Well, this answers my question.
League is trailblazer of women, equal rights
World Team Tennis opens up its 24th consecutive year of league play this week, yet many sports fans are unaware of the league's influential history.
Some things to know:
A league of firsts:
Among other things, the groundbreaking WTT is the first league to have a female commissioner (Billie Jean King in 1984), the first professional sports league where men and women have equal roles and the first in pro tennis to play out let serves.
Hold off on the gold watch:
Martina Navratilova is playing her 16th WTT season, this year for the New York Buzz. She came up with the Cleveland Nets in '76. Navratilova, 47, also is chasing Jimmy Connors' mark as the oldest WTT player. Sure, Navratilova won Wimbledon nine times and has a ton of doubles crowns. But she also was WTT MVP from 1991-93, playing for the Atlanta Thunder.
Connors, who has a long WTT history, was a 48-year-old starter for the Philadelphia Freedoms in 2001. He won the 1991 rookie award and shared the 1993 MVP award with Trevor Kroneman.
The bride and groom wore white:
Tami Whitlinger and Kelly Jones met in 1991 while playing for the Capitals. They married in 1994 and played together again in 1996 with the Delaware Smash. Jones, a former No. 1 doubles player, has retired from the ATP Tour and is coaching the Hartford FoxForce's Mardy Fish among others. Whitlinger, 35, last played a Grand Slam event in 1997. Also, Kerry Melville Reid, winner of the 1997 Australian Open, and Raz Reid met in 1974 playing for the Boston Lobsters and married in 1976.
We are family:
Family ties in WTT play include brothers John and Patrick McEnroe (several times). Luke, Murphy and Rebecca Jensen (Explorers, '95). Doug and Ken Flach (Atlanta Thunder, '95) and coach Rick Flach (St. Louis Aces, '95). Bob and Mike Bryan and father/coach Wayne (Idaho Sneakers, '99); the Bryan twins are with the Newport Beach Breakers this year, and Wayne is in his third season as the Sacramento Capitals' coach. Venus and Serena Williams (2000). Jon and Rick Leach (several teams), father Dick (coach of the Breakers) and Jon's wife, Lindsay Davenport (Breakers, '03).
Teams are always in teh hunt. On Sept. 17, 1997 the Explorers were down nine games going into the final set. John Laffnie de Jager and Wesley Whitehouse then teamed up to defeat the WTT's top-seeded team. Richey Reneberg and Brian MacPhie 6-0. The match was tied in ovetime, and teh Explorers won teh Super-tiebreaker 7-3 to take the match 225-24.
Maria Sharapova was the WTT's youngest player, at 15 years, 2 months in July 2002 when she made her debut with the Smash. She's back, with the Breakers, and July 14 plays her first match since winning Wimbledon.
Newport Beach, then known as the Dukes, went 14-0 in 1994, led by serve-and-volley doubles star Larisa Neiland. She was also the season's MVP.
WTT at 24
What is World TeamTennis?
A summer league for professional players founded 30 years ago. Think of it as summer camp for pros tucked between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. There are five teams in the Eastern Conference and five in the Western. Each team plays 14 regular-season matches.
The medium is the message:
Think gender equity: founders Billie Jean King and Larry King wanted a co-ed league where men and women have equal roles when they launched WTT in 1974. It was a busy time for Billie Jean. The year before, she beat Bobby Riggs in three straight sets, then started the Women's Sports Foundation. Thirty years later, she still gets fired up about equal play and pay.
Billie Jean King says WTT matches are all about fun for fans and the players, and she points to the number of top pros who have joined her league each summer as proof. Martina, Monica, Jimmy, Andre, Boris, Bjorn, Venus and Serena. Go ahead and cheer, she says. If you catch a ball hit out, it's yours, just like at a baseball game. Also, like baseball or basketball, one player can sub in mid-game. Can you see that happening in Davis Cup?
East: Delaware (Wilmington) Smash, Hartford FoxForce, New York (Schenectady) Buzz, New York (Mamaroneck) Sportimes, Philadelphia Freedoms. West: Kansas City (Mo.) Explorers, Newport Beach (Calif.) Breakers, Sacramento Capitals, Springfield (Mo.) Lasers, St. Louis Aces.
The season began Monday and runs through July 25. Teams then take a break until the semifinals Aug. 27 at the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, N.Y., with the final Aug. 28, two days before the U.S. Open begins. Full schedule available at www.worldteamtennis.com
How it works:
Each team has two men, two women and a coach. Each match includes a set of men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles. The first team to win five games wins the set, with a tiebreaker for 4-all matches.
First- and second-tier pros from the ATP and WTA tours.
The Smash won in 2003 after Sacramento won from 1997-2000 and 2002.
Patrick Rafter is with the Freedoms, Andre Agassi is a Capital, Andy Roddick's an Ace and Anna Kournikova is an Explorer.
What might have been:
Agassi will play against St. Louis and Philadelphia but won't face Rafter, who's going against Springfield and St. Louis. Reserved seats for Rafter's July 21 outing in Philadelphia are sold out.
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