LJ welcomes tennis community

More than 1,000 to compete

BY JONATHON HORN

Contributor

The serve's up in this coastal village, as 1,100 tennis players come together for the 93rd annual La Jolla Tennis Championships.

The two-week event began last Friday with a U.S. Tennis Association-sanctioned tournament and culminates with championship matches on July 5. In the meantime are brackets for players as young as 10, family versus family doubles, and other, more traditional adult open competitions.

"The key is just to make sure everybody enjoys themselves because the way I look at it, 50 percent who come here play one match and go home and never come here again because it's single elimination," said club manager Scott Farr, working his sixth-consecutive tournament. "You want them to have as much fun as the people who win and keep going."

But with the event's location near downtown La Jolla and the Cove, going one-and-done is not necessarily a total loss - not to mention the cooling ocean breeze and lingering June gloom, something many of its participants do not usually benefit from.

"For people in the hot states, this is like heaven," said tournament referee Doug Fitzgerald, who first became involved with the event in 1969. "There are people that come specifically from Phoenix, whole families and whole crowds just to play."

The location has helped make the La Jolla Tennis Championships popular for nearly a century, allowing it to evolve along with the game itself.

"It's much different now," said Fitzgerald, comparing this year's competition to what it was 40 years ago. "In those days it was all wood rackets, you couldn't hit the ball very hard, you had to come to the net on the first or second serve, because you couldn't rally around much."

Despite lighter rackets and a modern playing style, the competitive spirit persists.

Michel Lombrozo of Bonita won a doubles bracket last year in his first try. He entered again this time, looking for another successful run.

"It's a great sport," said the ex-college football player who took up tennis three years ago. "I wish I would have played much younger."

If history is any indication, this tournament should give Lombrozo plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time.

The La Jolla Tennis Club began with three courts, donated by Ellen Browning Scripps in 1915. Over the years it expanded to nine. But when the popularity of tennis peaked in late 1960s and early 1970s, Fitzgerald said the turnout, sometimes reaching 1,500, was too high for the event to be held in one place.

"The logistics were different," he said. "We used UCSD courts, Balboa Morley field courts, we had a whole staff of people who did nothing but drive station wagons and drop people off and pick them up."

Once concluded for a 93rd time, the club will already begin planning for next year's competition.

"It comes up faster than we think," said Farr, its manager. "Because it happens once a year it's always exciting, it never gets old."

If you want to catch the courtside action, here is a schedule of the remaining events. All are free and open to the public. For match times, check

www.ljtc.org

or call (858) 454-4434.

Highlights

  • Junior play (competitors between 10 and 18) continues through June 26.
  • Father/son doubles competition, open and senior play – June 26-28 and July 4-5.
  • US Tennis Association sanctioned singles and doubles – June 27-28
  • Family play (Mother/daughter, mother/son, father/daughter, and husband/wife) – June 29 – July 3
  • Super Seniors (Ages 65 through 80) – July 1-5
  • Bob Perry, winner of the 1956 French Open doubles competition and former La Jolla Tennis Club pro, will be honored in a pre-match ceremony on July 5th at roughly 2 p.m.

Jonathan Horn is a freelance writer from La Jolla.

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