World Team Tennis completed another successful season back in July. With a unique format and fast action, it’s no wonder it has been around for 35 years.
But what about its future? Well today, Tennis Ledger is proud to interview Bill Mountford, the former Director of the National Tennis Center and the LTA in England, who is currently Vice President of WTT.
Tennis Ledger: Tell us a little about the Elton John event in Washington, DC this November.
Bill Mountford: WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO is an annual charity event co-hosted by longtime friends Billie Jean King and Sir Elton John. Elton is a huge tennis fan and wanted to do something in the tennis community so he teamed up with Billie Jean to create Smash Hits. The money raised from this tennis event and pre-match reception, as well as the live auction, will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Washington AIDS Partnership. This is the first time in the event’s 18 year history that it will be held in the Washington, D.C. area. It’s a great night of tennis for a great cause. The talent is unbelievable – Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, James Blake, Anna Kournikova and we will be adding more names. All these tennis greats volunteer their time and talents and the quality of tennis is terrific. (NOTE: visit www.WTT.com/SmashHits for information and tickets.)
TL: How would you assess this past season of WTT?
BM: The 2010 season was a great celebration of the 35-season legacy of World TeamTennis. We had a season loaded with top players like Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, John McEnroe and the return of Martina Hingis among so many other recognizable names. In the WTT Pro League, we like to showcase three generations of tennis and bring quality, professional team tennis to supportive markets. Only two of our 10 markets have other big-time professional tennis events, so we recognize that it is vital to showcasing our sport in this country. Our 35th season culminated with one of the most exciting finals in recent history with the Kansas City Explorers winning their first-ever WTT Championship before a standing-room-only hometown crowd. It was a great finish to a memorable season.
TL: Are there any expansion plans on the horizon?
BM: As far as the WTT Pro League is concerned, we are not looking to expand beyond 10 teams in the U.S. right now. However we are discussing opportunities to take World TeamTennis to international markets. We had a successful WTT exhibition event at the 2010 Australian Open and we hope to build on that. On the Recreational TeamTennis side of the business, we are always seeking opportunities to establish new leagues in new markets. These WTT “Rec Leagues” are a great compliment to USTA Leagues all over the country, and there are 16,000 players who currently participate. We’d all love to see that number continue to grow.
TL: Any new innovations anticipated for 2011?
BM: We have begun preparations for the 2011 WTT Pro League season and we surely remain open to trying new things. My “blink” response to the question would be: “Yes!” WTT has been long been viewed as the “think tank” for professional tennis and we enjoy our role as innovators. It is likely that a few of our new ideas for the pro league – and for the overall betterment of our sport – will be put forth. Stay tuned on this…
TL: How actively involved is Billie Jean King with WTT?
BM: Billie Jean remains quite active with World TeamTennis, and WTT will always be a big part of her legacy in the sport. Along with CEO Ilana Kloss, she certainly remains the leading ambassador and spokesperson for WTT. Billie Jean has often said that if you want to see her philosophy on life, then you should watch a World TeamTennis match because it showcases men and women working together with equal contributions.
Richard Kent is the author of the tennis books “Inside The US Open” and “The Racket.”