By Bill Tamburrino
Doug Failla recently returned to competitive tennis. Doug started playing tennis at the age of 7 and started playing competitive tennis at the age of 9.
His mom (Nancy) and dad (Don) got him and his brother Greg started in the state of Washington and the two have been playing tennis literally all over the world ever since.
Doug played on Ramona’s first league and CIF championship tennis team and graduated from RHS in 1985. He went to Grossmont College and played on Grossmont’s first state championship team. He played two years at Long Beach State and when the Forty Niners (they are only Dirt Bags in baseball) dropped the tennis program Doug transferred to Drake University and was the Missouri Valley Conference champion and MVP.
After college Doug played on several professional circuits in America and Europe. That is where the coaching bug bit Doug. He coached his brother on the pro tour in 1991. The bug took him to UNLV where he coached Luke Smith to a National Championship in singles and Smith and Tim Blenkiron in doubles for the Rebels. He also continued to compete in tournaments.
Doug moved from Vegas to Puerto Rico where he continued to play and coach. He played with the Puerto Rican Davis Cup Team while working as a tennis professional at the Palmas Del Mar Resort.
He returned to Ramona and continued to coach but stopped playing competitively in 2001.
Doug has coached the boys’ tennis team at RHS for nine years and the girls for eight years. He contemplated a career in education and started working on a teaching credential and substitute teaching.
He loves history and has a degree in history. He loves tennis even more. So when an opportunity came that allowed him to continue teaching and stay in tennis at the same time, he decided not to teach history but to teach tennis.
Doug is the tennis director and head pro at Riviera Oaks Resort and Racquet Club. There are dream jobs and there is heaven. Doug considers teaching tennis and working at a tennis resort closer to heaven than a dream job.
“I desire to use my gifts to teach and coach tennis,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to use my leadership skills to positively influence the next generation. I am very blessed.”
After 10 years of playing recreational tennis and maybe a tournament or two a year, Doug was bitten by the same bug that got him when he was 9.
“I had almost forgotten how much fun competitive tennis was,” he said. “I worked out some with Leland Rolling, who represented the U.S. in the 45 year old division championships in New Zealand. I turn 49 this year and figured that it would be a great idea to compete again. Every five years senior tennis players enter a new age group. I had to get into singles shape, which is different than doubles shape. It was the right time.”
Doug continued playing with Rolling and his brother and after seven months he got back into shape and tournament play. Not just any tournament. Doug entered the 125th SCTA Sectional Championship Tournament in Claremont.
Southern California is a hotbed for tennis and Doug decided to go for the big one. Doug is a member of Team Babolat, but paid his own entry fee.
Off the court Doug is quiet and soft-spoken. He is an excellent communicator. His players and students respect him.
On the court he is a different person. He is confident and he is aggressive—very aggressive. He is a fierce competitor. His competitive spirit comes out while he is coaching an RHS match, but it really comes out when he is on the court.
“My strengths are my serve and my forehand,” he said. “When I am making shots I can hold my own. I get aggressive with my serve and forehand.
“When you enter a tennis tournament you worry about winning in the first round. Once you get started and get the first win under your belt you gain more and more confidence. I had been working out with Leland and my brother and I had confidence in my game. After the first round win I got more and more confident. When I made it to the second week I thought that I had a good shot.”
Doug was not seeded in the tournament and was in the bracket with the number one seed. He beat Jeroslav Melka of Torrance in the opening round of play 6-0 and 6-1.
In the quarterfinals he beat the number three seed, Jason Guillen of Santa Ana 6-4 and 6-2, and he advanced to week two of the tourney.
Doug faced Leif Nordlund of Palm Desert in the semifinals. Nordlund came from behind to upset the number one seed Peter Davidson of Laguna Beach. Failla beat Nordlund in two tough sets 6-3 and 6-4 to earn a berth in the championship finals. Doug beat Bruce Beinlich of Fullerton 6-0 and 6-2 to win the Sectional Championship.
“I am gearing up for the national 45-year-olds’ Hard Court Championships in June. I would like to someday be able to represent the United States like Leland has done. Maybe make a U.S. Senior team. Right now I am really enjoying the competition. I plan on entering six to seven tournaments a year and see where that takes me.”
Doug loves tennis, loves teaching tennis, loves coaching tennis and loves playing tennis. He is doing what he loves to do and he is doing it well.
Doug loves the fact that the loves of his life, his wife Kim and his son Christian, are cheering for him. He is blessed indeed.