The Washington Kastles are hoping to retain their World Team Tennis Championship starting this weekend at the beautiful Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C. That is the location of the WTT Final Four and the WTT Championship.
Venus Williams leads the undefeated Kastles into the Eastern Conference Championship match against their rival New York Sportimes featuring John McEnroe and Martina Hingis The Kastles are riding a 30-match win streak, the second longest in U.S. pro sports team history. The match is Saturday live at 6:30p.m. ET on broadband on www.wtt.com or on tape delay at 12:30a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
The WTT Finals can be seen Sunday on both NBC Sports Network and WTT.com starting at 3:30p.m. ET.
We will see who raises the Billy Jean King Cup come Sunday. In the meantime, this week before she left New York City to head to South Carolina, I spoke with World Team Tennis CEO and Commissioner Ilana Kloss about the league, the Kastles and what the future holds.
JW: What do the Kastles mean to the league?
Kloss:”The Kastles have set the bar very high. Their owner, Mark Ein has a true passion for the WTT and he has gone about building a franchise that we are all proud of and frankly we hope other owners will emulate. Kastles Stadium at The Wharf is a state of the art tennis facility and the great tennis fans of Washington come out and consistently fill the place up. You have the Williams Sisters as the team leaders along with head coach Murphy Jensen together they have built a fine team and they are clearly the favorites to repeat as champions.”
JW: What about the future of WTT?
Kloss: We are very proud of what we have right now in our league but we want to expand to at least 12 teams. We enjoy our television deal with NBC Sports Network and we are looking for a long term TV deal that will take on the league for a full season.We are very pro active on our own with our broadband WTT.com streaming video service that airs all of our matches live."
JW: It is a fun way way to watch tennis.
Kloss:"We have a unique format that allows for coaching of players during the matches. We have a team aspect so your teammates are there on the bench cheering you on. It is like a Davis Cup or a Federation Cup match in that way but instead of cheering for your country you are rooting for your local team.It really makes it fun for the crowds and gives fans a different look at tennis."
JW: What about WTT expansion?
Kloss:"12 seems the right number for now here in North America.However, in time a global WTT would be our overall goal. We would have teams in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and the Middle East. That would allow us to one day crown a true world champion. Clearly we have great ambitions but we also have a wonderful product.”
Just in case you are new to World Team Tennis, it has been around for almost 40 years. The league began back in 1973, and Billy Jean King lent her support and was a driving force behind the early success of the WTT.
There has been starts and stops for the WTT and the most recent version has been around since 2000. But this time the present version of the WTT seems very strong and well funded. The addition of three more teams seems very likely, and while tennis is looking for more ways to gain interest and popularity, for many the WTT might be a wonderful addition
*The quotes for this story were gathered first hand in an interview Wednesday conducted with Commissioner Ilana Kloss via phone.