Jeff Praught | Dugout Chatter
As is its tradition every year, the San Diego Tennis Federation (SDTF) hosted its annual San Diego Open July 4 – 6 for the 29th time.
The popular tournament, open to men and women and featuring singles and doubles play, held matches Friday through Sunday on Independence Day weekend at three different sites: Barnes Tennis Center in Point Loma, the University of San Diego, and at the SDTF’s home court, the Balboa Tennis Club at Morley Field.
There were 145 players in this year’s field of entrants, and believe it or not, a contingent from Australia even made the trip to Southern California. Players as far away as Texas and Florida also made their way across the country to join the field.
The tournament structure typically features five brackets of singles and doubles match play. Those divisions are “Open,” A, B, C, and D, with A being the most competitive skill level. SDTF also added an Over–40 Singles competition in both B and C this year. All told, there were 12 different brackets.
Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest bracket this year was the B Singles bracket, whose 32 entrants narrowly edged the popular C Division Singles bracket. In doubles play, the C division led the way.
The tournament annually receives raves from players about how well organized it is, a testament to the leadership of tournament co-directors Andrew Hoffman and Todd Linke, as well as the volunteers who help put on the event. Adding to the allure is San Diego’s fantastic climate for tennis.
Playing conditions on Independence Day were perfect, but Saturday and Sunday brought warmer and stickier temperatures.
“The pickle juice was definitely flowing by Saturday,” Linke said. “There were some cramping and injury issues because it was definitely hot Saturday. By Sunday, the pickle juice was just about gone.”
San Diegans claimed titles in seven of the 12 brackets, with the locals nearly sweeping the entire doubles field. The team of Romeo Matias and Jerry Sabio needed three victories to secure the Open bracket title, culminating with a straight-set triumph (6-2, 6-2) over Seth Makechnie and Sean Murphy.
In Doubles B, Ricardo Espinoza and Matthew Smyth bounced back after dropping the first set and defeated Barry Bosacker/Cory Davtyan (3-6, 6-2, 6-3).
Hoffman not only helped run the tournament, he played in it as well, winning two titles. After he and partner Allen Sanchez won at noon on Sunday, they came back at 2 p.m. to take the Doubles C title with a 6-1, 7-6 victory over Janene Christopher and Cami Gill. Jere Diersing and Keith Forman won the Doubles C title with a 7-6, 6-4 triumph over Rob Schwartz and Norman Tucker.
Hoffman’s other title came in singles play, as he won the Over–40 B bracket with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over SDTF President Scott Guiltner. Not to be outdone by his tournament co-director, Linke also won an Over–40 title, defeating Janene Christopher 6-3, 6-4 in the C bracket. Robert Morales claimed the Singles D bracket with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Michael Bauwens.
“It was a very positive experience for everyone,” said Linke, who shared leadership duties with Hoffman for the third consecutive year. “Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. There was great competition and great camaraderie.”
The San Diego Open relies heavily on volunteers, and approximately 25 people signed up to offer their time throughout the weekend with various tasks. Those duties ranged from running water bottles over to players during their matches to providing assistance in the first aid tent.
Entrants enjoyed the traditional Welcome Registration Party on Thursday of tournament weekend, where they could register and receive their player swag bags at the Morley Field complex. Each year, a banquet is also held on Saturday, and this year’s was held at the 94th Aero Squadron.
The Gay/Lesbian Tennis Association (GLTA) sanctions all national LGBT tennis tournaments and they require that each event be philanthropic in nature. The banquet, attended by nearly 90 people, helped raise money for Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), an organization that works to make schools safer and more affirming for all students, regardless of sexual orientation. SDTF raised over $5,000 combined the past two tournaments, and Linke is especially excited to help present this year’s contribution once the final numbers are tallied.
“Our benefactor is near and dear to my heart because I am a teacher,” he said. “I am thrilled that our contribution is going to GLSEN.”
Linke also acknowledged Guiltner, who not only serves as SDTF president and is on the tournament committee, as someone who went above and beyond the normal call of duty to help out with this year’s event. He was named honorary co-director of the San Diego Open by the entire organization.
Hoffman expects next year’s tournament field to be even bigger, as it will be San Diego Open 30 and will be featured on the GLTA National Tour.
The SDTF is one of the oldest and largest gay tennis leagues in the nation and currently includes over 200 members.
Year-round, the organization holds events such as a Singles Challenge Ladder (players climb up the “ladder” by earning points for each victory), Singles League (traditional wins and losses), Team Tennis, Promiscuous Doubles (where partners swap every 20 minutes), and the popular Friday Night Doubles at Balboa Tennis Center (2221 Morley Field Dr.).
Newcomers are strongly encouraged to gain their introduction to SDTF by showing up on Fridays. Sign-ups for Friday Night Doubles are at 6 p.m., with matches beginning an hour later. Skill levels range from beginners to experts. Membership is just $48 per year. For more information about membership, upcoming tournaments, and social activities, visit the league’s website at sdtf.org.
—Jeff Praught is actively involved in the LGBT sports community, where he plays in the local softball (AFCSL), football (SDAFFL) and basketball (SD Hoops) leagues. He has served on AFCSL’s board of officers in various capacities and is currently the commissioner of SD Hoops. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.