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A big night for area tennis

Upwards of 350 people are expected to attend the inaugural Buffalo Tennis Night, an evening for celebrating the area's talented players that will be held on Jan. 2, starting at 5 p.m. at Transit Valley Country Club.

Todd and Debbie Miller, owners of the Miller Tennis Center, are in charge of the event, the largest of its kind to have ever been held in Western New York.

"I have always had a vision of bringing the Buffalo tennis community together," Todd Miller said. "Debbie and I have worked long and hard to make Buffalo Tennis Night a reality. We will be celebrating Buffalo's best tennis players from the past and the present. We will also be giving recognition to players at all levels."

There will be four segments to the program: Buffalo Tennis Hall of Fame induction; USTA league awards; USTA Eastern Buffalo Tennis Series awards, and another special awards presentation.

Players who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame are:

* Kelly Brown: The News ranked Brown as the No. 1 female player over the past 50 years in 2000. The five-time Muny Singles Champion was the only area high school tennis player to win the New York State High School Singles Championship. She starred at the University of Kentucky, where she was ranked in the top six in doubles and top 100 in singles in Division I.

She was ITA South Region Assistant Coach of the Year at Auburn and a two-time Head Coach of the Year at Methodist University. Brown is now a teaching pro at the Buffalo Racquet Club and Miller Tennis Center.

* John Brunner: Brunner has owned JB's Tennis shop since 1994 and has sponsored numerous tournaments and events in Western New York. He was an outstanding high school player at Sweet Home and won the Buffalo City Open Singles title at age 17. He has won many local singles and doubles titles and starred at Murray State. After college, he was head coach at Niagara and assistant coach at Drake. He is now the director of tennis at the Village Glen.

* Russ Crispell: Crispell is the former UB men's and women's head tennis coach. He has won awards as the United States Professional Tennis Association Eastern Coach of the Year and was also Mid East Conference Coach of the Year. He was the World Games tennis coordinator and is a PTR and USPTA professional and national clinician. Currently, he teaches tennis at the Miller Tennis Center.

* Neil Simon: The News ranked Simon as the seventh best male tennis player over the past 50 years in 2000. He won many local singles and doubles championships and starred at Tulane University, where he played first singles and was team MVP. Simon was the Metro Conference singles champion and ranked 63rd in Division I in singles. His career highlight was defeating Rice star Steve Campbell, who was ranked fourth in the nation in Division I. Simon was a member of the 1993 World University tennis team and is thought of by many as having as much talent as any local player with the exception of former ATP Tour veteran Jimmy Arias.

* Jay Udwadia: Udwadia is the head coach at Fresno State and has led his team to a top national ranking of 22nd, playing against outstanding competition. Udwadia was the chairman of the International Tennis Association's Western Region and coached the New York Buzz to a World Team Tennis Championship. While coaching at Drake University he was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year. At the University of Arkansas he starred in singles and doubles and was captain his senior year. He earned 26 ATP points in doubles.

* Paul Walker: Walker is an inspiration to all tennis players. He was ranked No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 31 by the ITF in wheelchair tennis. He played the first match that was held in the inaugural wheelchair division at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows. He is a PTR pro and has been named the PTR Wheelchair Pro of the Year. As head coach of the USTA Women's wheelchair team he was in charge of matches played in the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, Italy, Great Britain and Turkey.

The cost of the event is $40 (includes a cocktail party-cash bar, reception, and awards dinner) and a check should be made out and mailed to Miller Tennis Center, c/o Debbie Miller, Buffalo Tennis Night, 5959 Sheridan Drive, Williamsville, NY 14211.

For further information contact Debbie Miller -- tttdmiller@verizon.net, or call 632-8600.

e-mail: thegreatgar@verizon.net

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