World TeamTennis (WTT) is a mixed-gender professional tennis
league played with a team format
in the United States
, which was founded in 1973.
Originally played on a no-line court
, each match consists of five sets. Each set features a different configuration (men's singles, men's doubles, women's singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles). Prior to each match, coaches decide the order in which the sets will be played. Each player on a team usually plays in at least one of the five sets. Scoring is no-advantage; there is no requirement to win a game by two scores; at deuce
, whoever scores the next point wins the game. The first team to reach five games wins each set. A nine-point tiebreaker is played if a set reaches four-all. One point is awarded for each game won. If necessary, extended play and a supertiebreaker are played to determine the winner of the match.
The league's season normally takes place in the summer months. Players from the ATP
take a break from their tour schedules to partake in World TeamTennis.
World Team Tennis (WTT) was founded in 1973 by Dennis Murphy
, Dick Butera, Fred Barman, Jordan Kaiser, and attorney and promoter Larry King
, each of whom organized and owned the various participating teams of the fledgling professional tennis league. Murphy had previously founded the World Hockey Association
, and gave a number of WHA club owners preferential options on WTT franchises.
Charles "Chuck" Reichblum
(now popularly known as "Dr. Knowledge"), industrialist John H. Hillman III, and lawyer William "Bill" Sutton, who became the owners of the Pittsburgh Triangles
, had, in 1972, founded the similar National Tennis League (NTL), a forerunner to WTT and Reichblum's brainchild. Founding members of WTT were reported to have been invited to join the NTL prior to formation of the competing WTT in 1973.
In 1974, Billie Jean King
began the first WTT season by securing the professional women tennis players, and Dr. Leonard Bloom, Arthur Ashe
and Wilt Chamberlain
, securing the professional men tennis players..
The league began play in May 1974, with George MacCall as Commissioner of the 16 teams, many with tennis-themed nicknames. The Eastern Division consisted of the Atlantic Section: Baltimore Banners, Boston Lobsters, New York Sets, Philadelphia Freedoms; and the Central Section: Cleveland Nets, Detroit Loves, Pittsburgh Triangles, Toronto-Buffalo Royals. The Western Division consisted of the Gulf Plains Section: Chicago Aces, Florida Flamingos, Houston E-Z Riders, Minnesota Buckskins; and the Pacific Section: Denver Racquets, Hawaii Leis, Los Angeles Strings, San Francisco Golden Gaters. In later years, teams included
The original league format included a four-colored tennis court, a 44-contest season, and teams of at least two men and two women. A match consisted of the first player or team to win five games, with a nine-point tiebreaker at four-all, and no-ad scoring in women's singles and doubles, men's singles and doubles, and mixed doubles. This made WTT the first professional sports league to grant equal status to each man and woman competing for their teams.
Following the initial 1974 season several teams moved, folded, or failed to meet the financial requirements of the league, and the league also added one expansion team, the San Diego Friars. For the 1975 season World Team Tennis consisted of 10 teams, and it remained with that number of teams throughout the rest of the existence of the first league.
* Boston Lobsters (1974)
* Chicago Aces
* Cincinnati (never played) / Cleveland Nets
(1974–1976) / Cleveland-Pittsburgh Nets
(1977) / New Orleans Sun Belt Nets
* Dallas (1979 expansion franchise – never played)
* Denver Racquets
(1974) / Phoenix Racquets
* Detroit Loves
(1974) / Indiana Loves
* Golden Gate Otters
(never played) / San Francisco Golden Gaters
* Houston E-Z Riders
* Los Angeles (1979 expansion franchise – never played)
* Los Angeles Strings
* Minnesota Buckskins
* New York Sets
(1974–1976) / New York Apples
[ References both "Sets" and "Apples".]
