After 70 Years, The Ojai Says Farewell to the Pac-12 Conference - USTA Southern California



MAY 9, 2024  |  STEVE PRATT

Kimmi Hance - UCLA Player at Pac-12 Conference Championships in Ojai



MAY 9, 2024

Niels Hoffman - CIF Singles Champion at the Ojai Tournament
Kimmi Hance - UCLA Player at Pac-12 Conference Championships in Ojai
Bryan Bros Youth Clinic at Ojai Tournament
Niels Hoffman - CIF Singles Champion at the Ojai Tournament
Chanel Simmonds - Open Singles Champion at the Ojai Tournament

Top: Torrance’s Kimmi Hance competing for UCLA at the Pac-12 Conference Championships. (Photo – Carin Yates)

Middle #1: Bryan Bros Youth Clinic at the Ojai. (Photo – Holly Roberts)

Middle #2: CIF Boys Champion Niels Hoffman of Newport Beach. (Photo – Holly Roberts)

Bottom: Women’s Open Champion Chanel Simmonds. (Photo – Holly Roberts)


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It was a bittersweet ending as the venerable Ojai Tennis Tournament said goodbye to the Pac-12 Conference during the playing of the 122nd tournament at storied Libbey Park the last week of April. 

This year marked the 70th year The Ojai has hosted collegiate schools from the Pac-12 like USC and UCLA, Stanford and UC-Berkeley and for years the tourney counted up points for each match won and awarded the best team the William L. Thacher Cup. 

In this historic last year, for the first time a non-California team won the team title – contested in a dual-match format and not as individuals since 2012 – as No. 2 Arizona upended top-seeded Stanford, 4-0.  

If you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past year, you’d be surprised to learn that after 108 years the Pac-12 is disbanding. Next year USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington will go to the Big 10. Stanford and Cal will join the Atlantic Coast Conference and Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State will move to the Big 12. Only Oregon State and Washington State remain in the Pac-12.

But what about the future of The Ojai without a signature event like the Pac-12 Championships? The show will go on, according to Ojai Valley Tennis Club President Carolyn Burke. 

“The loss of the Pac-12 has given the Ojai Tennis Tournament a chance to pause and reflect on the many great years of memories that have taken place in storied Libbey Park,” Burke said. “But it has allowed us time to look to the future and explore opportunities we have to create many more memorable Ojai tennis tournaments in the future.”

In an op-ed piece that ran in the Ventura County Star following the event, the newspaper stated: “Among the options are the possibility of hosting the league championships for one of the remaining top West Coast conferences, or staging an invitational tournament that might continue to involve the USC, UCLA and Stanford powerhouses. Somehow — and allow us a little West Coast snobbery here — an Ojai Invitational victory would seem to be more prestigious than a Big 10 tennis championship in, say, Indianapolis.

“In any event, it’s a good bet that The Ojai will not just persevere but thrive in the post-Pac-12 era. There are things that are more important and more enduring than college football television contracts. Next April, they will be on display in storied Libbey Park.”

Stanford’s legendary women’s coach, Lele Farood, told Inside Tennis, “I pray that sensible people will realize that Olympic sports [like tennis] have to play regionally. It’s crazy to fly across the country because the budgets won’t allow for it. It’s not right for the student athletes – they can’t go to class. None of it will work. I hope that very shortly they’re going to say, ‘What were we thinking?’ and regionalize all of the Olympic sports again.” 

Farood, who’s been coming to the iconic Ojai tourney for nearly 50 years, can’t believe her team won’t be returning. “It’s tremendously bittersweet because it’s such a special place and tournament. We’ve been playing here for so many years. I just can’t believe next year we’ll be in Cary, North Carolina.”

Both the UCLA and USC men had early Ojai exits for the first time in – forever – as the Bruins and Trojans both failed to win a match and left the tournament before the free community barbecue was finished on Thursday in Libbey Bowl. 

But the highlight of this year’s tournament was the presence of the Bryan Brothers from Camarillo who returned home to one of their favorite tournaments. It’s a magical place they first discovered some 40 years ago as young children watching their parents Wayne and Kathy play in the Open division. 

“It just brings back a lot of emotion,” Mike Bryan said. “It still looks the same, which is amazing. There’s just something special about this place. I got goosebumps walking in here. I got my tea which is a huge tradition at The Ojai.”

Bob said his one “pinch-me moment” was winning the Pac-10 singles title as a Stanford freshman. “I was 18 years old. I came in playing guys four years older and who I looked up to, and then you’re on the court and your game stacks up with some of the best. These were our heroes. Then getting the green ribbon with the gold medal – there’s nothing like it.” 

This coming from a guy who paired with Mike to win 16 Grand Slams, an all-time record 119 ATP titles and two Olympic medals. Let that sink in – Bob and Mike won three Wimbledons and five US Opens, but there’s nothing like getting your start at The Ojai. 

