By J. Praught
Every Fourth of July Weekend, the San Diego Tennis Federation (SDTF) hosts its annual San Diego Open 26 tournament, open to players from across the world. The Open teams come primarily from Southern California, but cities such as Atlanta, Chicago and Miami have sent entrants as well. The 2011 version of the tournament drew 230 entrants, including some from as far away as the U.K. and Canada.
The tournament structure consists of five divisions in singles and doubles match play. Those divisions are “Open,” A, B, C, and D, with A being the most competitive skill level. The Open and D Divisions were limited to 32 entrants, while A and B had 64. The C Division was expanded from 32 to 40 due to overwhelming demand. Matches began at 8 a.m. and ran as late as 8 p.m. on Sunday during the three-day event.
Bruno Lemaitre, in his first year as tournament director, was impressed by this year’s field:
“The level of play was probably the highest it has ever been,” he noted. “Especially in C. We had a group of players who had not yet received their GLTA [Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance] official rating and used this tournament as a way to get that rating.”
He credited his army of local players and volunteers, a dedicated bunch who have been playing tennis locally for years, for helping him put together the Open. The C Division featured a match of the ages, as San Diegans Christopher Tisca and Moises Orozco battled in a four-hour marathon which went to a tiebreaker in each set, with Tisca ultimately prevailing (7-6, 6-7, 7-6).
The athletes who traveled from around the country were treated to a registration party at the courts on Friday night, where they could check out the courts, register and receive their player swag bags (courtesy of tournament sponsor Wells Fargo). Sunday night, SDTF hosted a barbecue for the players at Top of the Park, where a raffle was held as part of a community benefit.
The Gay/Lesbian Tennis Association (GLTA) is the organization that sanctions all national LGBT tennis tournaments and requires that each event be philanthropic in nature. The San Diego Open 26 chose the San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Youth Housing Project as its benefactor this year, a program that provides living quarters for San Diego’s homeless gay youth. Last year’s event raised more than $1,700, and Lemaitre expects that San Diego 26 has matched or even exceeded that total this year.
The SDTF is one of the oldest and largest gay tennis leagues in the nation and boasts more than 200 members. Year-round, the organization holds events such as a singles league, team tennis, Promiscuous Doubles (where partners swap every 20 minutes) and the popular Friday Night Doubles at Balboa Tennis Center (Morley Field). Skill levels range from beginners to experts. Membership s just $40 per year. For more information on SDTF, visit sdtf.org.
NAGAAA Softball World Series participants
The Open Division of America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL) will be sending five teams to this year’s American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) Softball World Series, held Aug. 30–Sept. 4 in Chicago. From the B Division, The Loft will be making it’s first-ever trip as a division champion, coached by yours truly. The Flicks Lawmen and Bamboo Lounge Outlaws will be representing the C Division. Bourbon Street Krush won its first D Division championship this year and will be joined by Hillcrest Pharmacy Aftershock.
The cost of going to the World Series is substantial, and undoubtedly, you’ll hear of or receive invitations to a number of softball fundraisers. While these causes don’t exactly match up with the importance of things such as cancer or HIV/AIDS research, the chance to go to this tournament really can be an important moment in an LGBT athlete’s life. Many players join softball, specifically, because they’ve always doubted their own self-worth in athletic endeavors. Softball is not as intimidating to some as, say, rugby or football. Spending a week among the nation’s best, feeling like a contributor, is a life-long experience most of the participants will never forget.
So if you see an event going on, I encourage you to help contribute to the cause. Almost every single fundraiser that is held in a bar venue offers drink specials that are cheaper than what you would normally pay. If you’re attending the Pride parade, look for a float featuring the Aftershock players, almost all of whom are going to be attending their very first World Series. They will appreciate your support.