Grobel Spurs Safe Harbor Team to WTT Victory
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
When Scott Steinour’s team was selected for the World Team Tennis Richmond Invitational, the Salisbury Country Club’s director of tennis didn’t know much about the three female members of his Safe Harbor Title Company squad.
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But Steinour was sure he had a weapon in Cesar Grobel, an assistant pro at Salisbury, and the newcomer to Richmond was able to contribute mightily in Safe Harbor’s victory over a pair of opponents in the competition at Willow Oaks Country Club Saturday.
Safe Harbor also received significant efforts from Tanja Magoc, Yumi Hutchins and Ljudmila Pavlov in scoring wins over Dominion Payroll Services and Newfield Financial Solutions to capture the championship.
“We rode him hard tonight,” said Steinour, after Safe Harbor had beaten Newfield 27-18 in the final. “He played a bunch of matches.
“We were thin on the guys’ side. I was a little injured, so I didn’t play as much, and I needed him to pick it up for me. He definitely did.”
Grobel, who has been working at Salisbury since February, lost only one match during the unique WTT format, which includes men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles, with the game scores from each match being added together to account for the overall score.
“Obviously, Cesar was tough,” said Eddie Parker, non-playing captain of the Newfield team. “They probably had the most balanced team, and that’s what it takes to win.”
Grobel defeated Eric Shulman 5-2 in singles and teamed with Phil Thacker to beat Lynn Bybee and John Snead 5-1 in doubles. In one of the mixed doubles, Grobel and Hutchins played to a 5-all standoff with Shulman and Mason Davis.
Newfield’s lone victory came in the other mixed, when Snead and Joanna Pfluger defeated Steinour and Pavlov 5-2.
In women’s singles, Hutchins fell behind Gloria Guntinas 2-0, so Steinour substituted Magoc, who won five of the last seven games (including a tiebreaker at 4-all) to post a 5-4 triumph.
“Changed it up a little bit, and [Magoc] came in and she was solid,” said Steinour. “That was key. I had three really good ladies.”
Before facing Newfield, Safe Harbor had barely survived in a 21-20 squeaker over Dominion Payroll Services.
After the teams had finished the basic matches all even at 20 points each, a super tiebreaker was played to determine who would face Newfield, which had beaten Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa – Carytown 27-23 in the other semifinal.
Grobel and Magoc provided the difference, edging Michael Holt and Tatsiana Uvarova 6-5, coming back from 3-5 down.
“”I serve on the 5-all point, and it was pretty tense moment, but we got the point and we won,” said Grobel.
As for the WTT format, which includes no-ad scoring, substitution, cheering, playing lets on serves and lots of music, Grobel said, “I’m not used to it but it’s fun. It makes everything entertaining. I really enjoyed playing.”
The winning team split $1,000 in prize money and qualified for the WTT 5.0 Nationals, scheduled for Nov. 1-3 at Indian Wells, Calif. Newfield divided the runner-up money of $500.
In the third-place match, Dominion Payroll Services defeated Hand & Stone 23-19.
Along with the four sponsors of each team, Virginia Tennis helped promote and put on the event, with an eye toward establishing WTT recreational leagues in Richmond next year.
“I was very pleased with the turnout,” said Tom Hood, president of Virginia Tennis. “The quality of play was exceptional, and I think everybody here was very entertained by what they saw out there on the courts. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.
“This was really a kickoff for creating World Team Tennis leagues in the city of Richmond. Showcase how it works and how it can be done. We are planning to get some leagues formed and get them up and running by the spring.
“We’re also very grateful for all of our sponsors and to Willow Oaks for helping us put on such a great event.”
Safe Harbor (27), Newfield Financial Services (18)
Women’s singles – Yumi Hutchins/Tanja Magoc (SH) d. Gloria Guntinas 5-4.
Men’s singles – Cesar Grobel (SH) d. Eric Shulman 5-2.
Women’s doubles – Magoc-Ljudmila Pavlov (SH) d. Mason Davis-Joanna Pfluger 5-1.
Men’s doubles – Grobel-Phil Thacker (SH) d. Lynn Bybee-John Snead 5-1.
Mixed doubles – Grobel-Hutchins (SH) and Shulman-Davis (NFS) 5-5.
Mixed doubles – Snead-Pfluger (NFS) d. Scott Steinour-Pavlov 5-2.