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South Towns director is No. 1 beach tennis player in U.S.

Ten years ago Stephen Sayoc snapped his Achilles heel and had to have major surgery. Doctors were not sure if he would make a complete recovery due to the severity of the injury.

Fortunately, he made a remarkable recovery and is presently the top-ranked Beach Tennis Player in the United States and is ranked 46th in the world by the International Tennis Federation. Sayoc, who is the director of tennis at South Towns Tennis Center and one of the area's top ranked tennis players, will be 42 years old next week. He is in phenomenal shape and will be playing in the International Beach Tennis Championships this week on Long Island. The tournament is the most prestigious and largest of its kind in the United States, with players from all over the world competing.

To prepare for the tournament Sayoc will be hosting the Buffalo Blast tournament at Woodlawn Beach this weekend. Division play will consist of Pro Men's and Women's Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and other events. The tournament, which started Saturday, will continue today, starting at 9:30 a.m. and will run until 6 p.m.

Although this is a tuneup for the International Championships, Sayoc has been training hard for many months and has competed in tournaments in New York, Florida, California, and the Caribbean. He will travel to Aruba to play in November.

"To get ready for the many tournaments that I compete in, I am constantly training," said Sayoc. "My workouts are basically done an hour or more at home early in the morning or after I am done teaching tennis at South Towns. They are extremely intense and focus on every part of my body. The Tony Horton P90 program is one of the best on the market, especially for strength training. The plyometrics training which stresses many jumping exercises, is a really grueling workout.

"The program is phenomenal, especially for cardio and agility training."

All of this is done with a full schedule of teaching tennis at South Towns and playing in a few local tennis tournaments. When Sayoc competes next weekend in Long Beach he will be playing in the Pro Men's Singles and Doubles with Daniel Fink of Brazil.

He also will be playing mixed doubles with two of the top women players in the United States, still to be determined, and men's doubles with Matt Garavalia of Chicago in the Nation's Cup which is Beach Tennis's equivalent of Davis Cup. Sayoc notes that players will be coming from Italy, Venezuela, Brazil, Belgium, France, Aruba, and other countries.

Sayoc first read about beach tennis five years ago and entered a tournament in Ocean City, Md. He started playing the game with Dan and Brian Johnson, head tennis coaches at Orchard Park Country Club, and Matt Watson, an excellent tennis player in his own right. After playing only a week and a half Sayoc decided to enter the tournament with Watson. It was a small draw and they reached the semifinals.

"After playing in the tournament I was hooked," Sayoc said. "Even though my partner and I did well I knew that I had to really work on my game to become proficient in the sport.

"With the help of the Johnson brothers Sayoc built three courts at Woodlawn Beach. The courts are similar to a volleyball court."

When you serve in beach tennis you can stand anywhere on your side of the court and can serve anywhere to the other side of the court. You win points by making the ball hit on the opponent's side of the court. Play is usually in doubles, although singles is also played.

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Second serves

*The Buffalo Racquet Club is sponsoring a high school red clay tennis tournament Aug. 26-28 at the club on Twyla Road, Town of Tonawanda. The singles tournament is open to boys and girls who are high school students or a 2011 high school graduate. Entry forms are available at www.buffaloracquetclub.net.

*The Women's Muny 40 doubles was inadvertently left out of the Muny Roundup two weeks ago. June Brennan-Robin Crowley def. Leisha Gordon-Sabrina Graham, 6-0, 6-2, in the finals.

email: thegreatgar@verizon.net