'The Ojai' serves up sport's
by Misty Volaski
The Mickey Mouse Club is to Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake
as "The Ojai" is to Lindsey Davenport and Pete Sampras.
And Jack Kramer. And Billy Jean King. And Bobby Riggs. And Arthur
The Ojai Tennis Tournament, the oldest amateur tournament in
the United States, has been a breeding ground for the top professional
tennis players for the past 102 years. Many who have won in Ojai
have gone on to compete at Wimbeldon to become some of the most-recognized
athletes in the world.
Despite its significance today, "The Ojai" had a rather
humble beginning. In 1895, William Thacher rounded up several
tennis enthusiasts in Ojai (then called Nordhoff) for a meeting,
which would eventually lead to the creation of the Ojai Tennis
Club. Thacher and the club held the first Ojai Tennis Tournament
two years later on May 23, 1896.
The first tournament was made up of mostly men, but women were
allowed to participate in singles and mixed doubles divisions.
The tournament had several divisions, including the men's open
invitational singles and men's open invitational doubles. A few
years later the women's open invitational singles and doubles
were added, as well as the juniors events.
Though the tournament is technically 106th years old, it is really
only in its 102nd year of official play. In 1924, due to an outbreak
of "foot-and-mouth" disease, the Ojai Tennis Club agreed
to call off the tournament for that year, and "co-operate
with the quarantine officers." The tournament was also canceled
from 1943 to 1946, due to World War II.
Through the years, many more events have been added, including
the Big West, Pac-10, CIF finals, Division III and the independent
and community college divisions.
The estimated 1,500 participants this year will be playing on
courts around the valley, including courts at Libbey Park, all
the local schools and many private courts, as well. Several courts
in Ventura and Camarillo (such as Ventura Community College and
Spanish Hills) will also be used during early tournament play
today. Last year, more than 30,000 spectators showed up in Ojai
to watch the tournament, and more are expected this year.
A surprising number of local players are anticipated to do well,
including last year's girls' 16-and-under champion Lori Stern,
the first Ojai native to win that title. Other youngsters to
watch during the next few days include:
Inna Agababian of Ojai; she is listed as one of the top eight
players in her age group.
Anna Tatishivili; she is an Ojai resident attending the Weil
Tennis Academy, but is originally from the Republic of Georgia.
She is currently one of the top 12-year-olds in the world, and
made it to the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl last year.
Yevgeny Supenko, of Ojai, but originally of Kyrgyzstan, placed
third in the Spring Super Nationals and is placed in the top
10 in boys 16-and-under age group in the United States, and is
a top eight player in California. He has been at Weil Tennis
Academy for a year and a half.
Sesil Karatanchev is originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, and is
currently residing in Ojai and attending the Weil Tennis Academy.
Sesil just won prestigious Orange Bowl and is now the international
world champion for the girls' 12-and-under age group. She has
been entered in The Ojai in the girls' 16-and-under division,
despite the fact that she is only 12 years old.
Rhett Walker and Tyson Barker of Nordhoff High School. As the
No. 1 doubles team at Nordhoff, they will be playing in the boys'
CIF doubles championship.
Andrew Nelson of Nordhoff. He will be playing in the boys' CIF
In the PAC-10 division, look for Marcin Matkowski and Julien
Rojer of the University of California at Los Angeles and Scott
Lipsky and David Martin of Stanford to do well.
The tournament is going on now through Sunday, with the juniors'
finals starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, and the PAC-10, Big West,
Men's and Women's Opens, Community Colleges, Independent Colleges
and Division III finals beginning Sunday morning.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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Nick Rainey is gunning for the Pac-10 Men's title as 30,000 people
are expected to visit the 102nd Ojai Tennis Tournament.