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Tiburon Challenger brings future tennis stars to town — and into residents’ homes

Tiburon resident Karrie Groves (center), seen with godson Hudson, hosted Tiburon Challenger player Frances Tiafoe (left), along with twin Franklin, in 2016. Groves and her husband have been a tournament host family for at least a decade, she says, and they are hosting three players this year. The men’s pro-circuit competition runs Oct. 1-8 at the Tiburon Peninsula Club. (via USTA)

When Karrie Groves visited New York this summer, the Tiburon Highlands resident was hoping to catch up with an old friend — who just happened to be mid-tennis match. She rushed down courtside, where, she recalls, a group of fans seated nearby scoffed at the idea that Groves’ friend would recognize her, she recalled.

When she spotted him, she called out, “Frances!” — as in Frances Tiafoe, the world’s No. 11-ranked men’s tennis player. Tiafoe had just won his first-round match at the 2023 U.S. Open and was signing autographs for some kids. “And Frances, he looks up and he goes, ‘Karrie!’ and he reaches over and he gives me a big hug,” Groves said. “He goes, ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’”

Before Tiafoe amassed over 760,000 Instagram followers, became one of the world’s best tennis players and won a notable upset over Rafael Nadal at the 2022 U.S. Open, he stayed with Groves in Tiburon back in 2016 as he competed in the Tiburon Challenger, which brings emerging men’s pro-circuit players from around the world to the courts at the Tiburon Peninsula Club — and into local host families’ homes.

The tournament, which this year runs Oct. 1-8, is the level below the association’s World Tour. Players are trying to earn enough points to become eligible for the World Tour and the Grand Slam tournaments, which include the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

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