Photo via Pixabay [CCO Public Domain]
 The Orange County Breakers will play their 2017 home opener Monday evening, facing the Springfield Lasers at Breakers Stadium at Palisades Tennis Club, one day after opening the World TeamTennis season by losing to the defending champion San Diego Aviators, 17-14.

The match marks the Breakers return to Palisades Tennis Club, where they played their first four seasons, 2003-2006. They played at the Newport Beach Tennis Club last season, their first back in Southern California after playing in Austin, Texas, from 2014-15.

None of the players who helped the Breakers to a league-best-equaling 8- 4 record in 2016 will return to the team on a full-time basis in 2017. Nicole Gibbs, the league’s female MVP in 2016, will make her only appearance for the team in 2017 on Monday.

Steve Johnson, a former USC and Orange High School standout who is 31st on the Association of Tennis Professionals singles rankings, will play the first of his four matches with the Breakers Monday.

The Breakers drafted five-time Women’s Tennis Association singles champion Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in the first round of the World TeamTennis draft in March.

The rest of the roster consists of Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili, the league’s male MVP in 2015, who advanced to the fourth round of men’s singles play at the French Open in 2010 and 2015; Slovenian Andreja Klepac, a four-time doubles champion on the WTA circuit; and Englishman Ken Skupski, a three-time doubles champion on the ATP World Tour.

World TeamTennis matches consist of one set each of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles, with the team winning the most games winning the match.

Maria Sharapova, who split her two sets in Sunday’s loss at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad after being sidelined since May 16 because of a thigh injury, will play for the Breakers for a second and final time this season next Monday, also against the Aviators, at Palisades Tennis Club.

World TeamTennis matches consist of one set each of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles, with the team winning the most games winning the match.

Scoring is on a  zero, one, two and three basis, instead of the traditional, love, 15, 30 and 40. When a game is tied, 3-3, the player or doubles team winning the next point wins the game. The first player or doubles team winning five games wins the set, one less than in traditional tennis. A set tied 4-4 is decided by a nine-point tiebreaker.

World TeamTennis’ format is “very fast, exciting, particularly for someone who’s maybe new to watching professional tennis,” said Breakers owner Eric Davidson. “It’s a very, very enjoyable format with the no-ad scoring and the short set.”

Davidson’s purchase of the team from Lorne Abony was announced in February. Davidson is the first local owner of the team, which was formed in 2003 as the Newport Beach Breakers and renamed as the Orange County Breakers for the 2012 season, when they began playing at UC Irvine’s Bren Center.

Davidson said Breakers coach Rick Leach, a longtime friend, “reached out to me to buy the team.”

“It had not been in my thoughts at all,” the 55-year-old Davidson told City News Service.

Davidson said he spoke with Abony and general manager Allen Hardison “and in those conversations I decided it was an opportunity that not only would be fun for me but also an opportunity to give back to my community and the tennis community.”

Davidson completed most of the sale of the business he founded in 1998 — Vintage Senior Living, one of California’s largest operators of senior living facilities — in 2016, so buying the Breakers “gives me something to do in a field I’ve loved my whole life,” he said.

Davidson was raised in Laguna Beach. He received a history degree from UC Berkeley in 1983, worked for Cushman and Wakefield as a commercial real estate broker for nearly 10 years before moving on to ARV Assisted Living, Inc., where his father Gary was CEO.

The elder Davidson, now 82, did what his son described as legal organizational work associated with the founding of World TeamTennis in 1973. He was also a co-founder of the American Basketball Association, a co-founder and first president of the World Hockey Association and founder and first commissioner of the World Football League.

The younger Davidson said he spoke with his father when he initially heard of the opportunity to purchase the Breakers and had initial conversations about it.

“He was very happy for me,” the younger Davidson said. “It was kind of a very neat story to be back in the business he was involved with 40 years ago.”

—City News Service

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