San Diego Aviators tennis team wins in debut

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Aviators were winners in their debut Monday evening, defeating the Austin Aces, 23-11, in a World TeamTennis match at the Valley View Casino Center.

The Aviators won four of five sets. Andy Roddick, once the world's top-ranked men's player and 2003 U.S. Open singles champion, lost all three of his sets for Austin, which was also making its debut after playing the previous 11 seasons in Orange County, where they were known as the Newport Beach Breakers and Orange County Breakers.

Somdev Devvarman, the NCAA Division I men's singles champion in 2007 and 2008 while playing for the University of Virginia, and the highest player from India on the Association of Tennis Professionals singles rankings, opened the match by defeating Roddick, 5-2.

The Aviators' only loss came in the second set, women's singles, where Daniela Hantuchova lost to Vera Zvonareva, 5-3.

Kveta Peschke teamed with Raven Klaasen for a 5-2 victory over Roddick and Zvonareva in mixed doubles. Hantuchova and Peschke defeated Eva Hrdinova and Zvonareva, 5-2, in women's doubles.

The match concluded with Devvarman and Klaasen defeating Roddick and Treat Huey, 5-0.

Russell Geyser, the founder and managing member of Geyser Holdings, an Encinitas-based early stage venture capital, deal syndication and real estate acquisition firm, purchased the New York Sportimes in January and moved them to San Diego.

Geyser said he chose the team's nickname to evoke the city's long history of military and commercial aviation.

The Aviators are aiming to provide enough fun for fans to cause them to return.

"It's sports and entertainment meeting together," Aviators CEO Billy Berger told City News Service before the match. "We have a real opportunity to really make this fun, where people walk away from this event and they say to themselves, 'That was really fun. It was great tennis, but it was fun.'

"If we can pull that off, that's going to make this have a two-, three- , five-, seven-, 12-year run."

The fun elements include interactive booths around the arena and various contests between sets where fans participate in contests to win prizes, Berger said. Players will sign autographs for fans 16 and under following the
matches.

The arena formerly known as the San Diego Sports Arena has been configured in what was described by Geyser as "an intimate seating venue" that will provide an "up-close setting for our fans."

Berger said averaging 2,500 fans for the season's seven home matches would be "fabulous."

A key difference between World TeamTennis and tournament tennis is that fans are allowed to cheer during points.

"As Billie Jean King puts it, leave your silence for after you leave the match," Berger told City News Service.

King, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, was among the league's founders. She will be honored at Tuesday night's match against the Philadelphia Freedoms, which she owns.

San Diego had WTT teams from 1975-78 and 1981-83, nicknamed the Friars, and 1984-85, nicknamed the Buds. The Buds won the championship in 1984 and 1985.

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