Editors’ Note: This is the second of a two-part series about a unique tennis reunion taking place in Southern California Feb. 1 in Ladera Ranch.
As a tennis director for a thriving Central Coast tennis club, Mike Marquez has seen a steady decline in adults playing USTA senior-level tournaments over the years. And he thinks he may have found a way to infuse some much-needed energy using a unique tennis format.
“At our level and the level we are at, we don’t play the 35s because of the competition,” Marquez said. “How many of the guys I grew up playing juniors with still play tournaments? Very few. There’s actually only one guy, Quinn Borchard, who has won an age-group national doubles title. I think as we get older and turn 40 there will be some more guys who put their name in the hat. But it just seems like the format needs to be tweaked a little.”
This Sunday at the Covenant Hills Tennis Club in Ladera Ranch, Marquez and organizer Zack Fleishman will run the SoCal Showdown Invitational. It will be a reunion of former Southern California junior rivals who were born from 1979-1982. It was an idea first hatched by Fleishman, Anthony Mateljan and Gabe Goldstein as a way to re-connect after years away from the competitive world of junior tennis.
Marquez said there are already plans in the works for next year’s event to be held at his club, the Avila Bay Athletic Club & Spa.
“It’s going to be a really fun and super relaxed and low-key event,” said Marquez, who said about 40 guys will be attending the weekend and playing in the super-tiebreaker format tournament. “I think Quinn is going to win the event but he wasn’t one of the top guys in the juniors.”
Marquez was responsible for finding most of the players, and said social media was the way he was able to connect with so many guys. “There’s been a lot of trash talking on there,” he said. “One guy remembers beating someone 0 and 0, and guys wanting revenge. One guy even apologized for making a bad call at the Whittier Designated Tournament. We all remember the metal nets and the four-foot weeds and the cracks in the courts at Whittier.”
Marquez said there is a unique bond that has been built between players who competed against each other at such a high level and at such a young age.
Marquez commented that there are many from his era that are still involved with tennis, and that’s it’s been rewarding to go back and try and find as many people as he could who were former junior rivals.
“It’s been fun to see where everyone has ended up,” Marquez said. “Some like me chose to stay in tennis as teaching professionals and others went other routes.”
After a first-part article was published on the SoCal News site last week, many saw it and loved the idea of holding a similar event in their section, including Katie Dellich, the Director of Tennis at the Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa, who reached out to Marquez about helping her plan a reunion of former NorCal players. Dellich is on the USPTA NorCal Board of Directors and is a USPTA Elite professional.
Marquez said he’d like to continue to use his formula of finding past players for other years, but that you need a big-name played to lead the charge. “You need a person like Zack or Andrew Park or Ryan Moore or Sam Querrey or Prakash Amritraj to get people interested and wanting to come,” he said. “You have to get some of the top guys who have the clout to pull it off. I think that’s the key formula.”
There will also be a small memorial and time of remembrance for those who have passed away from Marquez’s group, including Kevin Bezonsky, Deontay Haynes, and Tommy and Victor Welch.
If you were born from 1979-82 and played junior tennis in Southern California, email Fleishman at email@example.com if you’d like to play or attend the event.