ACAC Returns to the Top Again in Anthem Cup

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

ACAC Returns to the Top Again in Anthem Cup

When acac Fitness and Wellness Center finished second in the Anthem Cup Challenge last year, it didn’t go over very well at the Midlothian club that had won the previous six titles in the annual event at the Westwood Club.

“We didn’t play our best,” said co-captain Jason Kinder. “It didn’t sit well with anybody at the club, I can assure you that. So we learned from last year. We made some adjustments in our preparations. We just basically changed our preparations going into this year.”

That preparation paid off handsomely for acac, which got off to a blazing start in the 12-club competition and never looked back.

Winning 20 of 22 matches on the first day, acac took a 42-36 lead over the field and wound up with 118 points, 11 more than runner-up Westwood, which graciously hosted the city-wide tournament to determine the top club in the area Sept. 28-30.

Former champion Raintree Swim and Racquet Club was third with 102 points, while Salisbury CC and Willow Oaks CC tied for fourth (101). Defending champion Hermitage CC was sixth (100), followed by Country Club of Virginia (99) and Midlothian Tennis Club (98).

Burkwood Swim and Racquet Club was ninth (96), followed by Dominion Club (90), Woodlake Swim and Racquet Club (89) and Midlothian Athletic Club (88).

“We had a very tough Friday last year,” said co-captain Al Thomas, head pro at acac. “I think we lost nine straight matches in third-set tiebreakers. We just didn’t get it done and so we ended the first day pretty far down.”

There was no such problem for acac this year, as the club claimed two points (for winning) at nearly every match.

“Really the tiebreakers are the key to this every year,” added Thomas. “Winning tiebreakers. The big thing we focused on this year was starting fast. Getting a fast start in the first set. Not losing that first set and putting the pressure on.”

Thomas pointed out that acac had a fair amount of players this year who were new to the team competition. The winners of each match earn two points and the losers one. If someone forfeits a match, they receive no points.

“They earned their way on the team and it was nice to get new players into it,” he said.

Among the neophytes were the 3.0 women’s duos of Carol Pfeiffer and Jenna Deligio and Karman Yu and Yasmin Lutterbie, and the 3.5 men’s tandem of David Nedeff and Joe Howren. Amir Tavassoli and Miguel Romero were also 3.0 mixed and men’s newcomers.

Those 3.0 ladies conducted themselves quite well, going unbeaten (6-0) through the weekend.

“I thought it was very exciting, to be a part of it,” said Pfeiffer, who played with Deligio and went 3-0. “Definitely challenging and fun.

We just tried to focus on our game and win one point at a time. We had to play on three different surfaces so that was challenging.”

The tournament started indoors at different locations around town because of lingering showers on Friday, but the skies began to clear and play moved outdoors at Westwood before the day was over. It remained beautiful the rest of the weekend.

“We didn’t really know what to expect but we had a great time,” said Yu, who played with Lutterbie and went unbeaten in the 3.0 division. “First we were thinking, let’s just win one since we’re new to Anthem.

“Then when we won the first one, we said let’s get the second one. And then when we got the second one, we said let’s just do the third one too. Let’s go to 3-0. We can do it. The more you win, the more you want to win.”

Yu said playing in the atmosphere of the Anthem, “It’s like Davis Cup. So many people around, watching you and cheering for you. It’s so exciting. I loved it.”

The margin of victory for acac was one of the largest in the history of the event.

“We may have had a bigger one a few years back,” said Kinder, but this was one of our better teams, one of our better scores for sure.

“The first day was like a peanut butter sandwich. We did real well and then we had just an average day on the second day. Then we finished with another great day on Sunday. It was impressive.”

After opening with 42 points, acac added 36 on the second day and finished with 40 Sunday for a total of 118.

The win was a bittersweet one for Kinder, who left Sunday for Florida, where he has taken a job as senior manager at the U.S. Tennis Association’s national campus at Lake Nona outside Orlando, where he will oversee operations at the 100-court facility.

Kinder, one of the most respected pros in the area, had served as the director of tennis at acac Midlothian for 15 years.

This was acac’s 13th title overall in the tournament, which started in 1993. The first six were when acac was known as Briarwood Swim and Racquet Club. That means acac/Briarwood has won exactly half of the 26 tournaments. Westwood is next with five championships.