Cannings Decide to Rejoin History of La Jolla Event : Tennis: After more than 15 years off, the family will have three generations represented in seven divisions.
Their names are strewn throughout the La Jolla Tennis Tournament record book. But it has been more than 15 years since a member of the Canning family has played in the event.
But the Cannings have come out of hiding for the 74th La Jolla tournament, which began Thursday and runs through July 8. And the family name will be scattered throughout the draw sheets and ubiquitous on the courts of the La Jolla Tennis Club.
“If they weren’t trying to set a record for the most divisions entered, they probably set one anyway,” said Bob Perry, the tournament director.
In a tournament that features more than 1,000 participants in 43 divisions, three generations of Cannings are entered in seven divisions.
The Cannings, who live in Ramona, are not expecting any titles in their comeback tournament, but they are hoping to get back into the competitive groove. William Canning Sr. said they have been away from tournament tennis because of family and business obligations.
Canning Sr., 70, who won the La Jolla singles title in 1947 and 1948 and was once ranked as the 18th best singles player in the nation, will compete in the father-daughter event with his daughter, Nancy, and in the men’s 70s doubles. Nancy is also entered in the women’s 35 singles.
Bill Canning Jr., a three-time La Jolla father-son champion with his father in the early ‘60s, will return to that division, but this time as the father. He will play with 11-year-old Billy and also join his wife, Beverly, in the husband-wife division.
The younger generation, Billy and younger brother Danny, are entered in the boys’ 12 and boys’ 10 age brackets.
A former baseball player, Billy said tennis is now his sport of choice. He practices almost 20 hours a week at the Ramona Canyon Racquet Club.
“I used to really like baseball, but you only get up to bat every three innings,” he said. “In tennis, you’re in the action every point.”
Danny also has been playing less than a year, but it hasn’t taken him long to catch on. Last week, he won a 10-and-under singles tournament in Oceanside.
“He could have won a couple of other tournaments, but he always forgets the score and gets cheated out of points,” Billy said. “He just doesn’t concentrate sometimes.”
William Canning Sr. said he sees a lot of himself in Billy.
“Billy seems to have more of my strokes,” he said. “Danny, though, has more of the topspin like his father.”
Bill Jr., who is recovering from back problems and hasn’t played a tournament in 15 years, said he is planning on also making a run at the men’s 45s next year.
Seven-year-old Katie would probably be entered, too, but the age divisions begin at 10.
Patricia Todd Canning, the most famous of the Canning clan, is also skipping the event. Canning, the 1947 Wimbledon doubles champion with Doris Hart and 1947 French Open singles champion, is in England for a reunion of past Wimbledon titlists.
William Sr. said it will just feel good to compete again.
“For a while, I just lost interest in entering tournaments,” he said. “But I think the competitiveness will still be there when I step out on the court.”
William Jr. said he could have entered the tournament with his father and been “fairly competitive,” but he wanted to give his son some experience.
“It was his turn, and he wants to play,” he said.
Billy realizes he and his father are a ways from duplicating the feats of his father and his grandfather.
“It’s going to be pretty hard,” Billy said. “I guess we’ll just use this as practice.”
Donny Isaak, who plays No. 3 for USC, is seeded first in the men’s open singles, but the women’s open singles tournament figures to be more competitive. Lisa Seeman, last year’s runner-up, is seeded first but figures to be challenged by San Diego State’s Dorrey Brandt and Susan Hawke, USC’s Linda Allred and Julie Tullberg, both of whom grew up in San Diego, and former Aztec Sondra Mitchell. . . . Tennis legend Pancho Gonzalez will be playing in the 60s doubles along with Bill Davis, ranked No. 1 in the United States Tennis Assn.'s 60s singles division. Gonzalez and Davis will play their first match Saturday, July 7, at 1:30 p.m.