Sixth Annual Gen Gap Invitational

The sight at the Berkeley Tennis Club looked much different than usual as USTA NorCal hosted its sixth annual Generation Gap Invitational on August 19. Players usually play in their age category but that day, juniors and adults competed WITH and AGAINST each other, shared their experience, and their love of tennis.

USTA National and NorCal Coach, Alex Poorta, has been a participant for five years and was excited to come back. “This event really brings juniors and adults together, it brings NorCal together,” says Alex, a former top St. Mary’s College player. “This is the only event where there is communication between juniors and adults and where both sides can learn from each other.”

This rang true as you could hear adults passing down their wisdom to the juniors on and off the court, while juniors talked about the modern game. “It’s really fun playing against the adults; their level of game is really different because a lot of them serve and volley,” 13 year-old John Kim explained. “They know how to play since they’ve been through it, so it’s easy to talk to them because they know what to do in certain situations.”

Rising junior Vivian Ovrootsky explained that on top of their words, how they played was also their way of teaching them. “They understand the court and the game better, and passed that knowledge off to me during match play,” Vivian told us. “Their experience rubbed off on me especially during my mixed doubles matches. When my opponents would slice I would come in and take offense for example.”

Beyond the exchange of knowledge, seeing a 13-year-old laughing and high fiving a 40-something year-old, was an amazing sight, making tennis such an inclusive, lifetime sport. Co-founder of the Generation Gap Invitational and CEO of the Nike Tennis Camps, Charlie Hoeveler, was extremely pleased to see the event blossom the way it has. “Juniors get to see two very important things today; the variety of games seniors have, but most importantly, the passion the senior players have for the game,” Hoeveler said. “What they see is maybe how they could be in the future, a lifetime game.”

Bay Area native and renowned tennis writer Joel Drucker couldn’t praise the initiative to mix juniors and adults enough. “I think tennis is such a wonderful game but people deny themselves the chance to play a great range and the more spectrums of colors, styles, shapes, and sizes they play, they’ll grow more as a player and never get bored,” Drucker said. “You can see someone play and almost tell what decade they learned to play by their grips, you see how the whole game evolves and it builds a greater appreciation for the game and your community.”

University of San Francisco Men’s Tennis Head Coach Pablo Pires de Almeida experienced that appreciation as a captain. “The juniors really focus because the adults want to win and that brings the best of competition. As a captain, I only put the juniors in who wanted to play their position so that they owned it,” Pablo explained.

At the end, Team C composed of Phil Graham, Connie Ma, Daniel McCall, Kady Pooler, Claire Soper, Daniel Papacica, Kurt Miller, and Ted Scherman took the trophy home. USTA NorCal Player Development Specialist Beth Workeneh, was delighted to see adults and juniors work together and have fun. “It was great to see such amazing tennis with players that may not ever cross paths.”

For more pictures of the event, click here.