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Sam Querrey returns a shot during the WTT Celebrity All-Star Match on March 1 at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad. Photo by Shawn Schrager
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Sports Talk: Carlsbad’s Silva pushes the WTT to reach a gold standard

The sports brand is sprouting from a Carlsbad office.

“We have a great product, but it’s for only three weeks during the year,” Carlos Silva said.

Silva, a part-time Carlsbad resident, is World Team Tennis’ chief executive officer. He’s the head honcho of the only professional league to call North County its home.

The personable Silva, who played tennis briefly after doing so at Boston College, gets revved when talking about the WTT.

Or more succinctly, where it’s headed.

“I want to stretch it out and this is one of the ways to do it,” Silva said.

That happened thanks to players getting limber recently at Carlsbad’s Omni Resort and Spa. The WTT held its first all-star event to kick off its 45th season and by all accounts, it was an ace.

“It was well-executed and it worked,” Silva said.

The gathering drew not only tennis standouts Maria Sharapova, Rancho Santa Fe’s CoCo Vandeweghe and the Bryan twins, but oh brother, what a crowd. A sellout of 2,500 was announced for an event which will be broadcast on CBS on April 4 and it seemed everyone exited with a smile after Team Bryan Brothers beat Team Sharapova, 22-13.

“Good memories to be back here,” said Sharapova, a WTT veteran.

In the days preceding the match Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion, announced her retirement. But she still put aside two dates in July to play in the WTT.

That’s A-OK with Silva as big names bring big exposure. And his task is to lengthen the time WTT is relevant, other than its three-week summer season. That’s when the San Diego Aviators call the La Costa site home.

“We have a great five-year plan to continue to grow,” Silva said.

Maria Sharapova waves to fans at the WTT Celebrity All-Star Match on March 1 at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad. Photo by Shawn Schrager

The WTT is among five U.S. pro sports leagues to have been in operation for more than 40 years. While others might guess that the MLB, NFL, NHL and the NBA, including the WTT in that alphabet soup might be a challenge.

But the WTT, which started in 1974, is flexing its muscles after adding successful franchises in Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida, last year. Next up is Chicago coming on board as the league with a wind at its back continues to flourish.

It will soon start negotiating on new deals with CBS and ESPN, with Silva, a veteran of sports and media platforms, in charge.

“The spring all-star event helps get us excited for the season that is coming in July,” said Silva, who’s in his second year with WTT. “Now we’re thinking of doing something in the fall, too.”

The Aviators, which are owned by Del Mar’s Fred Luddy, spring to life each summer. They present a mix of tennis in which someone striking the ball isn’t the only entertainment.

Instead, it’s a fast-paced two hours with music, crowd participation, unrestrained cheering and just about everything else someone wouldn’t see, say, at Wimbledon.

And with the WTT adding $1 million in prize money this season, it’s aligned that many of the sport’s stars will raise a racquet to match the racket from the spectators.

“Tennis can be a lonely sport so this way the players get to enjoy the team atmosphere,” Silva, 55, said. “Plus, they can make some money and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

It seems the WTT has the right man in Silva, to lead a league which is partially owned by Luddy. Two men with local ties aren’t going for a tie-breaker regarding WTT.

They want to win over new fans in a lively endeavor that is showing its age in a good way.