The Ojai Quarterly’s Spring issue is out, and features a great interview and article with Weil Tennis Academy Founder and Director Mark Weil.
The story, written by Ojai’s Jesse Phelps, starts like this: “Springtime in Ojai means glorious returns: Green hillsides; the sweet scents of jasmine and sage; and, of course, serious competitive tennis citywide.
“When The Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament kicks off its 116th edition on April 20, the action of the nation’s oldest and largest tennis tournament will once again showcase an unrivaled breadth of matches between skilled players of all ages.
“Fans focusing only on the top collegians at the Pac-12 championships or pro-level competitors in the open fields might just miss the future of the sport holding court in the six junior divisions. Chang, Sampras, Austin and Ashe were not icons of a single name when they played “The Ojai” as juniors, but it didn’t take long for any of them to make their mark from there.
“The six junior divisions have seen a trend in recent years. Students at Ojai’s Weil Tennis Academy, a boarding school with grades 8-12, operated by tournament board member Mark Weil, consistently finish well. In a few cases, that has led to success on the pro tour.
“Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva, who won the Girls 14s when she was 12, later became the youngest quarterfinalist since Marina Hingis at The French Open. She defeated Venus Williams to achieve that highlight and eventually reached No. 35 in the world in the WTA rankings. The following year, Weil student Anna Tatishvili from the Republic of Georgia won The Ojai 14s. She eventually reached No. 50. Both ladies still play on the pro tour.”
Weil mentioned several promising entrants in this year’s draws. Among them, he says 13-year old Ojai local Scout Mathews “has really stepped up her game and should compete for the Girls 14s title.” Others to watch include Annika Bassey in Girls 16s, Saki Oyama of Japan in Girls 14s, and Brazilian Christophe Grasel and Russians Alexey Nesterov and Slava Shainyan in the Men’s Open division.
The article continued: “At The Ojai, they’ll all gain valuable competitive experience and also have the opportunity to watch elite college tennis. The Pac-12 is nationally dominant. USC won five of the last seven NCAA men’s team titles, and Stanford and UCLA have been alternating titles on the women’s side with southern schools for years.
“This tournament is really a jewel, it’s really an heirloom… and we’ve got some really cool things happening,” Weil says.