Must Be A Blue Moon: It’s Men’s Night Doubles In Kailua

Some events are all about the participants. Others are all about the spectators.

The event that perhaps caters best to both may be the Kailua Racquet Club’s annual Blue Moon Men’s Night Doubles Tournament, Born more than 40 years ago, it remains the signature tennis tournament in the state. Thousands are once again expected to fill the seats at this year’s Men’s Night Doubles Tournament, which begins Sunday (July 21) and runs through Aug. 3.

“What makes the tournament special is all of the things that go along with actual play – the music, the food, the booths, the giveaways really attract the spectators,” said Bruce Nagel, tournament director and longtime Kailua Racquet Club manager. “And the players really want to put on a good show. It’s the biggest event of the year for a lot of them. They put their heart and soul into it.”

When Nagel visited the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, back in April, pride in his own tournament swelled further.

“There were fewer people there than at the Men’s Night Doubles Tournament,” he observed.

Among the players, the tournament has long since acquired a huge following as well. Said Aiea resident Dennis Lajola, who was the first University of Hawaii player ever to be named as the Western Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year back in 2011: “I like to play in it every time I can. It is one of my favorite tournaments to play.”

Lajola, who turned pro two years ago, is part of the top-seeded team for this year’s event. He’ll be paired with Michael Yani, whose pro ranking has risen as high as 143rd in the world (in 2010). This year will mark Yani’s first appearance at the Men’s Night Doubles Tournament.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a player ranked as high as he,” Nagel said of Yani, “and Dennis is probably the best player to come out of Hawaii in the last 15 years.”

As in past years, the Night Doubles Tournament will use a “block-seeding” format. The first week will see 50 teams compete for the eight remaining spots that lead into the main draw. The top eight teams are seeded and automatically advance to the second week’s main draw. In addition to competing for $7,500 in prize money, tournament participants also will try to bolster their chances to win the Triple Crown of Tennis in Hawaii. The Men’s Night Doubles Tournament is one of three tournaments (along with tourneys operated by the USTA-Hawaii Pacific Section as well as the Oahu Club) that make up the Triple Crown. A point system from all three events decides the Triple Crown champion.

The 2013 field of players may be the best ever. Also back are two-time defending champions Mika Maatta and Jan Tribler. The pair also won the Triple Crown last year, having accumulated enough points despite missing one of the three events because of work commitments.

The team of Wei Yu Su and Minh Le also will take part this year and enter the event seeded third. The pair won four straight Men’s Night Doubles Tournaments from 2005 to 2008 before a third-place finish in 2009. (Kendall Char holds the tournament record for titles, having been part of five championship teams.)

Seeded fourth is the team of Ikaika Jobe and Thomas Shubert.

“The top four seeded teams have a lot of history here,” said Nagel.

Visitors to this year’s Men’s Night Doubles Tournament also have the opportunity to sample food prepared by the Kailua Racquet Club’s newly hired chef, Camille Komine.

Komine’s food truck, “Camille’s on Wheels,” recently was chosen as a two-time winner of the best food truck in Hawaii.

For more information on Kailua Racquet Club’s annual Blue Moon Men’s Night Doubles Tournament, call 262-2057.