David Siddons begins his title defense in the 15th annual Professional Tennis Exhibition Series at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in the opening quarterfinal match.
The 16-player draw has been made and tennis fans on Gasparilla Island are promised seven Wednesday afternoons of electrifying action at the Boca Grande Club, said tourney organizer Jim Labinski.
Siddons, director of tennis at the Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, won in his first year competing at the Boca Grande Club.
David Siddons, tennis director at the Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, rips a forehand en route to the 2012 championship of the Professional Tennis Exhibition Series at the Boca Grande Club.
Under the rotating partner format, Siddons' experience as a Southern Conference standout at Appalachian State University served him well, Labinski said.
Siddons had directed several clubs in North Carolina and coached at his alma mater before settling in at the Plantation a few years ago.
Joining Siddons in the first quarterfinal is Kalani Hatori, tennis director from the Pelican Sound Golf and River Club in Estero. Hatori will be making his 14th appearance at the Boca Grande Club.
Denny Rager, tennis director from the Players Club and Spa in Naples is also on the card along with Jim Dempsey, director of tennis at Courtside Racket Club in Venice.
H Wetzel, director of tennis at the Boca Bay Pass Club and 2003 tourney champion, returns after a hiatus last year. His energetic style will be on display Feb. 6 in the second quarterfinal match along with Jamie Thormann, new assistant at the Gasparilla Inn and Club.
Around the time Wetzel was establishing himself as a perennial contender for Series' championships, Thormann came to Boca Grande as a 14-year-old whose family knew island residents Kim and Frank Newlin of Newlin's Mainely Gourmet from Northeast Harbor, Maine.
"I'm playing a lot more tennis than I would in Maine, I love the weather, and Jinx (Howe-Horan, the Inn's tennis director) and Mark (Horan, head pro) are great people," Thormann said.
Thormann, a 2012 graduate of Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H., played No. 1 as a senior.
Steve Ethier, the head pro at the Boca Bay Pass Club, plays in the third quarterfinal match Feb. 13. Ethier won the series in 2011 and 2004.
Five-time champion, Scott Harrington, now an assistant at the Landings Yacht, Golf and Tennis Club in Fort Myers, plays in the Feb. 20 quarterfinal along with Tucker Lang, head pro at the Boca Grande Club.
Lang, an obvious crowd favorite, hopes to maintain the form that helped him reach his first semifinal in 2012.
Each Wednesday of the seven-week long tournament, four teaching pros will play three sets of doubles, rotating partners each set. All matches start at 4 pm. The top two players in terms of games won advance to the next round. The finals are set March 13.
Proceeds go to the Suncoast Humane Society.