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Friday, July 16, 2021

Bobby Curtis, Synonymous with Florida Junior Tennis, Dies; My Wimbledon Junior Championships Recap; Ngounoue Makes JA Milan Semifinals; Brooksby Rolls On at ATP Newport

Bobby Curtis with USTA Florida's Tennis On The Move van

I learned of the death of Bobby Curtis last night right after I posted, but that was probably a good thing, giving me time to reflect on the impact he had on junior tennis in Florida and on me personally. It wasn't a shock; he was 93 and in poor health the past several years, but I did benefit with some time to consider his legacy.

USTA Florida has published a comprehensive look at all that Bobby did for junior tennis in the state in this article, which goes back to his days at Moore Park in Miami and the seed that grew into Junior Team Tennis and extends through his years as the section's junior competition expert.

When I met Bobby back in the early aughts, he was already a legend, and when I would see him at Florida sectional events, the Eddie Herr or the Junior Orange Bowl, he always had a story to tell and time for any parent or coach who had a question or a memory they wanted to share. Already in his 70s, he was still traveling throughout the state, to tournaments big and small, promoting the sport, and doing everything he could to make the system fair, accessible and user-friendly.

Having little experience myself in the grass roots part of tennis, with the only tournament I really knew the big one here in Kalamazoo, Bobby helped me understand the significance of the structures below the national level and how important a positive experience at those levels was to growing the sport. He did that with humor, patience and generosity, and an enthusiasm for his work that never wavered. I know he saw the ugly side of junior tennis in the ultra-competitive atmosphere that exists in Florida, but he never lost his belief in the positive impact the sport could have on the lives of those who played it competitively. Nothing meant more to him than a former Florida junior player, now an adult, seeking him out at a tournament, whether as a coach or a parent, to reminisce about the lessons learned on the tennis court. 

The USTA Florida's move to Daytona Beach from South Florida in 2001 proved a challenge for Curtis, who lived in Hollywood, but he continued to provide his expertise to the organization until he retired in 2009. Although he was not able to drive in his final years, his friend Jim Martz, editor of Florida Tennis magazine, would make a point to bring him to the Orange Bowl and Junior Orange Bowl to have those conversations with generations of Florida tennis people that he cherished so much. 

Bobby will be missed by all of those friends and colleagues, and Florida tennis will always owe him a great debt. He did important work well, with the best interest of the sport at heart, a legacy that will live on in all who knew him.

Although I couldn't be there this year due to pandemic restrictions, I was able to cover the Wimbledon Junior Championships from my office, and I wrote this article on the all-American boys final and a first girls title for Spain for Tennis Recruiting Network. If you didn't have a chance to read my daily coverage here, it's a good way to get up to speed on everything that happened last week in the junior championships.

At the JA Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan, unseeded 14-year-old Clervie Ngounoue has reached her first Grade A semifinal, defeating No. 5 seed Petra Marcinko of Croatia 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-3. Ngounoue will face No. 16 seed Nikola Bartunkova of the Czech Republic, who turned 15 in February. Unseeded Mirra Andreeva, the 14-year-old from Russia, will face top seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines, 16, in other girls semifinal.

No. 2 seed Dali Blanch lost 6-1, 6-4 to Jakub Mensik of the Czech Republic in today's quarterfinals. The unseeded 15-year-old Mensik will face Orange Bowl 16s finalist Ignacio Buse of Peru in the bottom half semifinal. Another Peruvian, No. 16 seed Gonzalo Bueno, will take on Miguel Perez Pena of Spain in the top half.

In doubles, Madison Sieg and Eala, the top seeds, advanced to the final, where they will meet the unseeded team of Lucija Ciric Bagaric of Croatia and Sofia Costoulas of Belgium. Costoulas reached the Wimbledon girls doubles final last week, with Laura Hietaranta of Finland. Edas Butvilas of Lithuania, who won the Wimbledon boys doubles titles with Alejandro Manzanera Pertusa of Spain, is into the Milan doubles final with Vilius Gaubas of Lithuania. The No. 4 seeds will play No. 3 seeds Igor Kudriashov and Konstatin Zhzhenov of Russia for the title. 

Live scoring is available at Tennis Ticker

Tommy Hemp has a recap of today's action in Milan at Tennis Underworld.

Today at the ATP 250 Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Jenson Brooksby breezed into the semifinals, defeating Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 6-0, 6-3. The 20-year-old from Sacramento, who won the Kalamazoo 18s title in 2018, had never played a competitive match on grass prior to this week, but he didn't see that as a problem.

"I think I've adjusted well," said Brooksby, who did not play Wimbledon qualifying due to an arm injury that has now healed. "A good reason for that is that I don't really worry too much about conditions. I just get here early and fine tune parts of my game. The ball stays lower so the slice, especially when you're on the run, so to keep it low is good, but I just try to keep it similar, whether it's on hard, grass or clay and then adjust to how the surface plays with bounces, and my movement, and things like that."

Brooksby, who is 31-5 this year, will play No. 7 seed Jordan Thompson of Australia, who got by Maxime Cressy(UCLA) 6-3, 7-6(6).

Top seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan and No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson(Illinois) of South Africa will meet in the other semifinal.

Recent UNC graduate Will Blumberg has advanced to the doubles semifinals, with partner Jack Sock. The wild cards defeated No. 3 seeds Harri Heliovaara of Finland and JP Smith(Tennessee) of Australia 6-4, 6-3 in today's quarterfinals. 


Rick V said...

Thank you for the kind remembrance of Bobby, he is missed.

Nicole H. said...

A lovely remembrance of Bobby. Thank you for sharing your memories of him!