Tennis vets put sizzle in local event

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   The Little Caesars Men's Open Singles division final is usually reserved for young phenoms, but this year there were two guys around the age of 50 providing the entertainment.
   And what entertainment it was.
   Jim Flannagan defeated Jeff Lipinski in the finals of the Open Division on Sunday, and both players left my GE tape recorder with sound bites that I probably won't erase for a long time.
   A lot of you guys not used to playing or watching tennis probably think everybody enjoys each others fellowship. That's true in most cases, but these two players simply don't like each other.
   "There's nobody that I would rather not lose to more than Jeff Lipinski," Flannagan said.
   The day started for these two players at 10:30 a.m. at Liberty Bell in the Men's 45's singles final. After four games, the match was moved to ETSU due to rain.
   The two players then played a marathon three-set match that ended after 3:00. Then they went back to Liberty Bell to play the Open match that began around 5:00.
   At 7:15 that night, the marathon day of tennis for these two players was finally finished.
   Lipinski thought if he hadn't played both the open and 45's, the outcome would have been different.
   "If I hadn't played both singles events, I would have torn him to pieces," Lipinski said.
   Flannagan has an 18-2 overall record against Lipinski.
   Lipinski also thought he had a tough draw in the open tournament, and that Flannagan's road to the final was much easier.
   "I played two guys from Knoxville," Lipinski said. "I played Tony Katras, and he's tough. I played the Lukianoff guy (Jon Michael). He's 19-years old, and he's a killer. Who did Flannagan play? He played Nicholas (Jones). That's the only tough match he had in the whole tournament. The Nicholas guy, that's it. Just Nicholas. He cakewalked all the way through the whole tournament."
   Flannagan complains of Lipinski's time between points and between games, which is what Flannagan calls a "stall tactic."
   Flannagan lost the first match they ever played against each other, and blamed it on not being used to playing his style.
   Flannagan thinks you have to be mentally ready to play Lipinski.
   "When you play him, it's more of a mental game than it is a physical and stroking game. You've got to be sharp mentally. You've got to be thinking on the court, because his game is so unorthodox.
   "Historically, even back in my table tennis days, I've been more of a counter-puncher. I really like for my opponent to come at me. Of course, there's a point with some of these young guys like David Poole and Ben Rogers. When they come at you it's too much. But Lipinski is the other side of the coin. He just kind of fluffs it up there, especially when he gets tired, because he doesn't have any legs. It's very difficult to play him."
   Flannagan is planning to retire from the Open division after next season, while Lipinski only entered this USTA Sanctioned Open event to get the M.E.T.A. points.
   Let's hope this is not the end of this rivalry. This kind of competition is good for local tennis, and local tennis needs all the publicity it can get.
   Keep at it Jim and Jeff.
   CHANNEL SURFING
   If you tuned in to watch NBC's coverage of Wimbledon a few weeks ago, you might of had a hard time finding it.
   WCYB in Bristol decided to put most of NBC's coverage on its sister station, CYB.WB.
   This is an improvement from a few years ago when WCYB would just not show Wimbledon, leaving Tri-Cities tennis fans in the dark.
   In the last two months, WCYB has also put an NBA playoff game, the French Open, and the U.S. Open Golf Tournament on CYB.WB.
   Instead of showing the sports coverage, WCYB puts shows on like Judge Joe Brown, Judge Judy and Oprah.
   That's fine to put the sports on CYB.WB., but I have to ask the people at WCYB something. NBC owns the rights to NASCAR for the second half of the year. Would WCYB put a NASCAR race on CYB.WB.?
   I seriously doubt it.
   POWLEY LEAVES UNICOI
   A true friend to local tennis recently resigned at a program that had plenty of success under his reign.
   Colonel Bill Powley has left the boys tennis program at Unicoi County High School to take over at Sullivan South.
   Powley guided the Blue Devils to numerous conference titles, and produced players like Adam Campbell. Campbell is currently playing No. 1 at Milligan College.
   No replacement has been named.
   LITTLE CAESARS TO CONTINUE
   The Little Caesars/ETSU Tennis Championships will wrap up this weekend with the Junior Division. Play begins Friday at Liberty Bell.