Posted by: Ethan Johnson | July 15, 2010

Discoveries: World Team Tennis

My browser’s default home page is Google. I figure more often than not, when I sit down at the computer, I am invariably going to search for something. Having Google at the ready means the search is “on” at a moment’s notice.

My TV, however, defaults to the Tennis Channel. We’re in-between Grand Slam events right now, but I have been reading the crawl out of the corner of my eye and noticed scorelines for the “Buzz” and the “Kastles”, for example. Wait, what?

A short web search later, I learned that these are two of ten teams that make up World Team Tennis.

World Team Tennis was created 35 years ago by Billie Jean King, and if there’s anything more impressive than the team rosters, it’s the rules.

Each team is comprised of two men, two women and a coach. Team matches consist of five sets, with one set each of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

The first team to reach five games wins each set. One point is awarded for each game won, and a nine-point tiebreaker is played if a set reaches four all. If necessary, Overtime and a “Supertiebreaker” are played to determine the outright winner of the match.

This is huge. Actually, WTT is tiny, and plays a extremely short season (under a month), but wow, do I wish that Dallas or Chicago had WTT representation.

The point of the league is that big-name talent (normally seen in Grand Slam events, such as Venus Williams or Andy Roddick) plays an intimate venue and is part of a roster, rather than being the focal point of the match. So while you want players like Venus Williams or Andy Roddick to win their singles match, they also have to perform in men’s, women’s, or mixed doubles so fans see a complete performance by their team. I have heard complaints about female tennis players somehow lacking legitimacy because their matches are 3 sets max, whereas men play 5-set matches. I would expect that this could lead to a sense that male players solely define the sport, and women are just along for the ride. WTT shatters that assumption and makes male and female players equal in importance as the teams vie to win as many of the 5-game matches as possible.

Additionally, what I like about WTT (fresh off of the “discovery”) is that it is like seeing an arena rock band playing at the corner bar. These are players that do (or did, like John McEnroe or Martina Hingis) sell out major arenas but play in a much smaller venue under the auspices of WTT. I’d love the chance to see players like Venus Williams or Andy Roddick in a small local venue. St Louis is my best shot, maybe next season.

I wrote a while back at my other blog that sporting events are, for me, “the new concerts“. John McEnroe and Martina Hingis are “in concert” with WTT? I wish I could be there. If you can, please check the site and make plans to see unique tennis action. What a find!

If you’re out of market like me but want to see WTT for yourself, tune in to the Tennis Channel. Check your local listings.

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