* Pennsylvania Keystones (never played) / Soviet National Team
(1977, often simply called "The Soviets") / Anaheim Oranges
* Philadelphia Freedoms (1974)
/ Boston Lobsters
* Phoenix (never played) / Baltimore Banners
* Pittsburgh Triangles
* St. Louis (never played) / Florida Flamingos
* San Diego (1979 expansion franchise – never played)
* San Diego Friars
* San Diego Swingers
(never played) / Hawaii Leis
(1974–1976) / Sea-Port Cascades
(1977) / Seattle Cascades
* Toronto-Buffalo Royals
(1974) / Hartford Royals (never played)
WTT also held annual All-Star games for the seasons from 1975 to 1978. Marty Riessen
(Cleveland) and Greer Stevens
(Boston) won Most Valuable Players (MVP) honors for the inaugural all-star gala won by the East, 28–21, at the Inglewood Forum
in Los Angeles. In 1976 the West All-Stars, led by Chris Evert
and Betty Stöve
, capped an incredible comeback when they defeated Billie Jean King
and Evonne Goolagong
in a super tiebreaker, 5–4, giving the West a stunning 28–27 overtime victory at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. After trailing at one stage by 24–17, the West, led by Stove and Dianne Fromholtz
, won the final set plus two games in overtime to draw the West All-Stars even at 27.
(San Francisco) and Dianne Fromholtz (Los Angeles) won MVP honors that year. In the 1977 All Star Game held at the San Diego Sports Arena, Björn Borg
(Cleveland-Pittsburgh) and Betty Stove (Seattle-Portland) captured MVP awards as the East bested the West, 23–18. WTT held its final All-Star event in Las Vegas in 1978.
WTT was the first professional sports experience for Jerry Buss
(eventual owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers
and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings
), and for Bob Kraft
(eventual owner of the NFL's New England Patriots
and MLS's New England Revolution
, a friend of Billie Jean King, wrote the hit single "Philadelphia Freedom
" as a theme song for his favorite team.
The first league ended play in 1978.
The league resumed play in 1981 as TeamTennis and fluctuated between four and twelve teams. In 1992, the name was changed back to World TeamTennis (WTT). In 2005, twelve teams competed.
Billie Jean King became Commissioner and major owner of the league in 1984, following her retirement from tournament tennis competition. She retired as Commissioner in February 2001 and Ilana Kloss
became the new commissioner. In March 2017, King sold WTT to venture capitalist Mark Ein and founder of ServiceNow Fred Luddy
In 2013, World TeamTennis was re-branded Mylan World TeamTennis after Mylan
, a generics and specialty pharmaceuticals company, announced a three-year agreement to serve as the title sponsor of WTT.
In Jan 2019, Carlos Silva became the CEO and ushered in new deals with CBS and ESPN creating the largest ever audience for WTT on July 21 on CBS broadcast.
Many top tennis players have participated in the league over the years, including King, Rod Laver
, Björn Borg
, Chris Evert
, John McEnroe
, Evonne Goolagong
, Jimmy Connors
, Martina Navratilova
, Andre Agassi
, Pete Sampras
, Michael Chang
, Serena Williams
, Venus Williams
, Lindsay Davenport
, Kim Clijsters
, Martina Hingis
, John Isner
, Sam Querrey
, Sloane Stephens
, Naomi Osaka
, Frances Tiafoe
and many more. Connors and Goolagong were not allowed to participate in the 1974 French Open
due to their associations with WTT. Connors' exclusion from the French Open denied him the opportunity to become the first male player since Rod Laver
to win all four Major singles titles in a calendar year.
League play resumed in 1981 as TeamTennis with four California
teams, expanding to eight teams in 1982. In 1985 a recreational league for non-professionals was added, which was co-branded with the professional league.
In 1992, the current name World TeamTennis was restored.
* Minnesota Penguins
* Idaho Sneakers
* New Jersey Stars
, 1987–1995 (relocated and became the Delaware Smash)
* Phoenix Smash
In 2000 the current logo was adopted. In 2005 & 2006 the league consisted of 12 teams and in 2007 the Hartford FoxForce
ceased operations. Prior to the 2008 season, the Houston Wranglers ceased operations and the Washington Kastles joined the league. In the 2009 season, 10 teams competed: Boston, NY Buzz, NY Sportime, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Kansas City, Newport Beach, Sacramento, Springfield, and St. Louis. Sacramento won the year-end Championship six times.
