I arrived in Los Angeles late Wednesday night (thanks, Southwest, for the delay!) and pretty much crashed as soon as I got to my mother-in-law’s house. Of course, with the 3-hour time difference, I was up super early Thursday morning with plenty of time to get organized before making the drive up to Malibu for the start of the Oracle/ITA Masters.
The ITA is truly committed to producing some out-of-the-box events for college – and junior – players, and this tournament is just one step forward.
For those of you who have visited the Pepperdine campus and seen its tennis facility, you know what a gorgeous setting it is. I wasn’t sad to spend the entire day there!
Yesterday’s action was all about the college players. The day started with mixed doubles, a unique opportunity for these young men and women to pair off with a partner from within their NCAA conference and have some fun on the court. I didn’t make it out in time for the first round matches (they started at 8am), but I did get to see some amazing women’s singles, men’s singles, and the second round of mixed dubs.
I spent a lot of my time speaking with college coaches, from both the Big 5 conferences and from some of the smaller schools, about the challenges they face in terms of funding, recruiting, scheduling, and promoting their teams. I’ll be writing a more in-depth piece on those conversations once this event is done, but suffice it to say that most of the concerns addressed in the last guest post (click here to read it) are on the minds of the coaches, too.
I also had the opportunity to speak at length with the CEO of the ITA, Tim Russell, about the challenges college tennis faces and what we can do to overcome them. Tim and his staff have some very creative ideas in the works which I’m also planning to share in a later piece and/or in a podcast.
One of the ways the ITA is thinking out of the box with this particular event is by hosting a player party. But not your typical player party in a hotel banquet room. No! This one was held at Duke’s Malibu, an ocean-front restaurant down the road from Pepperdine. As the players and other guests arrived, waiters served delicious appetizers while the waves were crashing against the massive windows of the private dining room. It was great to see the athletes interacting with each other and making the effort to meet new people from outside their own conferences. Even the juniors were there, and I think everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to get together in a stress-free environment.
I’m getting ready to head back out for some more college matches as well as Day 1 of the Junior Masters at the Malibu Racquet Club. For yesterday’s complete results, check out this link. To follow along with today’s action, you can watch livescoring here and/or sign up for an account with FloTennis to watch the livestream here.