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Sports Talk: Aviators return with Buck at the helm

What was inside CoCo Vandeweghe’s tennis bag was a mystery. The same could be said for Cari Buck’s career path.

Vandeweghe, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, was being featured 12 years ago on the Tennis Channel, with her tennis bag being unzipped and its contents unearthed. The segment proved to be popular on the station devoted to all things tennis, as the players spill-out their equipment and good-luck charms.

Buck, now the general manager of the San Diego Aviators, worked for Tennis Channel at the time. The first tennis bag segment she produced was with Vandeweghe.

The two join forces again when Vandeweghe competes for the Aviators on July 22.

“That seems like a look time ago,” Buck said of her TV days.

But the future is here for the Aviators of World TeamTennis. They’ve begun their sixth season and for the fifth year, it calls Carlsbad’s Omni La Costa Resort and Spa its home.

The North County has more than the Aviators on its radar. The league offices were relocated to Carlsbad last year and among the owners of the WTT, and the Aviators, is Del Mar’s Fred Luddy.

That’s a lot of connections to a brand of tennis which is more zany that traditional.

“If you’re familiar with tennis at a country club, we pretty much turn that on its head,” Buck said. “It’s basically a big party with a tennis match in the middle of it. If you are not yelling at one of our matches, somebody will say ‘let’s make some noise.”’

DJ Danny is always bumping tunes. But what’s music to Buck’s ears is the sound of people enjoying her favorite sport, one in which she’s ascended to being a WTT general manager.

Few can recall a female GM of any pro sport in San Diego, making Buck a trailblazer of sorts.

“Cari has done a great job,” said Carlos Silva, the WTT CEO. “She has been in the tennis game, she knows the players and she certainly understands operations and what has to happen on that side of it. And she has good energy.”

The WTT has created a buzz with its preference for women GMs. Of the eight WTT teams, five have female GMs.

There’s pretty cool, especially for a league founded by Billie Jean King, the longtime leader of women’s rights.

“I think she would be pretty happy about that,” Buck said.

Buck found her joyful place with the Aviators after a long and winding road revolving around strings and rackets. For more than two decades she’s been involved it the teaching aspect of tennis to spreading the word about this game of a lifetime.

She broke in with the Tennis Channel and would settle with the United States Tennis Association as its director of marketing and communications.

Then came the Aviators opportunity.

“I was looking for my next challenge, something that would get me excited,” Buck said. “So I thought I would give it a shot.”

Buck should pause for a shot of espresso as she details her extensive to-do list. With the Aviators’ season running from July 14 to Aug. 3, there’s no chance to play catch-up.

“There are so many matches in a short period of time that on the operational side, you better be prepared before the season starts,” Silva said. “Everything has to be ready to go.”

Taylor Fritz, a Rancho Santa Fe native and rising American player, will go for the Aviators on July 19.

Teenager Amanda Anisinova is in action on July 25 and July 26. She knocked off defending champion Simona Halep, who won Wimbledon last week, at this year’s French Open.

Of course Vandeweghe performs on July 22. No word, yet, on if she’ll open her tennis bag for Buck’s sake.

Photo Caption: Cari Buck is the new general manager of the San Diego Aviators tennis team. Photo courtesy of San Diego Aviators