Newport Beach Tennis Club and see some of the game’s top pros in real life.
Young Americans Taylor Fritz and Donald Young and Canadian Genie Bouchard are a few of the big names that have been battling it out on the courts in what is the third stop of the new Oracle Challenger Series.
Tennis fans are invited to come watch. No ticket needed.
The series was launched last year by Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison as a way to “give up-and-coming American players more opportunities to compete at home for prize money and ranking points.”
Club owner Steve Joyce says hosting the tournament is a thrill for him and his 600 members.
“I just think it’s great that Larry Ellison can buy pretty much anything he wants — well maybe not my Red Sox because they’re not for sale — but he’s chosen to champion American tennis, to rebuild tennis in the United States,” Joyce said. “He likes the sport and he has a magic checkbook.”
Oracle Sports Marketing Manager William Moss said that when Ellison decided to launch the new series, his team considered top tennis clubs from La Jolla to Malibu.
Newport Beach Tennis Club’s “first-rate facility” (19 courts, a restaurant/bar and a sunken center court) and its location in Orange County gave it an edge, Moss said. But it was the club’s “long, storied history” that sealed the deal.
“The history was huge,” Moss said.
Grand Slam champions that have played on the club’s courts include legends Rod Laver and Roy Emerson, Pancho Gonzales, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang. Grand Slam doubles champ Rick Leach still teaches there.
In 1977, the club made headlines when it hosted the Davis Cup semifinals against South Africa and anti-apartheid demonstrators showed up.
From a 1977 New York Times article: “Ten persons carrying a banner invaded the court, and three made a beeline for Tony Trabert, captain of the United States team. He had chased and struck a protester with his racquet yesterday. Now, defending a linesman. Trabert again hit one of the demonstrators with his racquet before the man was tackled by a policeman, handcuffed and carried off.”
That same year the club hosted the inaugural Ladies Professional Tennis Tournament in Orange County, bringing in Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
Current pros who have been seen training at the club include American (and World No. 17) Madison Keys and Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka. Danielle Collins does too. The 2017 University of Virginia grad won the inaugural Oracle tournament last year and this year reached the semifinals at the Australian Open.
“This was a springboard for her,” Joyce says.
The inaugural Oracle Challenger winner last year on the men’s side was Fritz. The 21-year-old defending champion, who flew in after losing in the third round at the Australian Open, has been drawing large crowds this week.
Newport Beach is one of four stops in the Oracle series. Other stops include Chicago, Houston and Indian Wells.
The top two American men and top two American women who gain the most points over the course of the series earn a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells this March. Hence the series’ nickname: #roadtoindianwells.
The tournament finals will be held Sunday with the men’s and women’s singles winners taking home $150,000 each. Matches begin in the morning around 10 a.m. and end by dark.
If you work during the day and can’t make it out to watch the action, there is a special legends event Saturday evening. Former World No. 1 Andy Roddick, former World No. 2 Tommy Haas, Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish and former World No. 4 James Blake will play two semifinals and a championship match. A ticket is needed for that event.