Host Kurt Collis, Escotto, Rodrigue, and FTT President Charlie Williams
Deland, Florida- The Florida Tennis Tour came to the FTT Deland Open with half the field coming from the local Volusia county areas. The tour stop was hosted by the Kurt Collis Tennis Academy at the David E. Disney Tennis Center and also had a record number of women players in the singles with 3 ladies mixing it up with the men. In a field full of strong foreigners, USA's lone survivor Hayden Rodrigue took on Davis Cup pro and current FTT #1 Giancarlo Escotto of the Dominican Republic for the championship. The 22 year old Hayden, who plays for Rollins College, started the day off with wins over FTT #2 seed James Nguyen of VIetnam 8-5, then over Bethsune-Cookman University's John Jackson of Jacksonville 8-1, and in the semi-finals defeated Brazilian ATP pro Luiz Miotto 6-1, and then Miotto withdrew from fatigue in the second set. Escotto, the #1 seed, defeated Deland's Lane Winfrey 8-1, Orlando's Tayjhon McGee 8-2, and Brazil's Guilerme Dumit of Rollins College 6-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals. Dumit also plays for Rollins College Men's Tennis.
(L to R clockwise) Top FTT players James "Vietnamese Flash" Nguyen and Tayjhon McGee weren't able to get by their tough opponents this time around. Luiz "Good Guy Guto" Miotto of Brazil had to retire in the semi-finals. The Young Guns having a lil pow wow.
The event was sponsored by Orlando Commissioner Regina I. Hill, Dragon Promotions, Orlando Synergy, Khoa Nguyen Realty, Ari Events, Kurt Collis Tennis Academy, Tennis Plaza, GayneGirl Photography and Tennis Resorts of Disney World. The Official Ball used in the event was Dunlop provided by Tennis Plaza. The singles, doubles, and consolation tournaments were all accomplished and ran by the expert FTT team with President Charlie Williams, Anastasia Tonisheva at the helm along with Kurt Collis and his capable crew of the Kurt Collis Tennis Academy.
Hayden proved to be a force to be reckoned with while his greatest challenge in GC awaited
"I was very satisfied with my play today. And I loved the FTT atmosphere with great interaction between the pros and amateurs. My game plan for the finals tomorrow will just to treat it as any other match and stick to what I know. Stay in the moment", Rodrigue said about his upcoming finals.
Local junior 12 year old Gregorio Casella of Deland won the Top FTT Junior Award for winning 1 match in the main draw and then winning the consolation tournament by defeating Erick Menendez of Deland High School Tennis Team in the finals. Menendez won the Top Teen Titan FTT Award.
Menendez & Casella took the top teen and junior honors as well as 1st & 2nd in the FTT Consolation Tourny
All smiles at the Deland Open as amatuers and pros mixed in for a great time. Record number of ladies at this event with Rhonda Mullis, Monica Turnblacer, & Barbara Hawkins. All players got to play a minimum of 2 matches and many played pick-up games on the open courts in mixed doubles and hitting. Coach Collis could be seen giving free pointers to all.
"All of our events have been fantastic with amazing hosts. The weather was perfect and the strong support staff at Kurt Collis Academy made this one of the smoothest events we ever produced so far", said Charlie Williams, Founder of the Florida Tennis Tour.
Fans who watched, and even participated in the FTT Deland, were delighted by the top notch quality of tennis and professional players who came. Eileen Whitehead, a tennis enthusiast, said "Great competition, perfect weather, and a great time had by all!" The event even inspired Ed Maurice from Deland to start playing again.
Fans got a chance to rub shoulders AND play against pro level players for $35!
The FTT Deland finals enjoyed a picture perfect day at the Kurt Collis Tennis Academy between Giancarlo Escotto(1) and Hayden Rodrique. It was in the middle to upper 70s to start the match. Hayden Rodrigue had won the toss and elected to serve.
The USA vs D.R. finals was one all the players and fans were anxious to see
Hayden Rodrigue (HR) held serve to start the match. Gian Carlos (GC) also held his first service game.
