Steve Jackson considers tennis the “common thread” of his life.
Thursday through Sunday, the Millbrae native and California Tennis Club director will host the inaugural Battle of the Bay at the venerable San Francisco club. CTC is purported to be the oldest private club west of Philadelphia.
USF men’s tennis coaches Peter Bartlett and Pablo Pires de Almeida are the co-organizers of the event that will feature Northern
California’s top NCAA Division I talent.
The highest-ranked men’s players from Cal, Stanford, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara and USF will engage in team competition and battle for Bay Area bragging rights.
“What I love about this is that collegiate sports are still a family outing that is economically feasible, and yet the quality of the athletes is at a super high level, if not at a world-class level,” Jackson said.
In 1975, Jackson was 6 years old and had already been knocking around a tennis ball at San Bruno Park for a couple of years when the Millbrae Racquet Club was constructed across the street from his childhood home.
Mom and dad were tennis players, and their only child was happy to follow suit.
At the age of 12, Jackson beat 13-year-old Michael Chang in a national tournament in Houston. The two met again four years later with Chang narrowly taking the third set 7-5.
Two years later, Chang won the French Open as Jackson was concluding his stellar career at Mills High School.
After undefeated junior and senior seasons at Mills, Jackson attended Fresno State University on a tennis scholarship. He was a nationally ranked singles and doubles player for Fresno’s top 20 team.
Upon graduation in 1993, Jackson toiled in the minor circuits of professional tennis for a year before hanging up his racquet in favor of a business suit. Not long after accepting a marketing job for a Los Angeles dental company, Jackson decided to return home to Millbrae and home to tennis.
Jackson’s first job as a teaching pro was in 1994 at the same club that he watched being built as a kid, the Millbrae Racquet Club.
In 1997, he moved on to the Tiburon Peninsula Club for 11 years before landing at CTC.
Elizabeth Evans was ranked in the women’s top 200 when she was set up with Jackson as mixed doubles partners in a tournament in Moraga.
“We shook hands and that was it,” Jackson said about meeting his future wife.
Eight-year-old Ryder Jackson is in the top 16 of his age group in the country, and coach Jackson proudly asserts that his son is a better player than he was at that age.
Father and son eagerly await the Battle of the Bay where USF’s band and spirit squad will be on hand.
“It won’t be your traditional tennis match,” Jackson said. “A very quiet, pristine club and then the raucous cheers of the Don Squad.”
Battle of the Bay Tennis Classic
Where: California Tennis Club, 1770 Scott St., San Francisco
Pro exhibition: Stanford grad and San Franciscan Paul Goldstein, a former Top 50 player in the world, will be featured in a professional tennis exhibition Friday night at 6 p.m.
Admission: Free, but limited to 500 spectators per day
Info: www.calclubtennis.com or (415) 346-3611