Tom Sweitzer with runner-ups Brenton House, Kurt Collis, and champions Brittany Tagliareni, Ninan Kumar, & Charlie Williams.
Downtown Orlando, Florida- Over 100 tennis players and fans came out to support the 1st Annual #OrlandoUnited Tennis Tournament to benefit the Pulse of Orlando charity. The event was organized by the Florida Tennis Tour, produced by Dragon Promotions and held at the City of Orlando Tennis Center under the generosity and direction of facility manager Tom Sweitzer, recipient of this year's Orlando Tennis News Man of the Year. Many collegiate stars, professionals, and amateurs came to compete and help raise funds and awareness.
The local legendary pros Escotto, Oncins, Kendrick, and Thompson (center) were surrounded by appreciative tennis fans for putting on a great show
"It makes me emotional that so many people came to this amazing event that the tennis community has done to show its support to the victims affected by Pulse as well as bring attention to the issues they face daily today. So many victims are not able to pay for their cars, their utilities, are being evicted, and even can't afford to change their bandage dressings. There is still a long wait for the money from the OneOrlando fund before it is distributed in October, so Pulse of Orlando Charity is dedicated to releasing funds raised immediately to those who need it now. Already we have given over $40,000 to Pulse victims, and we hope to give a lot more soon", explained special guest Sharlie Reynolds of Pulse of Orlando. People are encouraged to donate at www.PulseofOrlando.org
Sharlie Reynolds from Pulse of Orlando with FTT Production Manager Andini Cesar
FTT President Williams and OTC Director Sweitzer teamed up once again for another excellent collaboration
A slew of local businesses came together to sponsor the event including Wilson Tennis, Saddlebrook Resort, Cafe De France, Napasorn Thai, Zanboor Organic Clothing, AriEventsFlorida.com, Tennis Plaza Orlando, Seito Sushi Baldwin Park, Pep Boys on S.Semoran, The Osprey Tavern, OrlandoTaste.com, Kurt Collis Tennis Academy, Newdash Tennis, Vincenzo Cucina Italiana, Ciao Italia, Artisan's Table, Se7en Bites, Up in Smoke BBQ, One-on-One Doubles, Flexas Productions, BradMinns.com, OTC Pro Shop, Solinco Strings, Tecnifibre Racquets, and the NFL Alumni Central Florida. The event was produced by Dragon Promotions.
Escotto, Oncins, Thompson, Kendrick
A packed crowd of tennis fans came out to enjoy the special first ever match with Orlando's best
The event began with a pro exhibition billed the North vs the South with former top 70 in the world Robert Kendrick and his partner David Cup pro Mark Thompson (former 4 time All American for Rollins College) taking on the duo of Brazil's Jaime Oncins (former top 20 in the world) and Dominican Republic's Giancarlo Escotto who is ranked #1 in the Florida Tennis Tour. It was the first time the best four players in Central Florida had ever been together under the same roof. They played to a packed audience who came despite the scorching July heat. Kendrick and Thompson prevailed 6-2, 6-2 in the very entertaining and fun match.
Posing with the Ball Boys & Girls! Christian, Sydney, Compassion, & Bailey.
The FTT Florida Tennis Tour is the only non-restrictive tennis tour in the world where any gender, any age, and any skill level play in one bracket. So it provided for an interesting doubles field featuring several female teams, mixed teams, and male teams. Even the Special Olympics Florida sent their lone representative Brittany Tagliareni who paired with Orlando junior superstar Ninan Kumar. Other stand-outs included local fitness and former World Deaf Champion Brad Minns and his wife Ginny Minns, Brazilian team of Sergio Montezuma and Lucas Tristao, USTA ladies Marilyn Sherman and Stacey Percival, and Deland's Rhonda Mullis and Jamey Palmieri who finished 5th.
