Tallahassee Team to Represent Florida in USTA National Tourney

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

One is a painter. Another is an FSU band director and there is a computer technician in the mix.

Anthony Cammarata, an attorney with the state, put the men together with others from even more diverse professional careers on a USTA recreation tennis team. But he wasn’t sure what he would get just by the lineup.

It didn’t take him long after a handful of matches to find out that he’d assembled a highly competitive squad.

“I knew all through the season that we would win the league because of the talent that the players bring,” Cammarata said. “We started off believing that we are a good team and in the middle of the season we won matches 3-2.”

Then, they went on a roll and began winning some matches by shutouts (5-0) in city league play. The bunch that goes by the nickname Partners in Crime rode that momentum all the way to the USTA sectional tournament.

They were unstoppable and after a weekend of matches in mid-August, they returned to Tallahassee with the state title and the right to represent Florida in the USTA National Championship. They’ll travel to Indian Wells, Calif., on Oct. 9 to bid for the title and hopefully culminate a season that began in April with the ultimate prize.

Cammarata was strategic from the outset when he began to put the 18-under team together two years ago. He scoured local courts in search of talent. He also used the league’s free-agent listing to recruit some of the players.

His next step was to find out how to best use their talent for singles and doubles matches. Compatibility was his main priority.

“You try to get to the point where you are playing pairs that are familiar with playing with each other,” he said. “It’s better that way because you get used to your partner’s instinct and what their tendencies are. You can feed off that.”

Harsha Panasa and Shrikant Tirupati turned out to be a solid duo, helping the team run through the local league undefeated. Both men grew up in India watching some of the world’s best in the game, including their renowned compatriot Vija Amritraj.

Neither had any unrealistic dream of becoming the next star player in their country. In fact, they didn’t pick up the game until late in their lives. It was too expensive to play in their native land where they grew up in middle-class families, Tirupati said.

He picked up the game in 2008 and gradually developed a style of his own, focusing more on doubles play.

“My kind of game is not slam, bang,” he said. “My game is more consistency. I hit all the balls back deep and I set up the point for my partner to come and kill it.”
But most times his patience is tested in practice.

“The practices are far superior to the actual matches that we play,” he said. “I practice with a very good team and when I practice with a very good team and go play a match it’s just a routine.”

Like their captain Cammarata, who picked the game when he was 50 years old, most of the other players are late bloomers.

Dohoun Kim, a 34-year-old doctorial student at FSU, began playing when he came to Tallahassee four years ago. He found Cammarata through a network of friends from his native South Korea.

“It’s really amazing,” Kim said of the brotherhood he’s formed with his teammates. “Other than my friends in school, this is the first time that I can get along with Americans. I was kind of worried because I’m not fluent in English so there is some difficulty in communicating.

“But they really welcome me and they are really competitive and I like to do things that are competitive.”

Just the kind of player Cammarata wanted when he decided to form the team.