In the third service game, GC was on course to break serve with the score of 15-40 with HR serving. HR fought hard to get that game back to deuce and went to deuce 3 times before HR finally clinched that game.
2 big serves to start off the fourth game 30-love with GC serving. HR's aggressive play forced GC to hit a short ball allowing HR to attack and finish the point at the net with a crisp put away volley and was able to tie up that game to 30all before GC picked up his serve, in that game, to close it out bringing the score to 2 - 2. In HR's third service game, he hit two well placed serves then stayed aggressive to finish the points. GC hit a blistering forehand and return to win the next point. At 30-15 HR was in control, but because of the pressure of GC ground game HR felt the pressure on the approach shot and just missed it wide by inches bringing the score to 30 all. HR was able to close that game out. GC held serve keeping the match tied at 3-3.
GC played more aggressive with his big forehand and broke HR's serve to take the lead 4-3. GC held serve to consolidate the break of serve. HR kept his intensity and fight up, but because he missed a couple of first serves, GC had the opportunity to be more aggressive on the return closing out the 1st set 6-3.
GC served to start the second set and held serve.
In the second game, HR needed his great foot speed
to cover the court. He was working so hard that his new sneaker shoelace broke. After taking a moment to repair his wheels he was still able to hold serve to tie it at 1-1.
In the following game, GC hit 4 huge, unreturnable serves to go up 2-1 in the second set.
HR mistimed 2 difficult shots and GC was able to break HR's serve to take a 3-1 lead. GC played another solid service game get one step close to the finish line. Big serve and big forehands to dictate play and finish points and was now up 4-1.
HR raised the level of his game and played some of the fiercest points of the match to hold serve and disrupt the rhythm of GC to get the score 4-2 still in favor of GC. HR maintained extremely aggressive play and fought hard to break GC to get back on serve 4-3. It was an absolute nail biter with both players covering every inch of the court and then some! HR held serve to tie the set at 4-4
Photo of Hayden Rodrigue
HR refused to go away and played with a lot of heart.
In the next 3 service game, both played high quality points and solid service games bringing the set score to 6-5 with HR serving to go into the 2nd set tie breaker.
Both players battled and GC played his game by raising his level and hit his biggest forehands of the match and HR was forced to play his best defense of the match many of the shots were valiantly defended with his speed and great defensive skill.
In the end, with HR serving, GC proved why he is the current number 1 player of the Florida Tennis Tour and nicknamed the "Express" by executing his aggressive game plan at key moments in the match to close out the second set and match with his big forehand forcing the break of HR serve. Final score of 6-3,7-5.
Escotto still the man to beat. Maintains a stranglehold on the FTT #1 Spot
"I worked hard on my fitness the past few months. In the finals I was able to get the first ball in, and did a good job setting up and then attacking the ball. I never lost my serve which was a big factor", said Escotto about the finals.
1st Giancarlo Escotto (DOM)
2nd Hayden Rodrigue (USA)
3rd-4th Luiz Miotto (BRA) & Guilerme Dumit (BRA)
5-8th Tayjhon McGee (ORL), Omar Sanchez (ORL), John Jackson (JAX), Cesar Andini (ORL)
Next event: July 16-17 FTT Summer Classic at Disney World ESPN Wide World of Sports
Next Next event: September 24-25 The FTT Masters in Gainesville hosted by Newdash Tennis
L to R clockwise: Jason "Sunnyside" Sykes. Omar "Shareef" Sanchez. Ryan Cromwell. Gregorio "Giant- Killer" Casella
Richard Cook, Barbara Hawkins, Harold Blaauw all took the chance to gain open level tourny experience while FTT President Charlie Williams and Coach Kurt Collis made sure to put on a good show and great times for all.
FTT Top 10 player "Killer" Khoa Nguyen . Lane Winfrey. John "Legend" Jackson. And Son of the Viet Flash.
Coach Kurt Collis was on hand to help anyone who needed. Rollins College Hayden & Guilherme quickly became fan favorites with their excellent play and charming demeanor. Below Khoa shows off his first tennis earnings paycheck retro from the Disney FTT in March.