Before the start of the 2011 season the New York Buzz
and the New York Sportimes
merged into one New York team, the Sportimes. During the 2011 season the Washington Kastles completed a perfect 16–0 schedule, winning their second championship in three seasons.
In 2012, the Washington Kastles completed their second consecutive perfect season, going 16–0 for the second season in a row to become the first professional sports franchise to go two complete seasons without a loss. Their 32-match winning streak is one shy of the major professional sports record of 33 consecutive wins set by the 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers
of the National Basketball Association
. They began the next season with 2 wins making their streak 34 games, setting the new record.
In 2013, World TeamTennis was renamed Mylan World TeamTennis after Mylan signed a three-year deal as the title sponsor. The Kansas City Explorers
relocated to Irving, Texas, and became the Texas Wild
. On November 21, 2013, the Orange County Breakers
were sold, relocated to Austin, Texas and renamed the Austin Aces
. On January 16, 2014, the New York Sportimes
were sold, relocated to San Diego and renamed the San Diego Aviators
. On February 4, 2014, the Sacramento Capitals
were relocated to Las Vegas and renamed the Las Vegas Neon. On March 5, 2014 the Las Vegas Neon franchise was terminated, leaving the league with seven teams.
On February 23, 2015, WTT announced that a new ownership group had taken control of the Texas Wild
and moved the team to Citrus Heights, California
, renaming it the California Dream
On January 13, 2016, WTT announced that the California Dream
franchise had been terminated. On February 17, 2016, the Boston Lobsters
had ceased operations and had been replaced with a new franchise called the New York Empire
. On March 13, 2017, Billie Jean King announced the sale of her majority share in WTT to Mark Ein, Washington Kastles founder and owner and Fred Luddy, owner of the San Diego Aviators.
In March 2019, the league announced its expansion to eight teams for the 2019 season, with the creation of the Orlando Storm
and the Vegas Rollers
On October 23, 2019, the league announced it would be awarding a record $5 million in prize money, including an additional $1 million for the postseason, during its 45th season and would be expanding again, adding two new franchises in 2020.
In February 2020, the league announced its expansion to nine teams for the 2020 season with the Chicago Smash
In June 2020, WTT announced it would be the first major professional tennis league to resume operations since the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19
. The league committed to play the entirety of its 45th season at The Greenbrier
in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
from July 12-Aug. 2.
Current WTT teams are shown in bold.
For much of World Team Tennis' history, its distinct court was an instant symbol for fans to recognize what they were watching. The iconic four color (calico) court originated in the early 1970s and was unveiled for the third season in 1976. It was originally created to eliminate court lines (no-line court
). Originally, the service boxes were blue and green, the baseline area brown and the doubles alleys maroon. These colors were chosen to represent the different tennis court
surfaces: green for grass, blue for hard, maroon for clay and brown for dirt.
The league's technicolor playing surface served as a trendsetter for the rest of the tennis world. The Indian Wells Masters
has purple courts.
Over time lines were introduced to WTT's courts, purple replaced the brown and they reverted to traditional solid-colored courts. But in 2006, the league returned full-time to the signature calico/checkerboard pattern.
In 2019, along new CEO Carlos Silva, the league made efforts to modernize and update its look and branding and that included a switch to a deep blue playing surface and gray outer court. In partnership with DecoTurf, these colors were determined to be the best for livestreaming and television.
* U.S. intercollegiate team tennis champions
* Greg Hoffman, The Art of World Team Tennis, San Francisco Book Company, 1977
World TeamTennis, Official WebsiteBrief History of World TeamTennis
From the WTT site.
More WTT Logos
*WTT Player Rosters
Category:1973 establishments in New York (state)
Category:Tennis leagues in the United States
Category:Exhibition tennis tournaments
Category:Sports leagues established in 1973
Category:Sports leagues in the United States
Category:Professional sports leagues in the United States