Every summer, Silicon Valley is treated to a big tennis tournament for professional players of the Women’s Tennis Association. Known as the Bank of the West Classic, the tournament was held on the campus of Stanford University from 1997 until last year, and sponsored by Bank of the West through its entire time at Stanford.
Back in December, it was announced that Stanford would no longer be able to host the tournament due to a change in the university’s policy of hosting corporate-sponsored events. But a month later, Mubadala Investment Company announced that it would sponsor the tournament, which kept the event in the Bay Area. The tournament moved to San Jose State University (SJSU), and the name was changed to the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.
San Jose State’s Tennis Complex opened in December, and consists of six USTA-approved (United States Tennis Association) outdoor courts. The agreement to host the event also included the university constructing a custom stadium court next to the Tennis Complex, with a capacity of 4,000 people, and a state-of-the-art building for a locker room, a players’ lounge and administrative offices.
Marie Tuite, the Director of Athletics at SJSU, said that the International Management Group (IMG) contacted the university about holding the tournament on its campus, which the university accepted.
“We are thrilled. We love the partnership with IMG and Mubadala,” Tuite said. “We are excited for the San Jose and surrounding community to visit South Campus.”
Tuite said that they’re “excited for the participants … and the community to experience an event of this caliber.”
Chad Skorupka, the head coach of women’s tennis at SJSU, expressed similar enthusiasm about the event making its way onto campus.
“I think the whole San Jose State community is very excited to be hosting this tournament on our campus,” he said.
Santa Clara Tennis Club president Carrie Bell looks forward to the event continuing to be held in the Bay Area.
“I enjoyed going to Stanford,” she said, “but I’m really happy that we are able to continue having this event in the Bay Area and I’m interested to see what it will be like at San Jose State.”
Reno Davenport, the Director of Tennis for the San Jose Swim and Racquet Club, is a 30-year resident of San Jose, a supporter of San Jose State University, where his daughter received an MBA degree, and a local tennis pro. He’s played tennis for 67 years, and has been teaching and coaching tennis locally for 18 years.
Davenport also likes the tournament’s move to San Jose.
“I was very excited to see the new venue being built in San Jose,” he said. Davenport added that “it will be a better venue for the tournament itself. Stanford was nice, but everything was kind of thrown together. This venue is being built properly and supports the media as well as the fans.”
Tuite noted some challenges with hosting the event, such as security issues, and making sure that the players can get to where they need to go.
“When you’ve never done the event, it can create some interesting scenarios to work through,” she said.
Bell acknowledged the new location itself as being a potential challenge.
“I think the challenges will include trying to match Stanford’s facility, which was really nice, and trying to get people to support the event in a location that people are not familiar with,” she said.
Twenty-eight players are in the singles main draw, and 16 teams are in the doubles main draw. Coming into this year’s Silicon Valley Classic, the singles main draw features American Madison Keys, who is the defending champion.
The main draw also features former champions of the Silicon Valley tournament: Serena Williams (three-time tournament winner), Venus Williams (two-time winner), Johanna Konta (2016 champion) and Victoria Azarenka (2010 champion). Other players in the tournament include Garbiñe Muguruza, Elise Mertens, Mihaela Buzarnescu, Zhang Shuai and Timea Babos.
Other American players featured in the draw include Claire Liu, Sonya Kenin, Danielle Collins, Sachia Vickery, Christina McHale, Alison Riske and Ashley Kratzer.
Bell and Davenport both indicated that the Silicon Valley Classic could help attract attention to SJSU tennis.
“It is going to be great for SJSU tennis, as people will want to come watch the college matches in this new venue,” Davenport said. “I think the interest in tennis locally will be enhanced. The best long-term impact is that San Jose will be promoted around the world as a tennis-friendly city and featured on TV and in the news in many countries.”
Bell also points to this event as being a positive for women’s tennis.
“I think it could help promote interest in SJSU tennis,” Bell said, “and hopefully it will put the South Bay on the map for women’s tennis the same way it used to be for men’s tennis when the men’s tour came to San Jose.”
Tuite hopes that the event sticks around on campus for years to come, and is “up for a long-term, exciting relationship with everyone involved.”
“I’d love for it to be here for 40 years,” she said. “It’s so unique and different from most activity we have in athletics.”
Skorupka said, “We want to continue it as long as we can. I think Mubadala is making an investment in the Silicon Valley. I think they want to be involved with the community as well, and this gets their foot in the door.”
Um, when’s the tourney?