Tennis Spotlights – Southern California Tennis News Tennis News, Events, Community Activities, Tournaments Fri, 21 Sep 2018 20:41:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Colling Hopes Hot Summer Continues in College Fri, 21 Sep 2018 01:36:24 +0000 Read more »]]> JUNIOR SPOTLIGHT: Solymar Colling

Something clicked at the start of the summer for Solymar Colling.

The 18-year-old from the City of Orange went on a roll going undefeated in 24 straight matches playing in college and open tournaments, winning an ITA Summer Circuit events at Pomona-Pitzer College and Chapman University, as well as the Manhattan Beach Open Women’s Open and playing for the SCTA Jr. Fed Cup team.

Colling is a new University of San Diego freshman and coached by Elson De Cantuaria of Match Point Tennis Academy.

“I really have improved a lot,” said Colling, who won a round at the Easter Bowl Spring Championships before falling to French Open Junior girls’ champion Caty McNally in the second round. “Before the summer I would have losses at Level 1 and 2 events, but I just kept working hard and once the summer started something clicked and I started winning a bunch of matches.”

Colling said one year ago after her first recruiting visit to USD, she immediately fell in love with the campus and her future coaches. “I just knew that is where I had to be and made the decision to commit right then,” said Colling, who played high school tennis for Villa Park High for three seasons before taking her senior year off to focus on her training.

University of San Diego women’s tennis head coach Sherri Stephens and assistant Nadia Abdala are extremely excited to have Colling, nicknamed “Soly”, on their team.

Soly brings talent and passion to an already experienced team,” Stephens said. “We look forward to her continued progress on a national level and anticipate great things from her in the future.”

In the Pomona-Pitzer final, Colling beat USC’s Sydney Van Alphen, dropping just four games. In the Manhattan Beach Open final she beat former University of Notre Dame player Monica Robinson.

She is often asked about the meaning of her first name. “It means the sun and the sea,” she said. “Sol is sun and mar is sea,” she said.

Colling said she would like to major in real estate at USD. “Both of my parents own commercial real estate in Texas so that seems like the right path for me.”

She added, sarcastically: “I enjoy going to classes as much as anyone else does. But I’m a pretty good student. I’m one of those people who whatever I do I put in the maximum effort.”






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Things Cooling Down For Ciuffo at CSUN Sat, 01 Sep 2018 04:23:28 +0000 Read more »]]> Teaching Pro Spotlight: James Ciuffo

With the two-weekend 54th Annual Northridge-Matador Junior Open Tournament officially completed, longtime Cal State Northridge women’s assistant coach James Ciuffo is now ready to turn his focus on the next event he will direct.

Entries for the Northridge Fall Classic Open money tournament close on Oct 2. The following is the link to enter:

Seth Stolar won the Men’s Open title last year.

Ciuffo said the past two weekends have been on the warm side, but nothing compared to the 115-degree days he and the players suffered through back in mid-July in another USTA Designated junior tournament.

“We had to front load the mornings and played later in the day,” Ciuffo said.

Ciuffo has been a loyal assistant women’s coach for the Matadors for more than 20 years, and is head coach Gary Victor’s right-hand man. “I do a lot of scouting and recruiting and we are always looking for good, home-grown and local talent,” Ciuffo said.

A naturally gifted athlete, Ciuffo played baseball in high school instead of tennis before switching sports while a student at Cal Lutheran University and playing under longtime Kingsmen Coach Mike Gennette.

In 2001, Ciuffo helped lead the Matadors to the Big Sky Conference Championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in business from CLU in 1996. Prior to attending Cal Lutheran, Ciuffo attended Pierce College in Woodland Hills and graduated from Taft High School. He is also a member of the United States Professional Tennis Association.

Ciuffo and his wife Shelley have a daughter, Angelina.

“I plan on staying at Northridge for a long time,” Ciuffo said. “As long as Coach Victor will have me.”


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Kimberly Le Keeps Giving Back To the Game She Loves Fri, 31 Aug 2018 04:50:55 +0000 Read more »]]> Community Spotlight: Kimberly Le

By Steve Pratt

Every tennis community needs someone who is always positive, who attends tournaments and other tennis-related activities, who encourages friends and family members to keep on playing, and someone who regularly “Likes” and writes positive comments on Facebook posts.

In Southern California, that person is Kimberly Le

After continually seeing Kimberly post and like on Facebook in such a positive manner, we decided to reach out to her and ask about her involvement in tennis. So just like recognizing a Sportsmanship winner from a junior tournament, we felt like calling out someone who is doing good within the tennis community might also spur on others to do the same.

Kimberly’s family is active in tennis, and she just recently returned from Ithaca, N.Y., to drop off her youngest daughter Katherine Nguyen, who will be one of the top players at Cornell University her freshman season.

In a Facebook private message, Kimberly says she’s just an “old lady of 61 who used to play lots of tennis for USTA Leagues.”

She continued: “I do love the game of tennis and would love to volunteer someday. My daughter helps out the SCTA and her name is Tiffany Mai.” (Editor’s note: Mai does so much more and serves as a Tennis Service Representative for Long Beach and the South Bay).

“My God Daughter used to play for USC but graduated a long time ago,” she said. “I always like to encourage parents that have their kids to participate in sports, especially in tennis because it keeps them healthy. I think tennis makes them think smarter as you have to think and figure out every shot and have to figure out how to play different styles and keeps their brain working.”

Kimberly said her daughter Katherine has lots of friends that play at their clubs or on USTA League teams.

Katherine Nguyen

“But there are so many adults who play tennis who have young kids who don’t know how to get their kids started the proper way,” she said. “They don’t know how to select which tournaments are best for them or who to help them get to the next level.”

She continued: “I simply just like to help because I love to watch kids grow up in a healthy way. You’d be surprised how many parents play club or recreation tennis and who would love to have their kids compete in tennis, but they just don’t know where to start the right way. Now, I wish I have some grandkids to take them to tournaments with me. Maybe someday.”

Kimberly said she wants to keep giving back to the game she loves, and will keep helping out where she’s needed. “I would like to volunteer at tournament desks, get memberships for the USTA or anything I could do to help,” she said. “I would love to find more sponsors for tennis and to expand it and make it more popular.”

We can learn a lot from tennis-loving people in our community like Kimberly Le.

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Serving Community For More Than 20 Years Sun, 26 Aug 2018 21:22:04 +0000 Read more »]]> FACILITY SPOTLIGHT: Burbank Tennis Center

For Steve Starleaf and his co-workers at the Burbank Tennis Center, it’s always been about giving back to the community that is most important.

Each June, the annual Jensen-Schmidt Tennis Academy for individuals with Down syndrome takes place and is free at the BTC and attracts between 120 and 140 campers.

Starleaf and the BTC have also hosted many ACEing Autism camps and clinics over the years, as well as events for the Burbank Center for the Retarded “A Place to Grow” center located across the street from the tennis center.

Steve Starleaf

“I could not have envisioned that we would be able to do so much to help this underserved population of players,” Starleaf said in an interview with the L.A. Times. “This is what we wanted the Burbank Tennis Center to be. This is why we work so hard to bring programs like this to the center.

“Serving these special groups is what is really the most important. They are the real champions. The joy they get out of competing and having fun is all worth it.”

A 10-year dream of Starleaf’s became a reality in 1997, the same year Starleaf and the Burbank Tennis Center hosted a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event won by none other than Andre Agassi, who was making his way up the rankings during his comeback.

The facility has 10 hard courts and two Har-Tru clay courts. Starleaf grew up locally and played for Burbank High School and then Pierce College before attending what is now Texas A&M and winning Nationals in 1978.

Mike Bennett is the assistant manager at the Burbank Tennis Center. The 37-year-old has been at BTC for the past 10 years, and played on the last Cal-State Northridge men’s teams before the program was dropped.

Bennett said the club’s most popular offering currently is Live Ball play on Tuesday and Friday nights from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday’s from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bennett said an XTREME Live Ball group has been added for 4.0 players on Sunday’s from 10 a.m. to noon.

“We are not unique in any way with what we are doing with Live Ball,” Bennett said. “But it’s a fun way to get people out and the players just love it. XTREME Live Ball is for the 4.0 player who just wants to hit a lot of balls and is actually closer to Cardio Tennis.”

Starleaf is loyal to his workers, and they in turn are loyal to him. One longtime veteran instructor Harout Khachatrian has been teaching at the Burbank Tennis Center for the past 22 years.

The public is invited to play in the Fall Classic Doubles Tennis Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Divisions will include 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 and the cost is $35 per team.

Drop-In Tennis takes place each Sunday at 6 p.m. The cost is free for Burbank Tennis Center members and $15 for non-members.

The Burbank Tennis Center offers public tennis lessons each season and the fall session begins Sept. 10. For more information, go to:

For more information on the Burbank Tennis Center, call 818.843.4105 or visit the website at:

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Rivera Goes Underground With Successful Tennis Business Wed, 15 Aug 2018 16:44:30 +0000 Read more »]]> Teaching Pro Spotlight: Julio Rivera

When Julio Rivera came to Los Angeles over 21 years ago, he left a job on Wall Street to propose to his then girlfriend who lived in Orange County. Rivera didn’t realize he’d have to go “underground” to be successful in Southern California.

But that’s exactly what happened for the 47-year old teaching pro who has carved out a unique niche and successful business in an active section of L.A.’s tennis scene.

Julio Rivera, middle

Rivera started the Underground Tennis Movement in 2012, and it has grown slowly over time. His client list is now over 100 players.

“It started out of a need,” said Rivera. “There are only two private clubs in our general vicinity and they are very exclusive. I have a couple friends who have courts above Sunset and they asked me if I would teach them. It grew from there. We’ve essentially started a community without the confines of a country club.”

Rivera’s website, states: “The momentum of tennis has grown beyond club walls; We’re a community that enjoys all aspects of it. Join us on the flip side, in the underground.”

Another aspect of the Underground Tennis Movement is breaking down the stigma that tennis is an elitist sport. Said Rivera: “I played junior college tennis. I’m from Long Island. I didn’t go to Stanford. But I do have a great knowledge of the game and I know how to put people into fun yet educational groups.”

Julio Rivera, middle

The price for UTM clinics and Live Ball games is not cheap, but it’s not exclusive either. “It’s very expensive to join a club,” Rivera said. “I’m catering to the people who typically have enjoyed tennis all their lives but want to play without the restrictions of a stodgy country club. I’ve been able to build a solid clientele, and they continue to come back.”

Rivera said he would like to expand his business and teach other pros the fast-paced game of Live Ball. “Live Ball is a dynamic and fun way to bring people together.

It’s also a great workout. I want my people to feel a sense of community and also feel like they’re a kid on the playground.”

If you would like more information about Rivera’s Underground Tennis Movement, email him at:

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Sectionals 18s Winner Woldeab Keeps Improving Sun, 05 Aug 2018 17:12:36 +0000 Read more »]]> Junior Spotlight: Siem Woldeab

“Embrace the Clay” might have been a good motto for Siem (pronounced Sam) Woldeab, during the week playing in his first USTA Clay Court Nationals in Delray Beach, Fla.

The 17-year-old from La Mesa immediately took a liking to the greenish Har-Tur surface making the transition from the familiar hard-court surface he favors like so many top juniors growing up in Southern California.

Woldeab finished third at the Clay Courts, losing to eventual champion and University of Notre Dame-bound Axel Nefve in the semifinals, 6-2, 7-6.

“It was tough at first,” admitted Woldeab, whose parents came to the United States from Eritrea (East Africa), of playing on the clay. “I liked it because everything was slower and the matches were longer. You had to time to figure out and change things if you needed to.”

The 6-foot-4 Woldeab is a senior-to-be at Helix Charter School in La Mesa who recently turned 17. He started his summer strong by winning the 116th annual SCTA Junior Sectionals at Los Caballeros in Fountain Valley. He beat Omni Kumar in the final, 6-2, 6-4.

“It was pretty cool finally winning my first Sectionals,” the top-seeded Woldeab said. “I played Sectionals in all the age divisions and so to finally win was amazing.”

Woldeab has played his last SCTA junior event, and recently competed at the USTA Hardcourt Nationals in Kalamazoo, Mich. He hopes to play more ITF Juniors and Futures events during his senior year, and is being recruiting by all the major Pac-12 schools.

He said he loves the energy playing in a tennis-mecca like Kalamazoo. “There are so many fans that come out to watch that aren’t even tennis fans,” he said. “They just come out to support the event. It’s really fun to be there.”

Woldeab said his improved serve has helped him earn better results this summer. “I’m able to get a lot of free points off it,” he said. “I think my forehand has also really improved.”

Woldeab started playing tennis with his older brother Senay shortly after his family settled in San Diego. He learned the game from his coach Stan Jefferson who teaches at Mountain View Park across the street from Woldeab’s house.

Woldeab takes his school work seriously and wants to continue taking business classes once he gets to college. Like any teenager, he spends his free time playing video games, but also likes walking his Chihuahua Yorkie dog named Buddy around the neighborhood.

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Van Zutphen Keeping Cool at SeaCliff CC Mon, 23 Jul 2018 03:58:01 +0000 Read more »]]> Teaching Pro Spotlight: Mike Van Zutphen

When Mike Van Zutphen decided to head west for the cool and breezy climate of Huntington Beach and became the Director of Tennis at the SeaCliff Country Club six years ago, he said farewell to the familiar and much, much warmer temperatures of the Phoenix, Ariz., area.

Van Zutphen, who played baseball and basketball as a youngster, came upon the game later than most, but has progressed over the years to become one of the most prolific tennis teaching pros to ever come out of the USTA Southwest Section.

The 64-year-old Van Zutphen has been a five-time USTA Southwest Professional of the Year and is also one of only 140 USPTA Certified Master Professionals in the world. He is the author of 11 books on tennis teaching and instruction.

“When I was a kid I would ride my bike 35 miles to take a half-hour lesson,” Van Zutphen said of his humble beginnings in the sport he has dedicated his life to. “I’d ride on the dirt roads through the Indian Reservations to get there quicker.”

Later, his mother would shuttle him to lessons in Paradise Valley where he became fascinated with how the game was taught by those giving him lessons.

Over time, Van Zutphen was able to work teaching clinics with his “heroes”, including Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, Vic Braden and Dennis Van Der Meer.

