It wasn’t Davis Cup play; it just seemed like it.
All the requisite team effort and spirit were in evidence. Even a banner commemorating the 1997 Davis Cup competition that took place at Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach hung across the back wall at center court.
And on the court, locked in a battle of skill, wit and will, was Corona del Mar High senior Cameron Ball, the son of a former Australian Davis Cup team member.
Ball defeated James Pade, an Atherton Menlo High senior headed to Stanford, in a crowd-pleasing, roller-coaster ride of a match, 8-7 (1).
The victory, coupled with the perfect record of Ball’s younger brother, Carsten, in the two-day, 16-team National High School All-American tournament last month, helped give Corona del Mar the title and its biggest victory of the season.
The brothers have loomed large for Corona del Mar (18-2), the defending Southern Section Division V champions. The Sea Kings remain ranked atop the division and are No. 2 in The Times’ rankings.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without them,” Coach Tim Mang said of the brothers, who will compete in the 102nd Ojai Valley tournament that begins today.
Cameron, a right-hander who plays at No. 1 singles, and Carsten, a freshman left-hander who usually plays at No. 3, are following a family tradition of tennis success.
Their father, Syd Ball, played on Australia’s Davis Cup teams in 1974 and ’76, retiring from competitive pro tennis in 1981 after a 13-year career. He is a teaching pro at Costa Mesa Tennis Center and has been his sons’ primary coach since they began competing seriously as preteens.
Syd sometimes invited visiting Australian touring pros to the family’s house in Newport Beach as the brothers were growing up.
Cameron, 18, believes he and his brother gravitated to the sport because of their early exposure.
“It’s fun and it was around me all the time,” he said. “I did the whole sports thing. I played baseball, basketball, soccer, but tennis was always there.
“It’s not even like a sport. It’s like a life lesson, a sport and a job at the same time. But it’s a fun job.”
The Balls have worked hard at improving their games, at their father’s urging, and look forward to college scholarships and, eventually, pro careers.
“I’d like to take my possibilities as far as I can,” said Carsten, 14. “But there’s a lot of good players out there and only a few of them make it.”
Said Syd of his sons: “They had pretty high standards from the word go. They know what it takes, having been around it from such a young age. I think that helped.”
Cameron’s victory over Pade was a significant step for him, one of several lately.
He also won a tournament title in San Diego in January, advanced to the quarterfinals of the South Bay tournament last month, and won the boys’ 18 division backdraw--good for fifth place--in a Las Vegas tournament last weekend.
Carston won the boys’ 16 competition in Las Vegas and finished fourth in boys’ 14s at the Easter Bowl/USTA Super National Spring Championships two weeks ago.
Cameron is 29-5 in high school dual-match singles sets; Carsten 16-5.
The brothers have contrasting playing styles.
Cameron, 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds, is a heavy-hitting server and excellent volleyer who attacks the net as often as possible. He played doubles as a freshman, moved to singles as a sophomore, but then missed five weeks last season because of mononucleosis.
“That really put him back a lot,” Syd said. “He’s always trying to get to the next level. But it’s a much harder game to play and to learn.”
Carsten, 5-8, 130 pounds, is a quick, polished player who already has an all-court game and good technical and tactical skills.
Their combination of power and precision has been a winning one for Corona del Mar. The brothers also mesh nicely off the court, getting around in Cameron’s 1979 Camaro.
Besides, Carsten can’t beat Cameron yet, except at Nintendo.
“I work the thumb muscles,” Carsten said. “Mine are better.”
(BEGIN OF TEXT OF INFOBOX)
What: The 102nd Ojai Valley tournament.
When: Today through Sunday.
Where: Semifinal and final rounds will be played at Libbey Park in downtown Ojai, but more than 100 courts will be used at sites from Camarillo to Ojai.
Participants: 1,600 players in 34 divisions of age-group, interscholastic, college and open competition, including the Pacific 10 Conference individual championships, the Big West Conference championships and the NCAA Division III West regional championships.
Admission: Daily from $8-$12, with four-day passes at $28 for adults. Discounts for seniors, students and children.
Fast facts: This year’s tournament will commemorate the 100th year of boys’ interscholastic competition. Trowbridge Hendricks of Los Angeles High won the first title in the division in 1899. This year, the defending CIF Interscholastic singles champion is Anaheim Servite senior Patrick Buchanan, who defeated Irvine University’s Aaron Yovan, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, in last year’s final.