I took these photos this weekend, while on a relaxing and restorative long weekend in Ojai, Californina. Ojai is a classic little So Cal town with great scenery (nestled in a valley, the spot’s famous for its “Pink Moment” sunsets), aging hippies and lots and lots of tennis (oh, and even more golf, if you swing that way.)
Libbey Park is the lush, green heart of the town, filled with massive trees, bike paths and four pristine, shade-dappled tennis courts. Displayed on a stone wall just outside the courts is a series of plaques commemorating the site and the event it hosts every April: the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament. Known (and trademarked!) as “The Ojai,” it’s the largest and longest-running amateur tennis tournament in the United States. William Thacher, a Yale tennis champ who moved out West to help his cattle rancher brother, started it in 1896 when he and his buddies challenged the neighboring Ventura Tennis Club to a throwdown. Since then, the event’s hosted a long list of top players who have gone on to win major titles, including Big Bill Tilden, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport and Justin Gimelstob (yes, mixed dubs counts!) See the photos below for even more examples.
All of this is still organized by William Thacher’s Ojai Valley Tennis Club, a club with no courts or paid employees to its name. Over 500 volunteers run the show and over 30 schools, resorts and private residences donate courts to the tournament (you can’t run a tourny this big on just the four in Libbey Park, after all.) Traditions like complimentary morning O.J., afternoon tea service, and a Thursday Night BBQ add to the appeal so you better reserve your hotel room soon! (Hey what else do you have to do on the last weekend of April?)
For more info on the history and future of the event, check out the tournament’s website.