Named the 2015 California USPTA Professional of the Year, Van Zutphen, along with Tom Breece, developed the Arizona Tennis Association, the second largest community tennis association in the United States, in 1987.

He calls himself a USPTA “lifer” having been involved with the tennis teaching organization for the past 30 years, and current serves as the USPTA President of the California Division. He is also a member of the USPTA Tennis Teachers Hall of Fame.

Van Zutphen said the USPTA has changed over the years, and pros are no longer forced to sit through hours of testing using pencil and paper.

“The testing requirements are less much demanding now,” said Van Zutphen, who has spent the last 10 years on the USPTA testing committee and is the head tester for the California Division. “They used to be almost all essays and took four hours. Now it’s 80 questions and multiple choice and you have an hour and a half. It’s more of an online effort and we are moving away from paper and toward the tablets.”

Van Zutphen has worked with two past NCAA national champions and former Junior Wimbledon winner Wesley Whitehouse.

He played World TeamTennis for Phoenix Racquets and also worked with the former Stanford University All-American Pat Dupre, who achieved an ATP world ranking of No. 12 and had wins over John McEnroe.

“I enjoy teaching all levels of players from tiny tots to young up and coming stars,” he said. “The method of progressions I use can and does developing players quickly. The majority of my lessons are club players who want to climb the NTRP ladder to the next level.”

Van Zutphen’s core teaching philosophy states that each stage of development for a player is important for him to get better in the game. “The coach that can help a student and keep them in tennis is helping the game,” Van Zutphen’s philosophy states. “The best coach can diagnosis and cure and follow an effective plan with progressions to help the student learn and retain the information given. He can communicate well with enthusiasm, clarity and brevity following a outline or stated plan organized in logical steps that challenges the student and achieves success.”

It concludes: “This coach can keep the student moving and also learning with good action and explanation when necessary to maximize time efficiently. This is planned development organized and structured.”

For more information about Van Zutphen go to his website here:

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Oracle ITA Summer Circuit Brings Out the Best in So Cal College Tennis Players Sat, 21 Jul 2018 02:12:09 +0000 Read more »]]> Competitive battles abound in Southern California at the various Oracle ITA Summer Circuit events, a series Powered by UTR. The ITA collegiate tournaments have gathered some of So Cal’s top male and female players who attend universities from across the United States. Despite tough matches and extreme So Cal heat, one common theme seems to be outstanding tennis, supreme sportsmanship and camaraderie with deeply rooted friendships from junior tennis days.

The 2018 six-week summer circuit started on June 23 and will end July 30. So Cal sites are Chapman University, Pomona Pitzer, Cal State Northridge, Claremont Mudd Scripps, Azusa Pacific University and Cal State Los Angeles. Draws are based on Universal Tennis Ratings and they offer 32-player draws. Scoring is 2 out of 3 sets with a 10-point match tiebreak in lieu of a third set with no-ad scoring. Doubles are 8-game pro sets.  Participants across the country can compete in the ITA Summer Circuit Points Race, which will conclude with the top five men and women receiving automatic entries into the ITA National Summer Championships at Texas Christian University.

Emily Dush from Chula Vista is a recent high school graduate of Laurel Springs School and will play tennis for  the University of Utah in the fall. Dush has competed in several ITA Summer events in singles and doubles.

“I’m playing to get used to the college tennis format,” said Dush, a 10.22 UTR. “The competition is tough and the conditions are challenging. It’s giving me a look at what’s ahead.”

Jed Kronenverg, a sophomore at Pomona Pitzer, believes the circuit will help him improve his doubles play while Matt Sullivan from the Weil Academy sees the ITA events as a way to step into the college tennis arena. Ethan Prost, a sophomore at Loyola Marymount University, is striving to gain experience so he can make the top six at his school next year. Jennifer Kerr of San Diego, a two-time CIF San Diego Section Singles Champion, attends Columbia University and believes the summer tournaments will help her stay mentally tough.

There are a myriad of reasons that college tennis players participate in the Oracle ITA Summer Circuit including improve their UTR, refine their skills and strive to qualify for the national tennis tournament. However, one visible theme seems to be meeting up with old friends. This was evident in the smiles, hugs, laughter, high fives and gregarious group dynamics at each site despite the intense So Cal heat wave that brought sizzling 115 degrees through parts of July.

“I loved seeing my junior tennis friends because in a sense we grew up together,” said Gillian Parker, a standout at UC Irvine.  Parker partnered with Julia Ronney from the University of Montana in the Chapman College event. The duo were finalists in women’s doubles at that tennis tournament, and have been doubles partners since the 12-and-Under Division in USTA junior tennis. “It’s like old times playing with Julia because we know each other so well. This was so much fun.”

Parker’s parents, Sheryl and Eric, enjoyed watching their daughter compete at both Chapman University and Claremont College. Eric is a PTR Teaching Professional at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido and a leader in the San Diego tennis community. “This is great because the pressure of junior tennis is off. They are no longer in the junior tennis rankings race or in the hunt for a college scholarship. The girls are here to simply improve their games and that’s a great attitude,” said Eric Parker.

While all of the So Cal college sites are well known, Chapman University Coach Will Marino was proud to introduce his new five-court facility to the ITF community. The Erin J. Lastinger ’88 Tennis Center was completed in September and is perhaps one of the top in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).

It appears the Oracle ITA Summer Circuit has something to offer everyone in So Cal and throughout the United States. Many tennis players said they enjoyed great competition and outstanding sportsmanship, and all considered it an extension of their college tennis experience.

“As a tennis player, you should be a good sport.” said Dush. “Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want to win. It’s about playing fair.”

For more information on the Oracle ITA Summer Circuit Powered by UTR, please go to



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Garafola’s Love For Athletics Inspired Angel City Games Sun, 08 Jul 2018 23:06:19 +0000 Read more »]]> COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: Michael Garafola

When Michael Garafola first dreamed up the idea of an Adaptive, Paralympic-style event to be held in Southern California at a world-class venue like the campus of UCLA, he thought back to a time in his youth when he could have benefited from something like the Angel City Games.

The 4th annual Angel City Games at UCLA recently concluded on June 24th.  Garafola, the UCLA Recreation Adaptive Programs Coordinator and Angel City Games Co-Founder and the incredible ACG leadership team, along with hundreds of dedicated volunteers welcomed more than 300 adaptive athletes with physical disabilities from 19 states and 3 countries over the course of the 4 day competition.

In 1990, 15-year-old Garafola had just entered his sophomore year of high school when he was injured in an automobile accident which left him paralyzed.  “Before my accident I loved being an athlete.  I was the captain of my freshman basketball team, a multiple time basketball all star.  I snow skied, water skied, played soccer, I was a junior lifeguard … you name and I did it,” said the native Staten Island, New Yorker.  “But from 1990 to 2003 sports were gone from my life. While I filled it with other positive things, I always felt that something was missing.  Like many people, I didn’t know about adaptive sports or what the Paralympics were. I wish there was an Angel City Games when I was growing up in New York.”

Garafola moved west to Los Angeles in 1999 to work in the music industry and it wasn’t long before he came across a brochure for the Lakers wheelchair basketball team. “I wanted to know what this was all about,” he said. “When I entered the gym, I was blown away!  I couldn’t believe I could play sports competitively again!  While I got a late start to the adaptive sports game, I was so fortunate to have found it.  Basketball was my passion and now it was back in my life.  It was like a rebirth; my competitive fire was back!”

