It was a fitting reminder about how long Bill Nissley has been involved in the local tennis community.
Months ago, he and Tom Larmore met with the city’s director of community and cultural services, Karen Ginsberg, to discuss the 100th anniversary of the Dudley Cup tournament.
But Ginsberg had crossed paths with Nissley before.
“She said she had taken lessons from him years ago,” Larmore said. “You hear that all the time.”
The centennial of what is believed to be Santa Monica’s longest-running sporting event has come and gone, but it didn’t pass without participants, organizers and community members acknowledging the role of Nissley, its longtime director.
Nissley, who has run the Dudley Cup for more than 40 years, was recognized in a ceremony Saturday morning at Reed Park. Among the attendees were State Sen. Ben Allen, who took lessons from Nissley, as well as Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez and other dignitaries, as well as several former students and their families.
The youth tournament was held over the last two weekends, wrapping up with championship finals for single and doubles in all age groups April 3 at Reed Park.
Previous editions of the annual Dudley Cup featured junior players who earned fame in the professional ranks, including Venus Williams, Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, Dodo Cheney, Jack Kramer, Tracy Austin and Gussie Moran. In conjunction with the tournament’s landmark anniversary, the Santa Monica Conservancy on April 2 hosted tours of the Ocean Avenue house in Santa Monica where the late Moran lived.
But the storied tournament has maintained its presence in Santa Monica thanks in large part to the work of Nissley, who also runs the annual Santa Monica Open.
“Bill has been coaching teen tennis in Santa Monica for more than 40 years and he and his family have been involved with the Dudley Cup since his father ran it,” said Larmore, who was involved in the planning of the tournament’s centennial. “It’s amazing to learn how many people have taken lessons from Bill.”
Tournament committee spokesman Bill Polkinghorn said the Dudley Cup wouldn’t be as popular without Nissley’s leadership and vision.
“He labors selflessly and exhaustingly to operate these tournaments on a shoestring budget,” Polkinghorn said ahead of the ceremony. “We want to personally acknowledge him.”
Organizers also paid tribute to the longevity of an event that has cemented its status as one of Santa Monica’s enduring traditions.
As Nissley prepared for the 86th edition of the Santa Monica Open last summer, he recognized the importance of the event as a precursor to the Dudley Cup’s 100th anniversary. And he was already looking forward to watching the young players who will carve out the second century of the tournament’s history.
When the tournament was launched 100 years ago, then-Mayor Thomas Dudley purchased two large silver cups as trophies for the male and female champions. It was determined that players who won the event three years in a row could keep the cup.
This year, Nissley arranged for the winners to receive special centennial medals.