In the consolation tournament, it was the young gun duo of Sebastien Flores & Dana Taylor who won defeating the surprise mystery ladies of tennis Brenda Holmes and Judy Davis. The champions won two tickets for Orlando's premiere food tour by OrlandoTaste.com while the ladies won very nice new tennis bags by Wilson Tennis.
"We have never seen Brittany that happy on the court. Playing the Florida Tennis Tour has been an amazing experience and every event it seems the level of sportsmanship is high as well as the level of players. She's asking now when the next FTT events are out of excitement to play the singles and doubles every event. And at this event, we couldn't have asked for a better partner in Ninan. He is a powerhouse", explains Cathy Tagliareni, the mother of the 26 year old Special Olympics star who started playing tennis only 8 years ago. Her mom adds, "Her life is tennis, and tennis has given her a life.
It turned out to be a winning combination as Kumar and Tagliareni went to the finals unscathed after defeating the mixed duo of Laura Lapp and Georgia Tech's Stephen Moros in the quarter-finals, and then defeating Jeff Schwartz/Chris Granville in the semi-finals. In the finals , they met renowned tennis coach Kurt Collis and Brenton House of Jamica, both from the Kurt Collis Tennis Academy in Deland. Collis and House defeated Omar "Sharif" Sanchez and Kent "Tai" Chi in their semi-finals. In the championship finals, Tagliareni and Kumar were able to overcome the Volusia team 6-2 to win the title. This is the first time in history that a Special Olympics tennis player has won an open level event against players with no disabilities.
For their win, Ninan won a brand new state of the art Wilson racquet while Brittany chose a free 2 night and 2 day tennis package stay at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa.
The technically awesome form of Kurt Collis
Brittany & Ninan chemistry made them an unbeatable team
"This is one of my greatest wins ever in my life because this is the first time I won a open doubles tournament against players without disabilities. I played at the last FTT event at Disney World and it gave me more confidence, also because the players that were in the FTT are so very nice and supportive," said Tagliareni. About her partner she adds, "Ninan is my friend and is so kind to me so he makes me feel very happy and very welcoming. I am comfortable with him and we get along so well. He is very positive with me. Also, I would like to thank my family, all of my coaches, sponsors, and friends for all of your love and support." Tagliareni is a World Champion in tennis when she won the championship held for disability players in France. She suffers from autism, apraxia, dyspraxia, and auditory processing disorder. Those ailments make her unable to ever drive a car, as well as doing everyday things such as putting her hair in a ponytail or using scissors. All of which makes her ability to play tennis amazing.
"This event was inspired by my FTT Tournament Director Dennis Turner of Jacksonville. The idea came about only 5 weeks ago, so we were pretty amazed at the huge turnout and support we received. Having all the best central Florida pros under one roof for the first time, and then seeing a Special Olympics female win the entire event was incredible. So many wonderful stories. Looks like we will have to make this an annual event", said Charlie Williams, Executive Producer of the event and Founder of the Florida Tennis Tour. More info on www.OrlandoTennisNews.com
"Brittney is not only my partner, but she is my friend. We also spar together regularly on a weekly basis. We have amazing chemistry because she is so positive and is such a hard worker on and off the court. Her consistent positive approach and her love for Tennis inspires me!" explained Kumar who will be heading to play for the University of Chicago this fall on a full tennis scholarship. "My recent experience at the FTT Disney Classic definitely gave me more confidence because my coach Gerardo Galindo was present and observed my matched giving me very specific feedback that increased my level of play. I have played tournaments in the states for almost a decade, including national Events that I have won. This tournament was probably the most awesome because of the great chemistry Britney and I share", He further added, "To be honest, my expectation from the start was to have an amazing experience with my partner Britney and that is exactly what happened.
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We were fortunate that we found some hot male #supermodels to sport our#OrlandoUnited Tennis event shirts! sashay shante'😆
The popular shirts are still for sale at $25 each which includes shipping. All proceeds goto the Pulse of Orlando Fund to help needing victims now instead of later. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to order