Soon after, Garafola heard of UCLA Adaptive Sports & Recreation and began participating in their programs.  After volunteering and then working part time for a few years, the position of Adaptive Programs Coordinator opened. Garafola interviewed for the position and was asked if he would consider going back to school to receive a Therapeutic Recreation Certificate. He enrolled at Long Beach State, completed the necessary course work & has been the UCLA Recreation Adaptive Programs Coordinator ever since.

Garafola and his friend and Angel City Games Co-Founder, Clayton Frech, wanted to expand what UCLA currently offered students and the community in adaptive athletics, and soon found themselves pitching UCLA administrators on the idea of the Angel City Games. Frech’s son Ezra was born with a congenital limb difference.  Despite his disability, Ezra is an elite adaptive track & field athlete.

“In 2015, the first year of the Games, we started with 2 sports: Wheelchair Basketball and Track and Field.  Our idea was to have a clinic where new athletes could learn from experienced athletes, Paralympians and coaches, try new adaptive sports and then compete in those sports at the same event,” said Garafola.  “Last year we decided to add 3 more sports.  Angel City Games now showcases 5 sports: Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Tennis, Track and Field, Archery & Swimming, all in 4 days at UCLA.”

About three and a half years ago, Garafola tried wheelchair tennis for the first time, and was immediately hooked. “There’s something so unique about tennis,” said Garafola, who joined the Northridge Knights Wheelchair team (sponsored by Northridge Hospital) and tried to find as many opportunities to play the game in Southern California and beyond. “I really enjoy being on the tennis court. Managing your emotions and maintaining your mental focus throughout a tennis match is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in other sports I’ve played.  It’s just you & your thoughts… and I think that’s why I love it so much.”

Garafola relies on the support of both the USTA National office, as well as the SCTA. “It seems like they get it,” he said. “They understand the importance of starting grassroots programs, finding and developing new talent and plugging in to community partners that make sense; with a collective mission of growing the sport of wheelchair tennis.”

Garafola credited friend and recently retired Annette Buck and friend and coach Cari Buck, SCTA Executive Director Linda Milan, Tiffany Geller-Reed and Coach Dee Henry with providing support for anything wheelchair tennis related.

“It’s like a tight-knit family, and the support we’ve gotten from people like Annette Buck, Cari Buck, Coach Dee Henry (among others) is amazing.  We couldn’t do it without their help,” he said, adding. “We need to keep expanding the sport of wheelchair tennis by finding new talent, and that’s where Angel City Games has helped. We need to keep spreading the word by finding those kids, like me, who thought sports were gone forever.  I want to give others the opportunities that I didn’t have to get back in to sport.  No one with a physical disability should be sitting on the sidelines watching if they want to play.”

To learn more about Angel City Games, go to:

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Ojai’s Scott Burton Has Deep Passion For the Game Wed, 27 Jun 2018 21:36:29 +0000 Read more »]]> Teaching Pro Spotlight: Scott Burton

A deep-seated passion for the game of tennis from a longtime teaching pro has led to a re-awakening in the tennis-rich town of Ojai.

Officially on the job for 11 months, Scott Burton now runs all the tennis programming for the City of Ojai and its Parks and Recreation Department, and has turned the small town in Ventura County known for its famous century-old tennis tournament into a hotbed for the future of tennis in the Ojai Valley.

“We’ve been able to double our numbers in terms of participation in just under a year,” Burton said. “I’m passionate when I’m on the court so I think that’s why people gave me a chance here. And the level of the play over at the park has really bumped up a few notches with some newer, modern techniques. I think that has to do with my passion of continuing education as a tennis teaching professional.”

Burton has served on the Southern California’s prestigious United States Professional Tennis Association’s Executive Board of Directors for the past six years.  He started as a Vice President of the Central Coast Division. After just one year he was promoted to District 1 President.

“Because I’m on the Board of the USPTA it allows me access to continuing education, so I make the most of it,” said Burton, formerly the boys’ head tennis coach and girls’ assistant at Thacher School who also served 16 years with the City of Ventura. “As District 1 President I was in charge of providing the curriculum to the certified professionals in our area. We continue to certify and insure all the local pros.”

It was that passion for tennis that led Burton back to the game years after he had discovered it growing up in what he describes as “the barrio” of Van Nuys in the Valley.

As a manufacturing engineer, he was not fulfilled. “It just wasn’t something I was passionate about so I got out,” said Burton, an accomplished skier who at one time lived in Mammoth Lakes with the hopes of becoming a professional downhill skier. “Tennis is what I’m passionate about. So now I live my dream.”

He continued: “Working at a park setting is something I’m really passionate because I grew up less fortunate. The Parks and Rec departments are near and dear to me because it truly is grassroots tennis. As a Junior, couldn’t compete with the kids at the top of Mulholland Drive who had their own tennis court and coaches. Upon earning my teaching credentials, my heart pushed me to the parks.  The fences are very low in Parks & Recreation.  Fences at private clubs are just to steep for many less fortunate. ”

Burton, who was voted California’s 2013 USPTA Pro of the Year by his peers, said he was offered a head pro teaching job in the Seattle area last year, but with two high-school aged daughters decided to remain in Ojai.

Burton’s first tennis coach at Van Nuys High also happened to be his math teacher, former USC Trojans player Jim Buck.

“He kicked me off the team a few times, but we are good friends today,” Burton said with a laugh. “Of course Annette and Cari Buck [of the SCTA] have been fantastic to me. I’ve got 30 years of Bucks in my life.”

Burton said when he interviewed for the Ojai City job, he was reminded how deep the roots of the game go.

“They said, ‘We take tennis pretty seriously here in Ojai,’ ” Burton recalled. “Not only have I played in The Ojai, but coached many students, I’ve come full circle where now I’m a servant to the tournament as a facilities manager and training the ball kids. It’s the one thing I haven’t done. I was nervous. I was more nervous than the ball kids in training because I wanted to do it differently, I wanted to put my mark on it and it just worked out famously.”

Burton concluded: “My passion is to instill a legacy and a future with the children. The future of our game relies on these children and so if we can provide them with the opportunity now, then they are going to have a game for the rest of their lives.”


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Claremont junior exemplifies sportsmanship at Sectionals Tue, 26 Jun 2018 16:02:35 +0000 Read more »]]> Sportsmanship can be reflected in many ways, most of them subtle and often unnoticed – a benefit of the doubt, a friendly handshake, an apologetic wave, or even something as simple as punctuality. In the case of Christian Settles, an 18-year old playing in his final junior-level tournament, pure sportsmanship was on display.

Claremont’s Christian Settles

At the 116th SCTA Junior Sectionals in Fountain Valley, Settles notched two wins in the Boys 18s singles qualifying rounds to advance into the main draw. With a loss in the Round of 64, he shifted to the consolation bracket, and in his first match Settles was in full control. Having secured the first set, Settles broke out to a quick lead and commanded the second set at 5-1, on his way to victory and into the next round.

But the young man from Claremont knew that this was his last day on court. A game away from victory, Settles conceded the match.

