BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The 2017 Friendly Man’s Invitational Tennis Tournament is off and running with local tennis enthusiasts entered from throughout Northern NJ.
The tournament inaugural was in 1981, and has been held sporadically throughout the preceding decades. The 2012 and 2013 defending champion Rich Livolsi, who grew-up in Bloomfield and now resides in Montclair, has returned to compete in a tough 52 player field.  The creator of this unique tennis tournament is Alfred Sonny Piccoli of Bloomfield.  There is no entry fee, as the Friendly Man tournament’s mandate is to be inclusive of all tennis players who simply have a genuine passion for friendly competition, regardless of their ability levels. First round competitions are created by matching up unseeded players who possess similar ability levels.
Piccoli states, “The goal is for every player in the tournament to have fun while knowing that they have a reasonable chance of winning a match as long as they strive to do their best. To be healthy enough to play tennis while meeting new people is the real reward.”  The Friendly Man Tennis Tournament is a collaborative effort with cooperation at its core. The arrangements of the matches are made by the players who mutually agree to a feasible location and time.  Al Sonny Piccoli states, “Over the many years, the tournament has grown and proven itself to work. This is because the players have a love of the game.  Their ambitions and competitiveness is like a siren song compelling the park and club players to emulate the top touring professionals.”  

Kicking off the tournament was 13 year old prodigy Jan Bobrowski of Glen Ridge. The youngest player in the draw found the rhythm and range of his serves at the right time enabling him to edge Mike Fitzmaurice of Montclair 7-6 (4) 6-4.  Alfonso Mancuso, also of Glen Ridge, played steady in his 6-1 6-2 victory over Artemio Soriano of Cedar Grove.

Ken Powell of Montclair, fell to Jon Cowans of West Orange in a tight contest of long rallies 6-4 7-6 (5).  Belleville’s Malco Urzua demonstrated dazzling court speed to get by Vinnie Caruso, the manager of Sea Breeze Auto, in Bloomfield 6-2 6-4.  Alex Gomez of Belleville, who improved his game through dedicated practice, came up with a convincing 6-1 6-0 win against David Caicedo of Lincoln Park.

In a much anticipated upcoming first round match, Mayor Mike Venezia of Bloomfield will see if the remnants of his tennis college glory days will sustain him when he goes up against hard hitting Gary Lukey also of Bloomfield.  Other  first round matches included Andy Schmetterling of Montclair stunning Shane Berger of Bloomfield 6-2 6-1.  In a match of changing momentums, Joe De France of West Caldwell started out on fire, “hitting with a lot of juice” taking the first set 6-0 against Bloomfield’s Al Sonny Piccoli. Gradually things turned around as Piccoli grinded his way to a come from behind 0-6  6-4  6-1 win. 

Joe Orourke of Nutley used a combination of off-speed backhand slices and blazing forehands shots to keep Ed Imperatrice off balance on his way to a convincing  6-0 6-0 win. Orourke still will need to pump up his entire game when he goes up against the top seed Rick Livolsi of Bloomfield in his next match. In another first round match, Bob Faiella of Nutley advanced by Bob De Martini of Hawthorne 6-4 6-0. Faiella then took on the 8th seed Kai Kaneko of Lyndhurst in a second round match.  Kaneko's consistency and court coverage overwhelmed Faiella as he fell 6-1 6-0.   

In a big first serve dueling match Alfred Piccoli 3rd of Essex Fells  stopped Russ Shuster of Clifton 6-0 6-4. Andy Schmetterling of Montclair stunned Shane Berger of Bloomfield 6-2 6-1 to advance into the second round.   As the weather is finally warming up, the tennis is sure to get hot too, bringing out the best in all of the friendly tennis players.