This weekend during the Home Court Advantage exhibition in Rolling Hills, CA., we learned that Brandon Holt really does have a home court advantage at Scott Douglas’ incredible green clay court. More importantly though, we learned that Southern California tennis blood runs deep.
The event was full of trash-talk between the different generations of great SoCal players, from 10-time ATP title winner Sam Querrey, to the unproven yet extremely promising 17-year-old Zachary Svajda, but it was more full of camaraderie and sportsmanship than anything else.
In the first semifinal, Ernesto Escobedo was serving up 6-5 in the first set tiebreak when a ball popped out of his shorts for the second time. Escobedo said he’s been crushing workouts every day for at least 2-3 hours during the lockdown, and maybe his leg muscles outgrew his shorts. Either way, Escobedo stopped the point and told the umpire that Querrey should get the point. Querrey quickly said, “Don’t worry about it Ernesto, we can replay the point.” He then offered him a pair of his own shorts. Southern California is big on vibes, and they were all positive this weekend.
Querrey won, like he was favored to, yet was gracious in victory. He defeated Holt in the final, who if you don’t know, is Tracy Austin’s son.
Holt was pretty lucky to make it to the final. Marcos Giron technically eliminated him on Saturday by one point in the round-robin scoring format. But they don't call it the “Home Court Advantage” for nothing.
Nobody in the tournament has played on this crazy cool court more than Holt, who resides in the same neighborhood just a few miles down the road. “I live about three minutes away as the crow flies,” Holt said. Those three minutes came in handy when Holt’s phone rang at “nine-something” Sunday morning.
Holt was definitely expecting to sleep in on Sunday, but 2010 NCAA singles champion and former world No. 63 Bradley Klahn withdrew because of a nagging back injury sustained during warmups. Due to the scoring format, Holt was on deck and thankfully, he was resting just a few blocks away.
Holt scarfed down some banana pancakes and stumbled onto the court, where he played a near flawless match against world No. 102 Giron. Oh to be 22 again. “I got some potassium in my pancakes and I think that helped me today,” he said.
Somehow the recent USC Trojan graduate remained in the zone, and pushed Querrey to the brink, ultimately falling 3-4 (5), 4-1 [10-8].
“He got me in the first set breaker” said Querrey, “I got him in the second set, and the third-set tiebreaker was fun, we had five or six really entertaining points and I got a little lucky in the end, it was just one point that went my way.”
Aerial view of Douglas' clay court that pros use to train for the French Open.
The format, first to four games with a ten-point tiebreak for the third set, was perfect for the quarantine weakened athletes.
“We haven’t really been playing much and this shortened format is so much easier on our bodies," said Querrey. “My shoulder is actually pretty sore right now, I haven’t served like this in a while.”
Querrey took home the bulk of the $10,000 prize pool offered by court owner Scott Douglas and a few local sponsors.
“Scott did a tremendous job of putting this together in just four or five days,” Querrey added. “It’s so nice that they are helping out and putting on a tournament on for us. It was a ton of fun, the atmosphere and venue couldn’t be better.”
Querrey was all smiles this weekend en route to his "Home Court Advantage" title. (Allen Yap)
The event, which can be seen on Tennis Channel’s Facebook page, ran seamlessly, and the level of play was surprisingly high. If this is tennis’ new normal, things might not be as bad as they seem.
“If the tour is going to continue to be suspended, I hope more of these events pop up,” Querrey said. “There’s a lot of people that love tennis, hopefully other people can see what the Douglases did and could replicate it because it’s really amazing.”