“I played the match knowing I wasn’t going to be able to play the next round if I won,” Settles recalls. Due to his schedule, he was to leave Sectionals later that night. Earning the victory would mean he would default the following match, but giving up his current match with Temecula’s Donovan Livov would allow Livov to move on and play more tennis.

“He was pretty confused at first,” Settles says of his unsuspecting opponent. “I explained that I was leaving that night and wouldn’t be able to play and I’d rather give him a chance. I wanted to give my opponent a chance to win.”

Livov played 34 more games, winning his second round consolation match convincingly before bowing out in his subsequent match.

Settles, on the other hand, is on the verge of turning 19 years old and was wrapping up his junior tennis career with an impressive act of sportsmanship. He’ll play for Trinity University in San Antonio beginning this fall.

“Ultimately,” Settles says, “I chose to do it because I knew if I was in his position, I would appreciate it.”

Find complete results from Junior Sectionals here.

Check out SCTA’s “Sportsmanship Is…” excerpts at our YouTube page.

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Kang Enters SoCal Sectionals Among Nation’s Elite Sat, 16 Jun 2018 23:41:19 +0000 Read more »]]> Junior Spotlight: Kyle Kang

Kyle Kang doesn’t have to go far when he needs a little bit of advice when navigating the often tough road of junior tennis.

A 13-year-old ranked among the top 14-year-olds in the Southern California Tennis Association, Fullerton’s Kang has been playing up in the 16s, like he did in the Woody Hunt Memorial Tournament recently played in the South Bay.

There will be early-round defeats – Kang won a round before falling in the second round – but Kang is prepared to pay the price that comes with playing up.

Kang discusses the decision to play up or not with his father David before each tournament. “My dad wanted me to see how I play against some of the other older top players,” Kang said. “So we made the decision to play up.”

An eighth-grader at Parkview School, Kang said he will enter the upcoming 116th Annual SCTA Junior Sectionals in the 16s.

“You can’t be on the defense too much against the bigger players,” he said. “You’ve got to stay offensive and stay really aggressive. My shots weren’t quite big enough to pass and they would keep it deep, so I would miss.”

Kang first started playing tennis at age five and a half, and works with longtime coach Dave Mann at the Fullerton Tennis Center.

Kang has not made the decision if he will travel this summer to the USTA Hardcourt 14s Nationals. He’s never played Hardcourt Nationals, but has traveled to Florida and Tennessee for national-level events.

He didn’t have to travel far for the USTA Spring Nationals at the Easter Bowl in March at Indian Wells where he won a round in the 14s before falling to top-seeded and eventual finalist Samir Banerjee. Kang was honored with the Sportsmanship Award for his quiet demeanor and easy-going attitude.

Just one year earlier, an unseeded Kang came out of nowhere to win the Easter Bowl 12s singles title in straight sets, serving notice that he could play with some of the best players in the nation at his age level.

Kang, who has an older sister and brother who play tennis, played baseball, soccer and swam before deciding to dedicate himself entirely to his tennis. “I like playing team sports, but I like being independent and not worrying about teammates making mistakes and like that it’s only you on the court,” he said. “I think if you play different sports it can help your tennis, like in soccer with your footwork and movement.”

Kang said he was even interested in playing football, but his parents were against it.

Kang wants to be a pro tennis player someday, just like his favorite pro player South Korea’s Chung Hyeon. “I’d like to go to college for one year, then turn pro,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

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Dawson Starting New Traditions At Bobby Riggs Club Tue, 05 Jun 2018 00:49:35 +0000 Read more »]]> Facility Spotlight: Bobby Riggs Racquet and Paddle Club

Steve Dawson is a firm believer that the long established sport of tennis and newcomer pickleball can certainly co-exist at the same facility.

The long-time Carlsbad resident Dawson, 56, was a top San Diego junior, a two-time Big 8 Champion at the University of Oklahoma who went on to become an ITF world-ranked No. 1 senior age-group player, just like his wife Jennifer Dawson, who has been ranked No. 1 in the USTA 30s, 35s, 40s and 45s.

Steve Dawson

Four years ago, the married couple took over what was formerly known as the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Encinitas. The Dawsons have embraced pickleball so much so that they have recently re-named their club the Bobby Riggs Racquet and Paddle Club.

“We do tennis and paddle,” Dawson said. “A lot of people don’t know that Bobby Riggs was the California State Paddle Champion. And he’s also in the paddle tennis Hall of Fame. I think that if pickleball were around when he was alive, he would have loved it. He wasn’t just a tennis player, he’s a racquet and paddle tennis player.”

Dawson is a two-time US Open Pickleball Champion and has won other national titles, making him the only player in the history of tennis and pickleball to be a World Champion in both sports.

“My wife and I are very happy to be involved in a club with a historic legacy,” Dawson said. “We both enjoy tennis and pickleball and being involved with a club with two sports that are life enhancing.”

Invented in 1965, the game of pickleball is a mix of tennis, table tennis and badminton played with a Wiffle ball on the court one-third the size of a tennis court

Following his death in 1995, the former club Riggs played out of, the Cardiff Courts, was renamed after Riggs, and run for years by his best friend, Lornie Kuhle.

While running a club in Las Vegas in the late 1990s, Kuhle would visit San Diego and Dawson would give lessons to Kuhle’s daughter, country western star Jennifer Wayne.

“A few years ago Lornie was looking for someone to run the Bobby Riggs club, and everything fell into place,” and the Dawsons took over the management of the club.

The club still houses the Bobby Riggs Museum, where Riggs’ US Open and Wimbledon and numerous other trophies are kept. “Bobby’s life-long legacy is on display at the club and therefore it will always be associated with Bobby Riggs and his name will always be on the club,” Dawson said.

He added: “We do adult tennis clinics, and lessons and junior tennis programs, but we mix it equally with pickleball play. We try to do all of it together.”

Dawson said there are an estimated 10 percent of his tennis members who will play both tennis and pickleball. “But generally our tennis players play tennis and our pickleball players play pickleball,” he said.

Dawson said his club converted their center court to pickleball, and have four exclusively for pickleball, six for tennis, and two that be converted to both tennis and pickleball.

“If the center court was a tennis court, you’d have two to four players playing on it at a time,” he said. “But in the same square footage, you can put 20 people with 16 people playing pickleball and three or four people waiting to play on the same surface area. So you can get more participants per square foot.

“When we took over the club, I had never heard of pickleball. I’m just letting economics dictate my decisions. I don’t think it’s a fad. I think it’s going to continue to grow and I think it’s good. All tennis clubs and racquet clubs stand to benefit from the growth of pickleball.”

Dawson explains why:

“The number of tennis players has been constant for a long time so what pickleball is doing is bringing an amazing amount of people to the exact same amount of tennis clubs. Some clubs will do tennis and pickleball, like mine. Some clubs will stick purely to tennis, which means all the tennis purists will begin migrating to the same clubs. So the idea is that you are suddenly infusing thousands of more people into the same club market, and it’s good for everyone. All these thousands and thousands of pickleball players have to go somewhere, so it’s best they go into the tennis club industry because some clubs will grow by adding pickleball, and some clubs will benefit by being just exclusively tennis, and everyone stands to grow from this new sport.”

For more information, go to:

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Avila Bay Club To Host Vince Dente Memorial Tournament Sat, 26 May 2018 01:26:54 +0000 Read more »]]> Facility Spotlight: Avila Bay Athletic Club

This holiday Memorial Weekend is easily the biggest weekend of the year for the Avila Bay Athletic Club with the playing of the Vince Dente Memorial Tournament.

