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NorthBay Tennis Event Rare Chance to Watch Pros Near Home

Posted: July 9, 2019

The return of the NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro Championship this October will again offer a rare opportunity to watch a professional sport right here in Solano County.

The Sacramento-San Francisco Bay region is full of professional sports, from football to baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and more. But the landscape is far more limited in the immediate area.

The Independent baseball Vallejo Admirals have called the county home since 2013 and were the lone professional entity for two years. That changed in 2015 when professional tennis had a revival, thanks to the work of local tennis instructor Phil Cello.

On Oct. 7-13, the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship logo.Championship returns to Solano Community College, featuring top-ranked players from throughout the world. The USTA Pro Circuit and ATP Challenger event will feature a 48-man draw in singles and 16 doubles teams.

“We have world-class players at this tournament that go on to the big tournaments you’ll see in the third round on ESPN at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open,” Cello said.

Cello was able to bring back a Challenger to Fairfield when Napa Valley Country Club was no longer able to host its event. He moved it to Rancho Solano Country Club in Fairfield where it returned as the Francis Ford Coppola Winery Challenger for the first two years. NorthBay Healthcare got on board in 2016 and has held the title sponsorship for the last three. It also found a new home at Solano Community College.

Cello previously had the Safeway Classic at Rancho Solano in 1992 and ’93, which at the time was a $50,000 ATP/USTA Challenger. The 1993 title was even won by another local legend, Armijo High School graduate Steve DeVries. But the Safeway Classic disappeared and it wasn’t until 2015 that Cello had the opportunity to try again.

The Solano County professional sports scene has been limited during the 2000s. Motorsports have been a mainstay at nearby Sonoma Raceway and Napa has had professional golf, from the PGA and Senior PGA to the current PGA’s Safeway Open. There was even horse racing in Vallejo at the Solano County Fairgrounds during the Fair season.

There hasn’t been much in the area since.

The LPGA had a short but prestigious run from 2000 to 2002 at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club in Vallejo with the LPGA Samsung World Challenge. The last tournament was even won by the game’s premiere player, Annika Sorenstam. Independent baseball first came to the county when Vacaville had the Solano Steelheads from 2000 to 2003 and later in Vallejo with the Admirals.

But tennis has remained constant and continues to showcase veteran and up-and-coming players alike. The USTA and ATP Challenger event features many players who have gone on to compete at majors, like the current Wimbledon field.  Fairfield Challenger alumni Tennys Sandgren reached the Round of 16, while Felix Auger-Aliassime, Reilly Opelka and Daniel Evans all made into the third round.

The Fairfield tournament is the final leg of the men’s worldwide Challenger swing through Northern California. It continues to be a great opportunity for tennis fans to watch high-powered professional matches up close.

The tournament benefits the Dr. Chris Cammisa Tennis and Education Foundation, an organization that supports the women’s and men’s teams at Solano College and introduces tennis and related education program to underserved youth in Solano County.

Tickets for the seven-day tournament go on sale in the fall. All seating is in close proximity to the courts. There are numerous opportunities to be tournament sponsors, volunteers, and for youth, “Ball Kids,” on the courts during matches.

For sponsorship opportunities and all other information, contact tournament director Phil Cello by phone (707) 853-0915 or email Cellotennis@Comcast.net, or co-director Rafael Rovira by phone (707) 246-0990 or email at Rafael.Rovira@Solano.edu.