Unique USF tennis tournament continues to grow 

click to enlarge USF senior Bernardo Saraivay, currently ranked around No. 100 in the nation, plays in the Battle of the Bay Classic that starts today at the California Tennis Club in The City. - COURTESY USF
  • courtesy USF
  • USF senior Bernardo Saraivay, currently ranked around No. 100 in the nation, plays in the Battle of the Bay Classic that starts today at the California Tennis Club in The City.

Seven years ago, Peter Bartlett had an idea.

Then the coach of the USF men's tennis team, Bartlett had traveled across the country for the requisite gantlet of collegiate tournaments. He wanted to bring something different to San Francisco.

This would be a showcase event for the West Coast's best programs. It would serve as a fundraising opportunity for the USF program, as well as involving the community.

At that time, Pablo Pires de Almeida was an assistant on the USF staff. Now the second-year coach of the Dons (Bartlett has become the program's director of tennis), Pires de Almeida remembers sharing the vision.

"We wanted to bring the best college players to The City for a tournament," Pires de Almeida said. "We'd make it free, so everyone could watch. Players would get a good chance to compete."

The Battle of the Bay Classic was born. Now in its sixth year, it has continued to grow at an impressive rate. In 2013, roughly 1,700 people cycled through the California Tennis Club over the course of the three-day competition.

High school tennis teams fill up the stands and on Fridays of the tournament, the working crowd pops in for two hours during their lunch break. The tournament partners with the Harper for Kids foundation -- 40 to 50 kids make it out for the final day of the competition.

"We really wanted to recognize these student-athletes for their work," said Steve Jackson, the California Tennis Club tennis director. "So we have ball kids on every court on every court. We have a professional announcer, advertisements and banners."

This year, the participants include Cal, Stanford, Pepperdine, UCLA and USC. Players from visiting teams are put in touch with host families. Connections are forged that can be revisited upon graduation.

"It's an enriching experience," Jackson said.

Keep an eye peeled on USF seniors Bernardo Saraiva and Nils Skajaa. In May, Saraiva was named the Northwest Region's Player to Watch by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. It was the first time a West Coast Conference player was recognized in the award's 13 years of existence. Saraiva is the No. 4 singles seed in the Battle of the Bay bracket, and is currently ranked around No. 100 in the nation.

At last year's tournament, Saraiva and Skajaa won the doubles championship in convincing fashion. This is their third year playing doubles together and they will look to retain their crown.

"This tournament is really about USF, to show how far they've come, and the teams they're able to put out," said Steve Jackson, California Tennis Club tennis director. "Pablo and his crew really develop these young players."

The tournament begins today at the California Tennis Club at 9 a.m. with doubles. The main-draw singles tournament kicks off at 10:15 a.m.

CCSF bounces back: After suffering its first setback of the season with a 13-0 loss at American River College on Sept. 27, the City College of San Francisco football team responded with a resounding 66-29 home victory over Modesto on Oct. 4. CCSF is currently ranked seventh in the state, three spots behind College of San Mateo, which lost last week to American River to lose its No. 1 ranking. American River is now No. 1. CCSF sophomore running back Jahray Hayes, with nine touchdowns, ranks among the state leaders in almost every rushing category.

Waldman off to quick start: Mikela Waldman, the 2014 Academic Athletic Association girls' soccer Player of the Year while at Lowell, has started strongly for Brown. In her first appearance for the Bears on Sept. 5, Waldman scored a goal and added an assist in a 2-1 win over St. John's, handing the Red Storm their first home loss in two years. On Tuesday, Waldman assisted on both goals in a 2-0 Brown victory over Quinnipiac. Her six points through 10 games (she has started five) ties for second on the team.

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Matthew Snyder

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