Avila Bay Club Director of Tennis Michael Marquez is in his second year running the 43rd annual event, easily one of the longest-running and popular events played on the Central Coast.

Just scroll through the list of entries via the tournament TennisLink website at and you are sure to find familiar Southern California men’s and women’s open, college and junior players.

“For years, Mark Scribner ran the event and after Mark both Hugh Bream and Paul Fiala teamed up to run it the past 14 years,” said Marquez. “We have a big player BBQ and Tennis-Warehouse is one of our largest sponsors and they give out gift cards to the players. Southern California players just love playing this event.”

The Avila Bay Club has seven lighted courts and a balcony for optimal viewing. This weekend’s weather should be perfect for tournament tennis.

“The Avila Bay Club is an amazing club that is settled in a small canyon just off the US Highway 101 and two minutes from the ocean,” Marquez said. “We have an amazing micro-climate that averages 84 degrees and no wind. So it’s just perfect for playing conditions year-round.”

There is $8,5000 in prize money at stake for players. Sanctioned Events include Men’s Open singles and doubles; Women’s Open singles and doubles and mixed open doubles. There is also an NTRP Men’s and Women’s A (4.5), A-(4.0), B(3.5), C (3.0) in singles and doubles as well as senior age divisions, as well as a new UTR round-robin event in its first year. (Read more about it HERE).

Players in the Open Division include top-seeded Isaiah Strode, Alex Ventre, Jacob Brumm (Cal) and Jacob Bullard (USC bound) on the men’s side, and former college stars Maegan Manasse (Cal) and Allie Will, a two-time NCAA team champion from the University of Florida.

2017 winners were former USC Trojan EJ Johnson on the men’s side, and current Trojan Angela Kulikov on the women’s side.

The tournament is held in memory of Vince Dente, a local philanthropist and avid tennis player. Soon after his untimely death at the age of 39 in 1996. The following year the Vince Dente Junior Tennis Foundation was created to help support aspiring junior tennis players in the area.

Dente is an important figure in Central Coast tennis. According to his obituary in the Coronado Eagle, Dente was born and raised in San Diego County. He passed away suddenly in 1996 following an aneurism at the young age of 39 while in Palm Springs for a convention. A renowned jeweler, Dente and his wife Kathleen lived in San Luis Obispo for 11 years where he owned the Serengeti West jewelry store. He sponsored the Serengeti West Tennis Classic, what was formerly known as the Avila Bay Classic.

An avid tennis player, Dente donated the prize money for the professional open division, and gave out watches to winners at all levels.

To learn more about the Avila Bay Club, go to:

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Perry Couple Continues To Give Back To Tennis Thu, 10 May 2018 04:21:48 +0000 Read more »]]> Community Spotlight – The Perrys

During the Friday semifinals of the Pac-12 Championships at The Ojai last month, both winning teams that day UCLA and USC had two special fans rooting on their respective schools.

Norm Perry played for the Bruins in the early 1960s, and his wife Reggie attended USC.

“We are equal opportunity fans,” said Norm, who was captain of the 1960 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship team and also won another in 1961 along with teammates Larry Nagler and Allen Fox. “Both coaches are great guys and we support them both.”

Next year, the Perrys will celebrate 50 years of doing tennis business in Southern California as NJP Sports, Inc., in Glendale has sold tennis nets, wind screens and other sporting equipment since 1969.

The Perrys not only love supporting their beloved Bruins and Trojans but have also worked tirelessly to support tennis on a truly grassroots level in the Glendale area. They provide some funding, as well as nets and wind screens and other equipment for Ron Zambrano and his NJTL site at Scholl Canyon Golf & Tennis Club in Glendale.

“We support Ron with whatever he needs,” Norm said of Zambrano, who has coached St. Francis High School and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy tennis teams since 1993. “He’s a great guy and we are happy to help him with nets, or wind screens and also provide a donation at the end of the year.”

Added Reggie: “Ron is fantastic. He now has 50 kids each summer and once the kids are older and leave for school they always come back and visit over the summer.”

Reggie said that NJP Sports also helps support the Glendale Community College Foundation and works closely with recently retired Glendale coach Bob MacKay. “We helped them resurface the courts, and with nets and wind screens,” she said.

Norm, who turns 80 this month, always enjoys his trips to The Ojai, a place he first experienced as a youth growing up next to the UCLA campus.

“I remember playing Ojai for the first time when I was 12 years old and my partner was Stan Singer,” Bob said. “Ironically we played [legendary coaches] Dick Gould and Tom Chivington.”

To learn more about the Perrys tennis nets and wind screen business NJP Sports, go to:


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Griffin Club Remains Active Part of Westside Tennis Scene Tue, 01 May 2018 16:47:48 +0000 Read more »]]> Facility Spotlight – Griffin Club

Westside tennis players who happened to have played ever played at the Beverly Hills Country Club would hardly recognize the place these days.

Two years ago, Chicago Investment firm Singerman Real Estate and Meriwether Cos., a Boulder, Colo., hospitality and resort development company, purchased the club that sits on four acres right off the Santa Monica Freeway south of Century City.

With the purchase came a major re-branding effort and the Griffin Club was born. Named after Elmer Griffin, the uncle to legendary celebrity businessman Merv Griffin. More than $10 million later, and the club has undergone a complete renovation, according to Director of Tennis Alec Horton, who has been at the club for 18 months.

In 1926, Griffin opened the Westside Tennis Club, as a club for actors and entertainers who were not allowed entry into the area’s elite clubs. It quickly became a place where 20th Century Fox and MGM executives could meet, talk shop and also play a lot of tennis, and included such names as Cesar Romero, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Jack Lemmon and Oscar Hammerstein.

“There were lots of Hollywood stars in the 30s and 40s,” said Horton, who grew up in Orange County and formerly worked for Vic Braden and spent time at the Mission Viejo Country Club.  “It’s a very social club for tennis and active athletic club with fitness and swimming, and a spa and great restaurant.”

The club has approximately 1,500 members. Monthly dues range from $175 to more than $350.

The club has nine lighted courts, and there has been talk about putting in two red clay courts. You won’t find any pickleball courts at Griffin. “Pickleball hasn’t taken off here,” Horton said. “I think it’s a fun activity, but nobody is building a pickleball club. It’s like when racquetball rose in popularity.”

Horton continued: “I think the tennis clubs that have pickleball aren’t doing a good enough job to promote their tennis. No one is driving revenue with pickleball. If you are a retirement community, it’s different. But not at a private club.”
The Griffin Club competes in the Westside Ladies USTA League and has several USTA Junior Team Tennis teams. They even hosted a collegiate match in March with Arizona State falling to No. 4 Ohio State.

“We’re busy, and we have tons of kids in our junior program,” said Horton, who manages nine teaching professionals and recently hired popular SoCal coach Susan Unger as his new junior director.

For more information on the Griffin Club, go to:





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Stockdale CC’s Pfister Treats His Members Right Sat, 28 Apr 2018 20:41:40 +0000 Read more »]]> TEACHING PRO SPOTLIGHT: Hank Pfister

Hank Pfister had an idea when he started out as the Stockdale Country Club Director of Tennis 26 years ago: to put on a tennis event where his members could experience some of the same things he did while playing on the ATP Pro Tour.

