New tennis Pro League gearing up for next weekend

Niskayuna senior Christine Lee demonstrates a soft toss to Noah Harmon, 11, of Rotterdam, during Saturday's Tennis Day introduction at Central Park in Schenectady, sponsored by the new Glennpeter Tennis Pro League.

Niskayuna senior Christine Lee demonstrates a soft toss to Noah Harmon, 11, of Rotterdam, during Saturday's Tennis Day introduction at Central Park in Schenectady, sponsored by the new Glennpeter Tennis Pro League.

Some of the top tennis players in the Capital Region have decided to dig up a gem that was buried a few decades ago.

The area used to have a popular Pro League that drew the best and competed at the Capitaland Tennis Club.

The club is not there anymore, but a group of players have brought a version of the Pro League back, and they’ll begin play next Saturday with three teams of eight players each and a season that runs through June 19th.

They’ll use courts in Central Park in Schenectady and Colonie Country Club, and organizers are encouraging spectators to come out to see top-level tennis in a team setting under the auspices of the Glennpeter Jewelers Diamond Centre Tennis Pro League starting next Saturday.

The jeweler is offering $300 gift certificates to each member of the winning team, so there’s more than just competitive pride at stake.

“It used to be a big deal,” said Judy Carnavos, who will play in the league and was one of the initial organizers several months ago. “When I played in it in the 80s, it was huge.

“It was played at Capitaland Tennis Club on [Route] 155, which is not even there any longer. Inder Singh, Dave Denny, some of the top guys in the area played in it. So everybody’s really fired up. It took us a long time to get this going, and the hardest part was coming to agreement about the players we were going to invite. Some of it was COVID-related. Even though it’s outside, some people are not ready to play in it.”

The team names are Emeralds, Sapphires and Rubies, and will be captained by Dylan Davis, Mike Amico and Bev Swimm, respectively.

With four men and four women on each team, two teams will face off against each other each Saturday through June 19, with the third having a bye. The league will open at 2 p.m. on May 1 at the Albany Tennis Club, but the bulk of the matches will be held in Schenectady at Central Park (May 16 and 22, June 19) and Colonie Country Club (May 8, June 12). Those matches will begin at 1.

The format will consist of one court each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

Under the Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR) of player skill evaluation ranging from 1.0 for beginners to 7.0 for players who are good enough to make a living off tournament prize money, the local Pro League is comprised mostly of players at the 4.5 and 5.0 levels.

The age range is 18 years old to the 50s, and the league has drawn two high school players, Christine Lee of Niskayuna and Taylor Crain of Shaker.

Davis, who is rated at 4.5, played Division II tennis at Michigan Tech, captains many of the local USTA and WorldTeamTennis teams and is the summer coordinator for the USTA Eastern chapter’s Northern Region Junior Team Tennis program.

His son Evan will also play in the Pro League.

Amico, who played for Siena College and has coached at Union College, is one of the teaching pros at Sportime Schenectady and has played on WTT teams that have won two national championships at the 4.5 and open levels.

Swimm is a 4.5 player who has also been on local teams that have competed at the national level.

“We tried to make them as even as possible,” Carnavos said. “Those three captains, myself and Peter Green, the director of competition at Sportime, we kind of started this idea. We’ve been talking about it for  long time. Wouldn’t it be great if we had the Pro League again? I said, ‘Well, let’s do something about it.’

“We went through all the players in our area, which encompasses the mid-Hudson Valley region, really far north, and to the Utica area. We have some really, really strong players, especially the men. We have several 5.0 men in our area. Most of them are teaching pros, but a lot of them still play in tournaments. We don’t have that many 5.0 women in the area, but we have three of them playing in it, and some of the other women that are not 5.0 probably are, they just haven’t had a rating in ages.”

The 5.0 women include Fiorella Jaime and Sue Bernardi-Bain.

Carnavos and Davis are on the Northern Region Council, which is hoping the league and an instruction clinic held at Central Park on Saturday will spark interest in younger tennis players and fans.

“It’s going to be really, really fun to watch,” she said. “We’re hoping to get spectators to come and see a really high level of tennis. We’re trying to grow the game.

“This is basically for people to see the high level of tennis player that we do have in this area.”

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