Later that evening, the Bryan Bros. Band performed with a special appearance by Bob’s 12-year-old daughter Micaela, who sang two songs and played piano, and beautifully sang the national anthem before the Pac-12 women’s final. She also played in her first Ojai competing in the Girls’ 14s. The band also included Mike (lead guitar), Bob (piano and keyboard bass) and Wayne (guitar and vocals), among others.  

Southern California players and schools dominated the 122nd Ojai once again. Here are the winners and finalists of each event: 

Pac-12 Conference Men’s Team Championship: No. 2 Arizona d. No. 1 Stanford, 4-0

Pac-12 Conference Women’s Team Championship: No. 2 Stanford d. No. 4 California, 4-0

Men’s Open Singles: (5) Alessandro Ventre (Santa Ana, CA) d. Dylan Charlap (Palos Verdes Estates, CA), 6-2, 6-3

Men’s Open Doubles: (3) Clay Thompson (Venice, CA) / Alexander Sarkissian (Studio City, CA) d. (4) Alessandro Ventre (Santa Ana, CA) / Victor Severo Castro (Huntington Beach, CA), 6-4, 6-4

Women’s Open Singles: (1) Chanel Simmonds (San Diego) d. Julia Ronney (San Diego), 6-4, 6-2

Women’s Open Doubles: (3) Natalie Da Silveira (Ojai, CA) / Shakhnoza Khatamova (Goleta, CA) d. (4) Chanel Simmonds (San Diego) / Makeilah Nepomuceno (Rosemead, CA), 7-5, 6-3

Boys’ CIF Singles: (1) Niels Hoffmann (Corona del Mar HS) d. (2) Lorenzo Brunkow (Palisades HS), 6-1, 6-3

Boys’ CIF Team Griggs Cup: Corona del Mar HS

Boys’ CIF Doubles: (1) Caden Lee / Tyler Lee (Beckman HS) d. (2) Caleb Settles / Mateen Ghafarshad (Claremont HS), 6-2, 6-3

Boys’ 14s Singles: (1) Christian Rohrberg (Palos Verdes Estates, CA) d. (2) Ryan Meis (Ladera Ranch, CA), 6-3, 7-5

Boys’ 16s Singles: (1) Cayden Laughton (Portland, OR) d. (2) Yu-Hong Chen (Irvine, CA), 7-6 (3), 6-2

Girls’ 14s Singles: (5) Kyla Laughton (Portland, OR) d.(2) Damahria Clark (Los Angeles), 6-4, 6-2

Girls’ 16s Singles: (1) Olivia Lewis (Yucaipa, CA) d. (7) Cassie Blakey (Palos Verdes Estates, CA), 6-2, 6-1

Girls’ 18s Singles: (1) Reagan Levine (Laguna Beach, CA) d.(2) Andra Braicu (Menlo Park, CA), 6-1, 6-7 (4), 6-0

Girls’ 18s Doubles: (1) Stella Simpson-Morgan (Rolling Hills, CA) / Reagan Levine (Laguna Beach, CA) d. (2) Ava Min (Rolling Hills Estates, CA) / Cassie Blakey (Palos Verdes Estates, CA), 6-3, 6-3

Men’s Division III West Singles: Yash Nagdev (Whittier College) d. (7) Brett Miller (Occidental College), 6-3, 7-5

Men’s Division III West Doubles: (2) Omar Khayat / Nicolas Calixto (University of Redlands) d. Julius Clasen / Ahmed Amer (Whittier College), 6-3, 6-3

Women’s Division III Invitational Singles: (2) Yuiko Rayna (University of Redlands) d. (3) Kiana Brady (University of Redlands), 4-6, 7-5, 6-2

Women’s Division III Invitational Doubles: Mari Carmen Bufkin / Mina Ahmadi (Cal Lutheran University) d. Elina Shalaev / Sebaga Kombo (Occidental College), 6-4, 6-2

Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Dual Team State Championship: Ventura College d. American River College, 5-0

Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Dual Team State Championship: American River College d. Orange Coast College, 5-0

Men’s CCCAA Cumulative Team State Champion: Ventura College

Women’s CCCAA Cumulative Team State Champion: American River

Men’s CCCAA Singles: (2) Jean-Baptiste Badon (Glendale College) d. Sebastian Junghanns (Bakersfield College), 6-4, 6-0

Men’s CCCAA Doubles: Nick Grove / Luciano Pardo (Irvine Valley College) d. Lance Morgan / Adam Ridaoui (Glendale College), 7-5, 6-7 (6), 7-5

Women’s CCCAA Singles: (1) Nahreen Cheam (American River College) d. (2) Julianna Vich (Mt. San Antonio College), 6-4, 7-5

Women’s CCCAA Doubles: Julianna Vich / Paige Valenzuela (Mt. San Antonio College) d. (4) Emily Thieme / Janine Kremling (Riverside City College), 6-0, 6-3


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