixed A division continues to draw standout competition. Isabella Kling, national team champion, will partner with the explosive game techniques of Steve Fabela as the top seed. Both players are from Sacramento. Reno is home to second-seeded Phyliss Blackwell, who is a member of the U.S. national team, and hard-hitting Craig Gorbach, a Classic favorite for many years. New to the tourney are Christy Taylor (Monterey) and Luis Reis (Sacramento). Both will showcase their talents as the third seed. Hugh Thomson (Atlanta), winner of numerous national championships, will once again team with the spirited Colleen Warren (San Diego) as the fourth seed.
The always popular century division – where the team’s combined age must equal or exceed 100 years – will be led by Indian Wells, Calif., players Mark Peterson and Randy Houston. Both have wondrous shot-making abilities to back up their howitzer serves. Zephyr Cove Tennis Club pro Rob Wheatley will give his many local students a chance to witness his shot-making abilities when he partners with Tad Yakawa (Rancho Mirage, Calif.) to form the second seed. Yakawa is a scrappy player with great mobility who always does well in national tournaments. Joaquin de Monet (La Quinta, Calif.), winner of numerous silver and bronze balls from national competitions, will pair with Thomson. De Monet’s blistering serves and penetrating groundstrokes will highly complement the mental toughness that Thomson brings to the game.
New to the tournament this year is the super century division. In this division the team’s combined age must equal or exceed 130 years. This event features Thomson, who has again earned a spot on the U.S. national 60s team. He will be partner with tournament director and local player Hersh Herschman. Herschman continues to believe that his success as a player has completely to do with his luck in attracting great partners.
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Second-seeded Ken Robinson (San Carlos, Calif.), who just last week won the 65 nationals, will combine with David Lee (Reno). Lee, a former pro basketball player, has a thunderous serve and a potent ground attack. Third-seeded de Monet will partner with the legendary Jackie Cooper, (Palm Desert, Calif.). Cooper’s magical shot-making skills are a sight to see, and many say he is arguably the best 65-year-old tennis player in the U.S, according to Hersh Herschman. Stan Wilkins (Palm Desert), known for his caginess as a veteran player and his uncanny ability to use the court like a chessboard, will team with Yakawa as the fourth seed.
Herschman said the most enjoyed event among spectators is the men’s A division. The always popular team of Peterson and Houston will enter the tournament as the top seed. Gorbach will team with Tom Planko as the No. 2 seed. Planko is known for his booming serve and monstrous forehand. South Lake Tahoe residents Jimmy Roberts (Sacramento State) and Ryan Johnston will partner up as the No. 3 seed.
Herschman said Roberts has progressed rapidly as a skilled and talented tennis player. Both Roberts and Johnston are reputed as hard hitters. Reno’s Glen Grisillo and Kevin Orten have earned the designation as the fourth seed. Grisillo is a remarkably consistent player who has won matches at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
The most competitive division will be the men’s B, according to Herschman. Locals Dave Rittenhouse and John Hitchcock have earned the top seed. Hitchcock is a gifted ball striker, and Rittenhouse uses his shot-making skills to his fullest extent. Barry Eckenroth (Temecula, Calif.) and Bill Cover (Indian Wells) will represent as the second seed. Both players have menacing groundstrokes and strong overhead smashes. Gardnerville sends two of its best, third-seeded Wally Murray and Mike Rahman, to the tournament for the first time. Locals Andy Nielson and Steve Papp, longtime Tahoe Classic supporters, bring their tennis expertise and lightening-quick court coverage abilities to the tournament and have earned the fourth seed.
The women’s division is topped by Sacramento’s Karla Hawe and Kling, whose team won the U.S. national championship last year. Hawe has explosive firepower from both sides, and the Classic welcomes her back after a long absence. London sends Kim Iliffe to the Classic. Iliffe grew up in the Lake Tahoe area and was introduced to tennis as a youngster by Herschman, who said his former pupil is a graceful player with pinpoint control. She and partner Dianne Emswiler are past Classic champions and are seeded second.
Those teams will have to deal with Becky Smiser and daughter Warren, past champions and winners of the last Tahoe Classic women’s division. Smiser is a creative shot-making machine, and her game teams well with the steely resolve of Warren. South Shore’s Joyce Youngs, fresh off an area league championship win, will team with local Karla Johnston, who possesses the athletic ability to generate explosive power on the forehand side, to form the fourth seed. A team to watch out for is Kay Brooks and Ann Cover of La Quinta. This team has the fighting spirit and tennis smarts that puts fear into the hearts of their opponents.
The mixed B division, providing the Classic with the always sought-after qualities of youth and energy, is perhaps the most evenly balanced. The top seed is the sister-and-brother team of Kayla and Kevin Whitmeyer, who live in Palm Desert and the South Shore. Both are stylish and attacking players with a deft touch. Former South Tahoe High School standout Masha Long, who still possesses a blistering forehand and shot-making skills from the baseline, will team with the stylish Chris Mueller as the second seed. Local Ray Fugitt once again brings to the Classic his ace-making serve and devastating overhead. He will team with local Trisha Ward, whose service return smarts could carry this third-seeded team to victory. Patrick Malarky (Tahoe City) will team with Karen Neri (Gardnerville) and are seeded fourth. Both Malarky and Neri were members of teams that captured area league championships. Yet another team to look out for in this division is that of John D’Aintree (South Lake Tahoe) and Sharla Freeman (part-time Zephyr Cove resident who lives in Kentucky). Freeman is a formidable server and volley player.
As with all Tahoe Classic Tennis Tournaments, the public is invited to support their favorite players and view the tournament for free. Play begins at 7:45 a.m. Friday through Sunday. It is recommended that spectators bring a lawn chair to the event. Finals are set for 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Zephyr Cove Park courts. For additional event information, phone (775) 588-3688.