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Members back on serve

August 03, 2004

RICK DEVEREUX

Members of the Palisades Tennis Club had an intrusion on their courts

for a month. An outsider. An annoyance. A bother.

The Newport Beach Breakers of World Team Tennis played their home

matches on the stadium court at Palisades and had concession stands,

bleachers and other fixtures take away courts where members could

play. To top it all off, parking was obstructed as well.

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Now, a month after it all started, normalcy has returned. The

parking lot is as it was. The bleachers are gone. Venders have packed

up their tents and the potted plants were put back where they were at

the start of July. Plus, the courts that were covered by the

bleachers and concession stands have been resurfaced and received new

posts and nets.

"We have a three-year agreement," said Ken Stuart, Palisades club

owner and general manager. "They can use our facility as long as they

restore the condition of the club to what it was before the start of

the season. The WTT officials did everything they said they would

do."

Palisades holds 1,800 and it is estimated the Breakers had four

sell-out crowds in seven of their home matches in just their second

year of existence. Stuart thinks that the numbers will grow as word

of mouth spreads about the level of play in the WTT.

"The one thing we need is time," he said. "There were far more

people here than last year. I didn't talk to anyone who didn't have a

good time. Next year more people will tell their friends, who will

tell their friends and so-on."

The fact that the women's Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova

played for the Breakers in her first match following her grand slam

win helped the team, WTT and Palisades Tennis Club gain exposure.

"We absolutely could have sold 10,000 tickets with Maria," Stuart

said. "And that wasn't even the most fun night."

The two times Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 doubles team in the

world, played at Palisades for the Breakers would have to be

considered the "fun nights" to attend. The twins, who will represent

the U.S. at the Athens Olympics, played with energy and charisma,

pumping up the crowds and laughing with the opposition. But the crowd

favorites might not be back next year for the Breakers.

"The Bryans are great," second-year coach Dick Leach said. "Their

parents taught them to give back to the sport, and they're so good

with the media and the fans and kids. But I'd rather play with Ramon

[Delgado]. Ramon last was probably our strongest suit this year."

Stuart agrees that personnel will be a big change next season, but

timing will be the main reason, not the draft in April.

"The only thing I see as a significant change is scheduling," he

said. "We had to schedule around three professional tournaments. More

importantly is this is the year of the Olympics. Everybody was

scrambling around for some players to play in their event. Next year

will be better."

As far as playing without the Bryans or Sharapova, Stuart thinks

the Breakers have a better chance of winning with their regular

players.

"I think that we are as good or better without the non-marquee

players," Stuart said.

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