Meet the Pros

Chris Visconti

USPTA Tennis Professional

Chris competed on the public courts of Chicago as a young man, learning important lessons in tennis and life along the way.  He became Head Pro at Deer Creek in 2002 after numerous valuable playing and coaching experiences, such as varsity collegiate stardom at Southern Illinois University, semi-professional tour competition against the likes of teenaged Andre Agassi and Jeff Tarango, and Junior Tennis Directorship at Lakeshore Athletic Club.  And if Head Pro at Deer Creek were not enough of a distinction, Chris is also the author of the best-selling children’s book Whack It…Smack It…With A Racket!

Richard Watson

PTR Tennis Professional

Growing up the son of a respected high school tennis coach, Richard learned to play with integrity, sound decision-making, and culpability — qualities that he looks to instill in his students at Deer Creek.  From a stellar record at Waukegan High School to #1 in the lineup at Michigan State University, Richard’s played plenty of high-level tennis in his career.  You will find no one in the field more dedicated to studying swing mechanics and the latest instructional methods.  Aside from tennis, Richard’s other passion is spending time (and sometimes playing tennis!) with his wife, son, and daughter.

Hristo Pandulev

PTR Tennis Professional

One of Bulgaria’s finest players as a junior, Hristo grew up in Dimitrovgrad and played varsity tennis at University of National and World Economy in Sofia.  He was a national top 12-ranked tennis player between 1989 – 1994 and a bronze medalist in Bulgaria’s 1990 national championship.  Before arriving in the United States, Hristo coached tennis at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.  All this worldly knowledge is now being imparted on players of all ages and abilities here at Deer Creek.

As Hristo will tell you, “Great tennis players aren’t born, but they are made!”

Cyrus Khazai

USPTA Tennis Professional

Cyrus hails from the Chicago area and played collegiately at Knox College.  He both teaches tennis and plays competitively, which lends itself perfectly to directing the club leagues at Deer Creek.  Cyrus has extensive teaching experience at numerous area park districts and River Trails Tennis Center.  His calm, patient demeanor has made Cyrus a popular figure on our pro staff.  Among his inspirations is Brad Gilbert’s classic book Winning Ugly, which he recommends to anyone hoping to gain an edge in mental toughness.  Clearly, Cyrus believes in “leaving it all on the court”.

Carlos Mendez

Tennis Instructor

Carlos Mendez is the Founder and President of Multicultural Tennis Association Inc. 501(c)(3) a youth organization that introduces the sport of tennis to title 1 schools and inner-city parks.  His organization has given free tennis lessons since 2015. Coach Carlos has been featured by the United States Tennis Association and Tennis Industry Magazine for his grass-roots outreach initiatives in underserved communities. He joined the Park District of Highland Park in October 2022. His focus is player development from the beginner stages to high performance. When he is not coaching at Deer Creek Racquet Club, he is coaching his own kids!

Luisito “Tong” Fanlo

PTR Tennis Professional

Luisito was born in the Philippines and migrated to the US in 1994. His nickname is ‘Tong’. He started playing tennis at the age of 9 and spent most of his formative years literally on the tennis courts in Davao City, Philippines. He learned and competed with many aspiring tennis players his age; never mind leaving the comfort of home. With the support of his parents and family members who were also tennis players, he honed his skills and pursued his ambition to be a tennis champion. He played varsity tennis in both High School and College. He competed in many interscholastic and national competitions and gained nationwide recognition. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Tong loves tennis and is passionate about teaching the skills he mastered.

Steve Soper

PTR Tennis Professional

Steve’s tennis career began at the age of five, hitting against the garage and public court backboards.  He soon learned that the garage door and backboard never miss.  Steve became an accomplished player over time and was rewarded with a scholarship to Northeastern Illinois University.  Before joining Deer Creek in 2007, Steve taught tennis and fitness at clubs in Libertyville and Lincolnshire.

One of Steve’s favorite quotes is, “Tennis is a sport for a lifetime.  You are never too young or old to start playing.”

George Minkov

PTR Tennis Professional

George is a native Bulgarian who grew up playing a number of sports.  By the time he reached the University of Plovdiv, George was a standout on the school tennis team.  He next graduated from the National Sports Academy in Sofia.  After 13 years of teaching school in Bulgaria, George and his family moved to the United States in 2003.  George has established himself as an accomplished tennis professional in the Chicago area, playing prominent roles on the staff at Wheaton Sport Center and now Deer Creek.  His favorite areas of concentration are footwork and strategy.

Says George, “There is a way to beat almost every opponent.”

Leslie Jaffe

Pickleball Instructor

Leslie played on the New Trier tennis team. In the 1980s, she started her fitness training with Jane Fonda in her Beverly Hills studio and continues to regularly strength train. Leslie moved to Highland Park and began playing pickleball in 2019. After coaching in Lincolnwood and Skokie, Leslie joined the Deer Creek staff in 2022. 

Scott Weinstein

IPTPA Pickleball Professional

Scott is a lifelong tennis player, a former Highland Park resident, and has been a member of Deer Creek for nearly 15 years.  He took up pickleball at the start of 2022.  He immediately developed a passion for the sport and within a few months decided to start teaching to help grow the game. He has been certified by the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA) since June, 2023.

Mike Ulbert

USPTA Tennis Professional

Mike grew up in Chicago and learned to play tennis in that city’s vibrant public court scene.  He was a quick and proficient learner, as exemplified by his playing four years of varsity tennis for DePaul University.  A career move led Mike to Denver, where he coached high school tennis and other youth sports on the side.  Mike joined Deer Creek’s staff in 2014 and can hit with everyone from the teeniest tots to the strongest adults.

One of Mike’s favorite quotes is, “It’s the little details that are vital.  Little things make big things happen.”