The Newport Beach Breakers have a new home at The Tennis Club Newport Beach, and two new men's players in David Martin and Lester Cook.
They also lost a mainstay. Irrelevant Week just ended in Newport Beach, but "The Desperate Housewives for Ramon Delgado" fan club is now just that: irrelevant. Delgado, the six-year men's singles anchor for Newport Beach who was also the 2008 World Team Tennis Male MVP, is no longer with the team.
Fourth-year coach Trevor Kronemann, also the UC Irvine men's tennis coach, hopes Breakers fans don't have to be desperate anymore. He foresees a competitive season for his team, which reached the Western Conference Finals a year ago before falling to Springfield in a super-tiebreaker.
The Breakers begin their season Monday at Sacramento and their first home match is at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, also against Sacramento.
"It's always a quick 16, 17, 18 days but it's always exciting," Kronemann said. "I'm looking forward to my 21st season in World Team Tennis [as a player, commentator and now coach]."
Martin and Cook join returning women's players Julie Ditty and Marie-Eve Pelletier, who will both be in their second year with the Breakers. Three-time Grand Slam singles winner Maria Sharapova is the team's marquee player, and will join the Breakers for their home match July 20 against Kansas City.
Martin, 29, is a Huntington Beach resident. He has been ranked as high as No. 38 in the world in doubles, in 2008, and has played with Cook in the past. They played together this week in the Nielsen $50,000 United States Tennis. Assn Challenger in Winnetka, Ill., making it to the semifinals.
"I'm really excited to be playing for Newport," Martin said. "I know Lester pretty well, since we've played doubles together. We actually like each other and I think that helps. I think we're going to do very well as a team this summer."
Cook, a 26-year-old who lived in Marina del Rey before recently moving to Florida, is ranked No. 211 in singles by the Assn. of Tennis Professionals. Cook made it to the singles quarterfinals in Winnetka before losing to former top junior Donald Young.
Cook recently lost in both the French Open and Wimbledon singles qualifiers, but his play on the clay in France might transfer to Newport Beach.
"It was a really great experience [at the French Open]," Cook said. "I had never done it before so I'm glad I did it. I loved playing on the red clay, and think it's actually helped my hard-court game. It's helped with my power and my racket head speed, just because you have to have more of both of those things."
Kaes Van't Hof, the young Newport Beach native, has also left the Breakers after two years. The team's executive director, Jeff Purser, said Van't Hof is pursing a business career in New York. But Purser and Kronemann are confident in this year's men's lineup. Each has previously played one year of World Team Tennis, Martin with New York and Cook with Delaware.
Martin was the 2006 WTT Male Rookie of the Year, while Cook helped the Washington Kastles win the WTT title last year.
"It's going to be tough to fill the void left by Ramon and Kaes, but both these guys are seasoned veterans," Kronemann said. "We're going to have some camaraderie right out of the chute."
Ditty, 31, has won nine International Tennis Federation singles titles and 26 doubles championships. She also played on the U.S. Fed Cup team last year. She also trained with Kronemann and his UC Irvine men for a few weeks this March.
"He said any time I needed to come out and train I could, so I did," Ditty said. "I've been able to form some friendships with some of the players and coaches so that's been good."
Kronemann said it made sense for Ditty to come to Orange County, with its top facilities, to get back into form while recovering from a wrist injury. He said he also looks for her to have a better showing than last year, when Newport Beach was just eighth out of 10 teams in singles, as Ditty and Pelletier combined to win just 44 of 101 games (44%).
"She wasn't happy with how she did last year," he said. "She works so hard and she battles. She just loves to compete."
Ditty played doubles in the main draw at Wimbledon with partner Renata Yurocova, but unfortunately their first-round opponents were Venus and Serena Williams, who won the match.
Pelletier, 28, is from Quebec, Canada. She settled in as the Breakers' women's singles player late last season, although Kronemann said Ditty will play singles to open this year. Pelletier is ranked No. 60 in the world in doubles, but her career high was No. 54 early this year.
"She's a great lady, and a great team player," Kronemann said. "That's the thing about Team Tennis. These players come into a city for a couple of weeks and you don't want to be embarrassed."
Marquee matches this year include Laguna Beach resident Lindsay Davenport visiting with St. Louis on July 15, Sharapova on July 20 and John McEnroe visiting with the New York Sportimes on July 22.
At The Tennis Club
Matches begin at 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday – Sacramento Capitals
Friday – Kansas City Explorers (Junior Night)
July 12 – Sacramento Capitals
July 15 – St. Louis Aces (Ladies Night featuring Lindsay Davenport)
July 20 – Kansas City Explorers (featuring Maria Sharapova)
July 22 – New York Sportimes (featuring John McEnroe)