Pro tennis returns to California for "Home Court Advantage" exhibition

Pro tennis returns to California for "Home Court Advantage" exhibition

“The timing is right," says Scott Douglas, who is opening his home court to six Southern California pros including Sam Querrey. "It’s time we do a little something for the players.”

I think we can all agree that owning a private tennis court is never a bad thing. With many courts around the country still under lock and key, there has never been a better time to have one in your own backyard. Especially when dozens of tennis professionals in the Southern California area are stranded without facilities, competition, and most importantly, a paycheck. 

Enter lifelong tennis fan, Scott Douglas. This weekend, Douglas is hosting “Home Court Advantage,” a round-robin style tournament for some of SoCal's best players, including Sam Querrey, Bradley Klahn, Marcos Giron, Ernesto Escobedo, Brandon Holt, and 17-year-old phenom Zachary Svajda.

The tournament will follow many of the same COVID-19 restrictions we saw during last weekend’s UTR’s Pro Match Series. Players will handle their own set of tennis balls, their own towels, and there will be no post-match handshakes. A registered nurse will be waiting at the door to take everyone’s temperature prior to competition. Masks and sanitizing kits will be provided for everyone on site. 

Over the years, word of Douglas’ meticulously tended clay court spread quickly through the region's dry air. There aren’t very many of them, so a number of players, including Querrey, Steve Johnson, Shelby Rogers, Jessica Pegula and even Maria Sharapova, have found their footing on his green clay before crossing the pond for the European clay-court swing. Douglas found himself driving to work much less when it was Sharapova’s turn to train. 

Douglas' court has helped many pros, including Maria Sharapova, train for the clay court season.

“My heart goes out to the players right now,” says Douglas. “They have no competition, no income, and no place to play. The timing is right, things are starting to slowly open up, it’s time we do a little something for them.”

The tournament will offer a $10,000 purse, and while that’s chump change for someone like Querrey who has earned over $12 million in prize money during his career, it’s a welcome sight for the rest of the field eager to pay bills.

Earlier this week on Tennis Channel Live, Andy Roddick discussed the event with Brett Haber and Tracy Austin, who also frequents Douglas’ place from time to time. 

“I think events like this are very important,” Roddick said. “Unfortunately this is going to be the new normal, but what makes this event intriguing to me is that you have established tour pros like Querrey with younger unproven players like Holt (Austin’s son) and Svajda. I like the different generations playing against each other, that excites me more than what you’d see at a regular ATP event.”

Aerial view of Douglas' rare Southern California clay court.

Querrey’s first match against Svajda might be the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. If you haven’t seen Svajda play before, you’ll be seeing plenty of him in years to come. Svajda won the 2019 USTA Boys' 18s National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich. at just 16. According to his UTR, Svajda is the top-rated junior in America, and the fifth best in the world. He was also the best five-year-old ball-striker you’ve ever seen, and would have surely tuned up six-year-old Novak Djokovic

While Querrey is the obvious favorite to take home the title and the bulk of the prize money, his current level of play, like so many other top pros, remains a mystery. Clay is also his least favorite surface.

The tournament will have an abbreviated format—first to four games with a tiebreak at three-all, and a 10-point tiebreak in lieu of a third set— so anything can happen. Whatever goes down on the court, we can be sure that sportsmanship between the players will be at a premium. 

“These are great kids,” Douglas says, “They couldn’t be nicer.”