The summer’s first round of FLEX tournaments have concluded, marking the first time since early in the year that adult players have competed on the USTA Southern California circuit. Thanks to a unique schedule format, FLEX events were held in Beach Cities, San Diego, San Gabriel Valley, and Ventura.
The return to play – and the convenient format allowing players to schedule matches on their own time – was much anticipated for all the participants, and for a variety of reasons. Whether for sport or simply for much needed exercise and socializing, players remained eager to participate and advance over a two-month period, culminating at the FLEX finale in San Diego (see tournament champions below).
“It’s so easy to weave the tennis into your daily routine,” said Beach Cities player Larry Vance. “A lot of my friends in the senior competition class don’t like to play tournaments because you have to play two matches in a day.” Vance believes that more seniors will join the FLEX tournaments simply due to the scheduling. At a standard tournament, players may be asked to complete two matches on Saturday, only to return with minimal recovery for two more matches on Sunday. With FLEX, single matches are spread over weeks instead of hours. “FLEX invites you to play instead of dissuading you to play,” he said.
Another benefit of the extended format is the convenience of scheduling, and in some cases, rescheduling. When Kumi Kanai was unable to keep her commitment to opponent Samantha Kadera, the pair simply picked an alternate date. At a standard tournament, Kanai would have been forced to withdraw.
“We are both mothers,” Kanai said of she and her opponent, “and we have to schedule the tennis match around our families. So I love this format.”
“As a mom, this is ‘me’ time, and for my mental health I really appreciate being back out here,” Kadera said. “Finding women who like to play at a high level and who like singles is kinda hard and challenging, so I enjoy this kind of set-up.” Kadera also hopes they can connect and get together in the future to play outside of a competitive setting, a social perk of the FLEX experience.
Returning to court was even more crucial for Dan Castillo. Recovering from a torn Achilles late last year, Castillo anticipated a gradual return to tennis this spring. Instead, the stoppage of play due to COVID-19 delayed his return. In the meantime, Castillo was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, and returning to the court became an even more crucial priority.
“For me literally it was a life or death situation,” he said. “When you get diabetes, you have to increase the level of activity and exercise… Once tennis (resumed), it increased my motivation. Tennis, and playing this tournament, has been a lifesaver for me.”
Playing his very first USTA event, Castillo was able to return to competitive play thanks to USTA Southern California’s FLEX format, and looks forward to returning for the next round this fall.
“I’m normally a doubles player, not really a singles player,’ he said. “But that’s all we can have right now. It was either (singles), or no tennis. I’ve never played any tournaments before but I did enjoy the flexibility of it… pun intended.”
CHAMPIONS - SUMMER 2020
NTRP Men's 4.0: (2) JJ Fuller d. (1) Borann Heam
NTRP Men's 3.5: Andre Grinberg d. (3) Roger Navarro
NTRP Women's 3.5: (1) Robin Freni d. (2) Tara Aviel
Women’s 4.5 RR: Karina Kraines d. Allison Doyle
Women’s 3.5: Robin Freni d. Tara Aviel
Men’s 4.5 RR: Jon Tringale d. Tim Claar
San Gabriel Valley
Women’s 3.5 RR: Rebecca Stokes d. Irina Abadzheva
Women’s 4.0 RR: Brittany Whyte d. Briseida Jazmin Rubio
Women’s 4.5 RR: Jennifer Avila d. Monica Georgescu
Men’s 3.5 RR: John Choi d. Scott Lee
Men’s 4.0 RR: Joseph Widman d. Matthew Levine
Men’s 4.5 RR: Ulises Lorenzo d. Francesco Nguyen
NTRP Men's 4.0: Tommy West d. Chris Prokop
NTRP Men's 4.5: (2) Ken Johnson d. Karl Rivard
NTRP Women's 3.5: (1) Sharon Meredith d. (3) Kathy Valdez
NTRP Women's 4.0: (1) Claris Oas d. Lisa Davidson
Men’s 3.5 RR: Joseph Barraquio
NTRP Men's 3.5: John Choi d. (1) Vipin Gupta
Men’s 4.0 RR: Tim Ryan d. Richard Park
Men’s 4.5 RR: Rob Stone d. Craig Myers
Women’s 3.5 RR: Sheri Kanongataa d. Didi Sowul
Women’s 4.0 RR: Sherith Lewis d. Bridget Going