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Sports Talk: Jim Ault is an ace as the Aviators’ GM

It’s a gaudy hunk of bling and Del Mar’s Jim Ault is the first to admit it.

“It is a pretty big ring,” he said.

But Ault, the San Diego Aviators general manager, has no problem showing off the fruits of victory. 

Just maybe it’s sweeter for Ault than the others involved with the Mylan World TeamTennis team that calls Carlsbad’s Omni La Costa Resort and Spa home.

“I’m a cancer survivor,” Ault said. “Six years ago I was just striving to live. If you would have told me, ‘Hey, you’re going to be managing a professional tennis team,’ I would have told you, ‘You are crazy.’ ”

What’s nuts is what is on tap on July 16, in the first of the Aviators’ seven matches at La Costa. The Aviators begin their title defense against an Orange County Breakers team that includes Maria Sharapova.

Yeah, that Maria Sharapova, one of only 10 women to claim a career Grand Slam. She’s won the French Open twice and Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open once.

“She’s only the most famous female athlete in the world,” Ault said.

Sharapova, in her comeback after being suspended for using performance enhancing drugs, is no stranger to La Costa. She won the WTA tour stop here twice, back when La Costa hosted an annual event.

For the Aviators, it’s their second year at the storied resort. But it’s the first season they’ve been here as a champion.

The Aviators beat the Breakers for the title last summer at Forest Hills. That means a fancy Tiffany trophy will be on display when the Aviators raise the curtain on Sunday.

“Hopefully we can keep it for another year,” Ault said, with a reminder his team is undefeated at home.

Ault has felt cozy on the tennis courts for seemingly forever. A standout at San Diego State and Grossmont College, he transferred into a coaching position after some time on the men’s tour.

Among the places Ault has hung his racket is at the Del Coronado, the San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club, the Barnes Tennis Center and the Bay Club in Carmel Valley. 

But Ault jumped at an opportunity to run the Aviators. It’s put a crimp in him delivering his sought-after lessons, but there’s a motto to his story.

“I’m able to help grow the game of tennis like never before in my life,” Ault, 52, said. “If I give a great lesson to someone, that helps one person. But when people come out to our opening night, we are exposing more than 1,400 people to tennis.”

It’s a game few will recognize, unless they’ve attended a WTT match. It’s tennis, but with a twist.

There remains a degree of silence during the points, but between them it’s a house party. The music is cranked up, the crowd is encouraged to get rocking and the enthusiasm that’s produced isn’t what’s usually presented at a prim-and-proper tennis match.

Think Davis Cup tennis, World Cup soccer or the World Baseball Classic. The WTT is proud of being loud and it shouts out its intentions with glee.

“I’ll probably get a bunch of grief for this but I like to say it’s tennis on legal steroids,” Ault said. “It’s basically high-energy tennis and in two hours you get to see what it would take two days to see at a Grand Slam event.’’

The play includes men’s and women’s singles and doubles and a mixed doubles match. All of it comes with an invitation to be in full throat during the action and in between.

“It is really cool,” Ault said.

So is Ault, who was the Aviators’ assistant coach in its first year. Now as the GM, he’s constructed a roster which includes rising American star Ryan Harrison, who won at Memphis and then the French Open doubles crown; Shelby Rogers, who nearly knocked off No. 1 Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon; and the standout doubles team of Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram.

It’s a potent squad which will contend again for the WTT finals, which will be played next month at La Costa.

“It looks like I know what I’m doing,” Ault said. “But I’ve really been lucky.”

Considering Ault’s cancer scare, his good fortune extends on and off the court.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports.