One of The Ojai’s greatest champions will return to the picturesque setting of Libbey Park in downtown Ojai more than 50 years after first appearing at one of the oldest and storied tournaments in the country.
Former world No. 1, Wimbledon champion and USC All-American Stan Smith will be the featured guest at the Thursday Night BBQ on April 23, that will help kick off the 115th edition of the tournament to take place April 22-26 at venues all over Ventura County.
In addition, Smith will appear at a special wine and hor d’ourves reception in his honor Friday night, April 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room. A fundraising event to be used for capital improvements for the tournament, tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online at: www.ojaitourney.org or by emailing event organizer Carolyn Burke at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smith now lives in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and runs his own junior tennis academy. But Ojai is never far from his thoughts when he thinks about how it all began.
“The highlight of playing at The Ojai was getting to play on a private court,” Smith recalled recently. “The main goal of course was to play on the main Libbey Park courts. That was really special. And the orange juice stand was the other highlight. It’s funny how certain things stand out in your mind.
“As a junior we got to see the college players and they were the best around. And as collegians it was a very special trip for us,” Smith added.
Smith is a personal friend of Ojai’s Mark Weil, who runs the Weil Tennis Academy. Smith’s daughter has trained at the Weil Academy, and Smith’s son is the men’s head tennis coach at Duke University where he was a two-time All-American.
Originally from Pasadena, Smith won Ojai collegiate titles in 1966, ’67 and ’68 and won Ojai titles in the junior and open divisions, as well.
Smith was a two-time Grand Slam singles champion who, along with his doubles partner Bob Lutz, formed one of the most successful doubles teams of all time. Smith was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and in 2011 he became the president of the Hall of Fame.
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