Breakers moving to Texas

For nine years, they were known as the Newport Beach Breakers. For the past two years, they were the Orange County Breakers.

Now, they've just made a break for it.

World Team Tennis' Orange County franchise has been sold to Canadian entrepreneur Lorne Abony and will be relocating to Austin, Texas, the league announced Thursday. The team will be renamed the Austin Aces and former world No. 1 Andy Roddick, who lives in Austin, will be on the roster.

The move ends an 11-year run in Orange County for the Breakers. The team moved from The Tennis Club Newport Beach to UC Irvine's Bren Events Center in 2012, but has failed to draw big crowds there except when marquee players, such as Roddick and the Bryan Brothers this past summer, showed up.

In 2013 the Breakers had Orange native and former USC standout Steve Johnson, as well as Newport Beach resident Coco Vandeweghe, on their roster. But despite the franchise's location in an affluent area where tennis is popular, attendance was rarely more than a couple of hundred people.

World Team Tennis CEO/Commissioner Ilana Kloss said in a phone interview Thursday that the league, which owned the franchise prior to the sale to Abony, had wanted to find a local buyer in Orange County. That never materialized.

"The goal was always to find local ownership," Kloss said. "You need sponsors and local fan support, and I have to say we struggled in both areas. It's a loss for the community, especially the young kids in the community who get to see the best players in the world ... [but] it's a business. I think, from the league's standpoint, we made a good business decision."

The Breakers leaving Southern California is the latest move that has created a void in professional tennis action in the region. The Los Angeles Open men's tournament, which had been held at UCLA, moved to Bogota, Columbia, last year. The women's tour stop in Carlsbad, the Southern California Open, is being moved to Tokyo.

The only annual professional tennis event left in Southern California is the BNP Paribas Open, which is both an ATP and WTA event held each spring in Indian Wells. Prior to the Breakers being formed in 2003, Newport Beach was home to World Team Tennis' Dukes from 1990-94 at the former John Wayne Tennis Club, now called Palisades Tennis Club.

"There's no question that professional tennis in Orange County, and even in L.A., has not done well," Kloss said. "I think all of us scratch our head ... a lot of us don't have the answers."

One person who is sad to see the Breakers go is Newport Harbor High tennis coach Kristen Case. She always has taken her Sailors' varsity girls' teams to watch the Breakers play through the years.

"It was such a great experience for our team and our program," Case said. "It's a good move for them, but it will be a bummer for us. It was a really good bonding experience for the group, and our girls love matches with the high energy, the good spirit."

Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria, who has run youth and high school tournaments in Orange County for WTT, said the Aces should be a good fit in Austin. He would know, as he went to school and played tennis at the University of Texas at Austin.

"I'm sorry to see [the Breakers] leave, but I think they're going to be better off in Texas," Longoria said. "They'll be successful because Austin doesn't have a pro sports team there. Austin's a great tennis town, and they'll support it ... The people in Orange County are spoiled because of the Indian Wells tournament. Why would I spend the money [on Breakers matches] when I can see the very best? Also, in Southern California you have a ton of other activities."

The Breakers won the 2004 World Team Tennis championship, but had missed the playoffs three of the past four years. Coached by UC Irvine men's tennis coach Trevor Kronemann for the past seven years, they finished 7-7 this past July, good for third place in the four-team Western Conference. Johnson was named the World Team Tennis Rookie of the Year.

Austin will retain the rights to the 2013 Orange County Breakers players, although the Aces' 2014 team lineup will not be determined until the WTT Marquee Player Draft in February and Roster Player Draft in March, respectively.

Kerry Schneider, who had been the Breakers' general manager the past two seasons, said in an email that she would be moving to Texas to work for Abony with the Austin team.

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