As the Newport Beach Breakers pursue the World Team Tennis King trophy this season, they'll do it with the help of plenty of home-grown Southern California kings of tennis.
Marina del Ray resident Lester Cook and Los Angeles resident Travis Rettenmaier are the men's players for the Breakers. Their two marquee players this season are tennis legend Pete Sampras, who lives in Brentwood, and Newport Beach's own Taylor Dent.
Former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport visits Newport Beach on Tuesday, as the Breakers open their season against the St. Louis Aces at 7:15 p.m. at The Tennis Club Newport Beach. Even Davenport is a Laguna Beach resident.
It's a point of pride for Trevor Kronemann, the UC Irvine men's tennis coach who is back for his fifth year coaching the Breakers.
"We really tried to build it with a Southern California flair, if you will," Kronemann said. "We've got so many great players that are right here in our backyard … We really tried to build it with that theme. I'm sitting here trying to do the same thing recruiting-wise [for UC Irvine]. Just draw a circle 50 miles around Irvine, and I'd say we were pushing 20-plus Grand Slam championships within a 50-mile radius of Irvine and Newport Beach. You've got Lindsay [Davenport], Ricky [Leach], you've got [Roy] Emerson, Scott Davis. The list just goes on and on. There's so many good players right here."
He believes the four main players who will be suiting up for Newport Beach are also good. They will try to help Newport Beach advance to the playoffs for the second time in three years.
They'll also try to hang in there, as a brutal opening schedule has the Breakers playing on each of the first seven days of the season.
"I have to believe that we're going to be better in every single spot this year," said Kronemann, whose teams are 22-35 since he became coach in 2007. "What does that mean, is it a game and a half [better] or two games? I don't know, but we're going to find out quickly here."
Cook will play his second year for the Breakers, and Kronemann said he's looking for Cook, 27, to be a top three or four player in the league in men's singles.
The other holdover is Marie-Eve Pelletier, the Canadian woman who will be in her third year for Newport Beach. Pelletier, 29, is in the midst of a strong professional season, as she's won four International Tennis Federation doubles tournaments.
For the Breakers she'll play doubles with Anne Keothavong, the British woman who will be playing in World Team Tennis for the first time. Keothavong, 27, is ranked No. 111 in the world and recently made it to the second round of her home tournament, Wimbledon. She lost to Petra Kvitova, who won the women's title Saturday by upsetting former BreakerMaria Sharapova.
Kronemann said he hopes Keothavong, the Breakers' top overall pick in the WTT Draft, can strengthen what has been perhaps the Breakers' weakest set during his tenure as coach.
"Let's call it what it is — for four or five years we've struggled in that women's singles spot," Kronemann said. "It's been very difficult for us to stay competitive there. I think by adding her to the mix, it really adds to the depth of the team. Anne knows how to play big-time tennis."
The other new face for the Breakers is Rettenmaier, who played collegiately at UCLA for two years (starting at just age 16) before going pro. Kronemann said he already knew Rettenmaier fairly well because he coached one of his best friends, Davey Jones, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Rettenmaier, now also 27, has been as high as No. 57 in the world in doubles.
The Breakers appear a good bet to improve on their 5-9 record of a year ago. A slight team improvement can go a long way in World Team Tennis, in which blowouts are rare.
Either way, the Breakers will bring plenty of talent and raise money for Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian.
"It gives the players on the team a different look to their season, and it gives me an opportunity to be involved with the professional side of tennis still," Kronemann said. "I look forward to it every year. I have just as much excitement in year 21 as I did in year one when I got to play. [WTT] has its place in tennis history. It's just a good format to bring people together outside of Davis Cup, and have them play in a team environment.
"We have some good California ties, an English lady and a Canadian lady. We'll see what we can do."
For ticket information, visit http://www.newportbeachbreakers.com or call (949) 660-1001.
Breakers home matches at The Tennis Club
Tuesday – Breakers vs. St. Louis (Davenport)
Saturday – Breakers (Sampras) vs. New York (Hingis)
July 11 – Breakers (Dent) vs. Washington
July 13 – Breakers vs. Kansas City (Bob and Mike Bryan)
July 16 – Breakers vs. Sacramento
July 20 – Breakers vs. Springfield
July 21 – Breakers vs. Boston
*All home matches start at 7:15 p.m.