The Stockdale Country Club Invitational was born and another year of the popular member event was recently concluded successfully. The two-day round robin tournament pairs players of similar ability against one another on the first day, and then the second day the player with the most games is teamed up with the player who wins the least games to even things out and make for more competitive matches.

“All the players have a blast,” said Pfister, a Bakersfield native. “I wanted to be able to treat the amateur players like I was treated as a pro so when they check-in all the players get a player bag with gifts, and a continental breakfast is served each morning. For the $100 entry fee, all their food and beverages are taken care of.”

The event averages about 60 players each year. “That’s about all we can take with our seven courts,” said Pfister, who won two French Open doubles titles in the early 1980s and reached as high as No. 19 on the ATP World Tour rankings. “It’s labor intensive because the draws change after the first day. It’s not like running a tournament. This thing is a beast for two days.”

The stately Stockdale Country Club has been in existence for nearly 90 years, and in 1972 Pfister’s father Hank opened the tennis facility. In 1998, Stockdale added two grass courts, bringing to the San Joaquin Valley the only first and only grass courts.

But all the buzz around Stockdale lately has been about the brand new tennis and fitness facility that opened last year that replaced the old one and is four times as large. “It’s a jaw-dropper when you walk in here,” Pfister said. “You walk in and go, ‘Wow.’ I’d put it up against any tennis fitness facility in the country.”

The 64-year-old Pfister still manages to teach on court 16 to 18 hours a week.

“I have players that come into town that I teach, but don’t have any high ranking or high performance juniors currently at the club.”

Stockdale does have an active junior program with 35 to 40 kids currently in daily after-school clinics. Robert Limpias is the Stockdale junior director and the current president of the Kern Community Tennis Association, an organization started by Pfister.

Pfister and the SCTA’s junior director Trevor Kronemann recently coached the SCTA Maze Cup team to a victory over the USTA NorCal Section bringing the cup back to Stockdale. “It’s a special event, and we have the cup displayed at our club right now,” Pfister said. “For years the Bakersfield Racquet Club was the Southern California host of the event, but it’s coming back to Stockdale next year.”

He added: “It’s a very prestigious event. You see names like Sampras and Davenport and Chang and the kids see that and just light up. They realize this is a big deal, kind of like Davis Cup.”

Pfister said the BRC does a great job hosting the $25,000 USTA Futures event each March with upwards to 300 fans attending the finals weekend.

In the year 2000 and because of his two Grand Slam wins, Pfister was invited to be part of The Ojai’s 100-year anniversary and unveiling of the Wall of Fame. Tournament organizers thought it would be fun if a Wall of Famer also played in the event. “I said sure, you can put me in the 45s,” Pfister said. “They said they didn’t have a 45s, so I said they could put me in the 35s. They said they didn’t have a 35s. I asked what they had, and they said I could play in the singles and doubles.”

At the age of 48, Pfister ended up making it all the way to the Open doubles finals with Steve Wooldridge. “I didn’t realize we’d be playing three matches a day,” he said. “It was a very stressful time for me physically. It took me a week to recover.”

Pfister doesn’t compete on the senior tour, and says his competitive playing days are all but over. “I can still hit a good ball,” he said. “I could keep playing, but it’s just too tough on the body.”

Pfister has had 13 reconstructive surgeries on his knees, ankles and hip. “I haven’t had any replaced yet. It’s all original equipment, it’s just kind of warn out and sore.”

For a local Bakersfield TV news interview on Pfister before Wimbledon last year, click HERE.

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Las Posas Country Club Celebrating 60 Years Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:48:40 +0000 Read more »]]> Facility Spotlight – Las Posas Country Club

For 60 years, the Las Posas Country Club (LPCC) in Camarillo has been a proud staple of the community of Camarillo in Ventura County. Established in 1958 as a private equity club, LPCC is owned exclusively by its members, some who have been at the club for more than 50 years.

The club has seven lighted tennis courts, and the tennis activities are run by popular Director of Tennis Mark McCampbell, who has been at LPCC since the Fall of 2014 after spending 25 years at the Oxnard Tennis Center.

“From the great catering to the great fitness to the pool and the incredible golf, which can only enhance anything I do tennis-wise,” McCampbell said. “Las Posas is really a gem of a club in Southern California. It’s an amazing place.”

Las Posas Country Club is unique in that it offers a junior membership for families in the Camarillo-area who and not members, but want to take advantage of the tennis courts for junior players. There is also a non-residence membership for people who like to travel on the weekends, and stop off use the facility.

Mark McCampbell

“Las Posas Country Club is a very social club and we do a lot of events, and clinics. It’s a very authentic club,” said David Driscoll, the Marketing Director at LPCC. “We just have a lot going on.”

McCampbell said the club hosts a USTA Level 3 National junior tournament, and a Level 4 and 5 SCTA events run by the VCJTA. The club also recently hosted the annual Tie Breaker Brewing Co. Gold Ball Classic Adult Open tournament that attached 160 players from San Diego to Santa Maria.

In 2017, McCampbell received the Coaching Excellence Award for Southern California and he also serves as the Chair of the SCTA Coaches Commission and as coach for the local USTA 14-and-Under Competition Training Center team.

McCampbell has also served as a coach for the Maze Cup co-ed team competition matching the best juniors from SoCal against the top juniors from NorCal.

For more information, go to:

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Family Spotlight: The Svajda Clan From San Diego Mon, 02 Apr 2018 19:05:03 +0000 Read more »]]> It’s a fun family affair when USPTA Pro Tom Svajda heads to the courts at Pacific Beach Tennis Club in San Diego. For years, he has trained adults and juniors of all ages at this beautiful site next to Mission Bay. He also trains his two sons on a daily basis with a unique formula for success.

Trevor Svajda, Zachary Svajda and Uros Petronijevic


So what makes this San Diego-based teaching professional so different? He has opted to give his two sons, Zachary and Trevor, a different look at tennis development. Both are home-schooled and spend their mornings on the court developing their games primarily outside of the USTA Junior Tennis Tournament offerings. Zachary, 15, and Trevor, 12, have opted to focus on training, fitness and a lot of practice sets with top players in lieu of tournaments most weekends.

The results are trickling in as Zachary, a 9thgrader, recently reached the quarterfinals of the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championships with coach and partner Uros Petronijevic, the former No. 1 player from the University of San Diego. Zachary and Petronijevic were seeded 5th and defeated teams from UC Davis, USD and Oregon State University. They eventually lost to a top team from USC.

Petronijevic, an All-America selection from Serbia, led University of San Diego men’s team to four straight West Coast Conference Championships from 2014 to 2017. He now shares his experience and insight with the two Svajda boys. He is teaching tennis part time at Pacific Beach Tennis Club and has future plans to travel with the boys for ITF events.

“It sounds great to play in ITF’s but the truth is that it’s hard work,” Petronijevic said. “I’ve told Zach stories about the tour but until he experiences it, he won’t understand. The other possibility is college tennis but that is still in the future.”


USPTA Pro Tom Svajda at Pacific Beach Tennis Club

Trevor trains with local male and female college players to hone his skills. He has plans to add more USTA tournaments into his schedule similar to his brother.  For the moment, however, the Sajvda family is happy with their tennis lifestyle.


