Phil Cello knows one thing about life – nothing goes according to plan. You have to deal with the cards that are dealt. The longtime director of the NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro Championship is known for his creativity. Cello had to work around wildfires that came within a mile of the tourney in 2017. He dealt with a nightmare storm in 2018 that washed out days of play.
And this year? PG&E cut electricity to more than 200,000 customers in California, including Solano Community College, where the tourney was to be held. But, prepared as always, Cello said, “By comparison to the last few years, [the power outage] was a breeze.”
Before news of the shutoff, the Fairfield Challenger was shaping up to have a field that sizzled. Top Americans in search of form like two-time Slam winner and Paris Masters champ Jack Sock and college dynamo Stevie Johnson were scheduled to play. Plus, for the first time, the tourney was to be broadcast on Tennis Channel. But without electricity the North Bay couldn’t have held a candle to other events.
However Cello quickly turned to his plan B. Miraculously, with emergency generators in place, the tourney went off without a hitch. “The locals knew there was knew there was a problem, but most of the people didn’t know what was going on…Night matches went on, everything was on time, and we had record attendance. What was amazing was that the shutoff was because of potentially high winds and temperatures, but we had the best week of weather we’ve ever had. It was just perfect.”
Yet the Fairfield tourney, now in its fifth year, is about more than just hiccups and storms, and its success is due to more than just preparation. “We are fortunate to have the two most important Solano County community institutions, NorthBay Healthcare as our title sponsor and Solano Community College as our host site. This event could not happen without their involvement,” said Cello. The tournament director also noted, “So many colleges are dropping out of tennis, but we here have taken it the other direction. We run junior tournaments and this pro tournament to fund the men’s and women’s teams and use some of the funding to help underserved kids. We’ve lost a lot of pro tennis in Northern California, so having this Challenger is important for the school, but it’s also important for NorCal.” This year Sock lost his opening match, and in the end the tourney was won by Aussie Christopher O’Connell, who downed Johnson 6-4 6-4. For info go to Fairfieldprotennis.com