“The boys are getting their education and great tennis from local players,” Svajda said. “They’ve only played a few tournaments recently to allow them the opportunity focus on improving. We’re enjoying tennis, and as long as the boys are having fun we will keep   going. It’s a different way to do things but it works for us. ”

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Ballkids Have Best Seat in the House Mon, 19 Mar 2018 19:17:27 +0000 Read more »]]> The best seat in the house at a professional tennis tournament is not found at center court loge, not in the luxury suites, or in the front row along the baseline. These are coveted positions, of course, but none compare to the experience of a ballkid, situated on court and mere steps away from the greatest tennis players in the world.

“We get a better view than people who spend hundreds of dollars,” says Kyla, a 17-year old from Rancho Mirage, one of dozens of ballkids who scurried around the grounds, in queue and moving in unison from stadium to stadium throughout three weeks of the BNP Paribas Open. Their trademark blue and green uniforms help them stand out among everyone else, and they are unmistakable on court as they chase balls, deliver towels, and play a pivotal role in maintaining the pace of every match.

The role of a ballkid is not without preparation and training, according to 15-year old Brendan, of Palm Springs, Calif. Learning the ropes is a process that begins in January, with rookies spending up to eight hours in training on practice courts at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. From ball toss and roll to switching of sides and moving equipment where it needs to be, ballkids study very specific timing and movements to excel in their role. The four-day training (fewer for more seasoned ballkids) is worth it for these youngsters, who find themselves in the center of it all when tournament play begins.

Kyla, a fourth year ballkid from Rancho Mirage, admits that studying the pros for tips and pointers is rather difficult due to the busywork being done on court. “We don’t have time to analyze the players,” she says, “but still, you’re on the court to experience it.”

There’s still a great deal of access for ballkids to meet the world’s best tennis players. Nina, a 14-year old from La Quinta, was quick to chase autographs of her favorite players, including Vania King, Caroline Wozniacki, and US Open champ Sloane Stephens. She’d hoped to get some scribble from Hyeon Chung, the young Korean favorite, before the tournament ended.

Ultimately, the biggest perk of the job is the chance to physically immerse themselves in the match. Players come to ballkids for towels between points, look to the youngsters for a new ball or a water bottle, and hide from the sun under umbrellas held by a young boy or girl.

And the ballkids? It’s true – they’ve truly got that best seat in the house.

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Top Senior Player Loeb Enjoying the Southern California Lifestyle Sun, 04 Mar 2018 19:50:24 +0000 Read more »]]> Teaching Pro Spotlight: Larry Loeb

The City of Riverside should seriously consider signing up longtime tennis teaching professional Larry Loeb to do a promotional tourism video spot praising all the great things about living in the Inland Empire.

Born and raised in Denver, Colo., the 65-year-old Loeb and his wife found their way to sunny Southern California back in 2009 when he accepted a job as the Director of Tennis at the Andulka Park Tennis Center in Riverside.

“It’s very, very nice to be out here in the Inland Empire where it doesn’t snow, and barely rains,” said Loeb, who said he grew tired from years of shoveling snow off the courts teaching outdoors in Denver. “We just love the lifestyle of Southern California. We have fallen in love with it here.”

After spending seven years as the director at Andulka Park – where he started the successful Andulka Park Men’s and Women’s Open Tournament – Loeb in recent years has been teaching private and semi-private lessons at a residence in Riverside.

A certified USPTA Elite Tennis Professional, Loeb can be found on the courts teaching up to 25 hours a week. “Yesterday I gave a lesson to a guy who is almost 80,” Loeb said. “And I also gave a lesson to a 7-year-old. I teach high school players, juniors, beginning men and women players, adult senior and league players.”

When he’s not on the teaching court, Loeb is training and working on his game. In 2017, Loeb had one of his most successful years ever on the court playing in his first year of the 65s.

Loeb entered seven tournaments and won four of them. “I had a really, really, really good 2017,” said Loeb, who was named USPTA California Division “Player of the Year” in 2012. Loeb proceeds to explain that before the great year, at the end of 2016, he suffered a heart attack and had to have two stents put in.

“It came out of blue and there was no indication,” he said. “Six weeks after my heart attack I got to the semifinals of a national tournament.”

Loeb was ranked No. 1 in Southern California and No. 6 in the nation in 65s singles in 2017. He also won a USTA silver ball by making the final at the National Indoors, and earned a bronze ball in singles.

Loeb won the Southern California Sectionals, the Pacific Southwest Seniors and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix. He started the year strong by making the semifinals at the Wilson World Senior Classic in the desert.

Loeb played his college tennis at the University of Pennsylvania from 1970-74 and earned his B.A. degree in history, as well as being the captain and No. 1 player. In November he was inducted into the school’s Tennis Hall of Fame in Philadelphia, sharing the same Hall space with another all-time great from Penn, Bill Tilden, the tennis great from the 1920s.

“To be inducted into the Penn Tennis Hall of Fame is something I’ll treasure for a lifetime,” Loeb said. “I had family members fly in from all over. It was just an amazing experience and such an honor.”

As an 11-time national champion over his long playing career, Loeb feels he has a lot to offer today’s recreational and national-level senior players. That’s why he is looking to use his attractive website as an online resource for senior players. He plans to post instruction and health tips and make himself available to any player seeking advice or help with their game.

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Still Going Strong: Coachella’s 70s League Fri, 02 Mar 2018 21:34:31 +0000 Read more »]]> If you think that all seniors retire to the desert for rest and relaxation, playing Gin rummy or lounging at poolside, there are plenty of racquet-wielding tennis enthusiasts who beg to differ. So many, in fact, that USTA Area League Coordinator Donna Ringer has spearheaded a team tennis league for 70-and-over women in Coachella Valley, and the response has exceeded expectations.

“When I started talking to some of my friends who are around 70, they were really interested in playing the 70s (league),” says Ringer. “They liked the idea of playing gals their own age rather than the gals who are 50 and 55.”

The concept is already alive in other sections, including Northern California and Hawaii, but the SoCal version – which plays a bi-level format to mix play levels – is perhaps the largest of the three. “I had no idea I would have so much interest,” Ringer says. “The message I got loud and clear was yes, we want to play and we want a social hour afterwards. So, I set out to create a league with those goals in mind.”

The league wrapped up its inaugural campaign this month, with its March 1 season finale and “Showdown” both won by team Sun Dried Tomatoes. Players rate generally at levels 3.5 and 4.0, comprising four teams of 11-12 players each, playing Thursday afternoons from January to March. Shadow Mountain Resort in Palm Desert hosted the inaugural season, thanks to resort staff including Vicky Parkerson, Caerwyn Evans, Linda Mansoorian, and Michael McFarlane.

Important to the players is the social aspect, when matches conclude and teams convene at the resort’s Top of Court Café for drinks. “It gives them an opportunity to renew old friendships and make new friends,” she says.

Players can expect the league to expand when the second season kicks off.

“We will see how it evolves, but I expect growth,” Ringer predicts, having heard interest expressed from male counterparts of the competing ladies. “When I look around I see many smiles on the faces of the players. They are having fun and they tell me how happy they are to be part of this league.”


Learn more about tennis in Coachella Valley:



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