| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

World TeamTennis (WTT) is tennis like you’ve never seen it, featuring the biggest names in the world playing together in an innovative co-ed team format that offers exciting possibilities for players, fans and communities. The 10-team league was co-founded by Billie Jean King in the early 1970s.

The format of matches is that 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 tie-breaker is played if a set reaches four all. If necessary, overtime and a “super tie-breaker” are played to determine the outright winner of the match.

The 2009 Advanta WTT Pro League regular season runs July 2-22 in 10 U.S. markets, with the top two teams from both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference advancing to the Conference Finals on July 24. The Conference Champions will compete in the Advanta WTT Finals on Sunday, July 26 at a location still to be determined.

Players from 17 countries will play in WTT this season, but it’s a team of young Americans that will make league history this summer. The defending WTT Champion New York Buzz selected World TeamTennis’s youngest team ever, with a lineup of four up-and-coming American junior prospects, a WTT first. The new-look Buzz will feature two 17-year-olds, Alex Domijan and Evan King, 17, and two 16-year-olds, Christina McHale and Sloane Stephens.
Earlier this year, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) became a minority owner of World TeamTennis, and the organizations are teaming up to promote the growth and development of youth team tennis in the U.S.
“One of the main goals of the USTA’s partnership with World TeamTennis is to create innovative new ways to showcase our sport,” said Lucy S. Garvin, chairman of the board and president of USTA. “By creating this WTT team that features some of the country’s top junior prospects, the young players will gain valuable experience while showcasing our next generation of up-and-coming talent to new audiences.”

The lineup for the U.S. team was put together by Patrick McEnroe, general manager, USTA player development and his USTA coaching staff.

“An integral part of our new player development philosophy is to foster a team concept among our rising junior talent, while providing them the best opportunities to face tough competition,” said McEnroe. “The New York Buzz will provide the perfect opportunity to fulfill both these goals for the boys and girls working with the USTA.”
Buzz owner Nitty Singh has a long history of supporting young tennis talent.

“We are extremely excited to showcase America’s finest juniors on our New York Buzz team this season,” said Singh. “This keeps with our tradition of presenting the game’s future stars, such as Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport.”

Big names will certainly take the court for WTT this summer as well. Marquee players including Maria Sharapova (Newport Beach Breakers), Venus Williams and Andre Agassi (Philadelphia Freedoms), Serena Williams (Washington Kastles), Kim Clijsters and Anna Kournikova (St. Louis Aces), Martina Navratilova (Boston Lobsters), John McEnroe (New York Sportimes), Michael Chang (Sacramento Capitals), and Mike and Bob Bryan (Kansas City Explorers) are all going to compete.

The local team here on Long Island and in New York City is the New York Sportimes. They will be playing home matches at their brand new facility on Randall’s Island.

The Sportimes finalized their roster on March 31. The team protected Sportime’s star and New York City tennis icon, John McEnroe, who will play five matches for the Sportimes in his 10th year as a member of the team. One of 10 teams participating in the WTT player draft, the Sportimes drafted in the eighth position as a result of their success in 2008, when they were one of four teams to qualify for the 2008 league finals. The Sportimes made a deal with the St. Louis Aces to swap first-round picks, which allowed the Sportimes to secure the first pick in the first round of the draft. The Sportimes used that pick to draft top American player Robert Kendrick, who played for the team twice before; first in 2001 and then in 2005 when the team was crowned WTT champions. In round two, the Sportimes protected WTT Rookie of the Year, and crowd favorite, Jesse Witten, who returns for his third consecutive season with the team. In round three, the team selected Ashley Harkleroad, who returns for her third season as a member of the Sportimes, having played in 2006 and 2007. Harkleroad, who has remained in the headlines as a top 100 player, returns to the Sportimes as a new mom of baby Charles IV, with proud dad Chuck Adams joining his family for his third year as the Sportimes coach. In round four, the Sportimes completed its roster by selecting American doubles specialist Christina Fusano.

McEnroe will play for the Sportimes at Sportime Stadium on Monday, July 13, and in a special legends match-up, versus the Boston Lobsters and their star Martina Navratilova, on Wednesday, July 15. Marquee players visiting Sportime Stadium in 2009 include: Anna Kournikova (Tuesday, July 7 playing for the St. Louis Aces), Serena Williams (Friday, July 10 playing for the Washington Kastles); Martina Navratilova (Wednesday, July 15 playing for the Boston Lobsters); and the Bryan Brothers (Friday, July 17 playing for the Kansas City Explorers). The Sportimes’ home opener is scheduled for Tuesday, July 7 at Sportime Stadium at 7:00 p.m. on Randall’s Island.

New York Sportimes Player Draft Results

Protected Player: John McEnroe
Long Island’s own John McEnroe is a former world number one-ranked professional tennis player. McEnroe won seven Grand Slam singles titles—three at Wimbledon and four at the U.S. Open—nine Grand Slam men’s doubles titles, and one Grand Slam mixed-doubles title.

 

Photo credit: Getty ImagesRound #1: Robert Kendrick
California born and raised, and a former All-American at Pepperdine, Robert Kendrick turned pro in 2000 and achieved a career-high ranking of 77th in the world in 2007. Kendrick was a member of the Sportimes’ 2001 and 2005 WTT championship team.

 

Photo credit: Getty ImagesRound #2: Jesse Witten
A native of Naples, Fla., Jesse Witten is a former NCAA finalist who played for Kentucky and turned pro in 2005. He achieved a career-high singles ranking of 171st in 2006. He was the WTT Male Rookie of the Year in 2007. This is Jesse’s third consecutive season playing WTT for the New York Sportimes.

 

Photo credit: William Morris AgencyRound #3: Ashley Harkleroad
Born in Georgia, Ashley Harkleroad achieved a career-high singles ranking of 39th in the world in singles in 2003 and 39th in doubles in 2007. She carried the Sportimes to a WTT conference title in 2006. She is the winner of eight ITF singles titles and five ITF doubles titles. This is her third year playing for the Sportimes and her fourth WTT season.

 

Photo credit: Camerawork USA, Fred and Susan MullaneRound #4: Christina Fusano
Christina Fusano turned pro in 2003 and achieved a career high doubles ranking of 84th in the world in 2008. Born in the United States, Christina is the winner of eight ITF Tour (one with Harkleroad) and one WTA Tour doubles titles. This is her first year playing for the Sportimes and her second season playing WTT.

Photo credit: Camerawork USA, Fred MullaneAnna Kournikova from the St. Louis Aces celebrates a victory over the Springfield Lasers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Camerawork USA, Fred and Susan MullanePlay during a WTT doubles match featuring Bob & Mike Bryan from the Kansas City Explorers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Camerawork USA, Fred and Susan MullaneMartina Navratilova of the Boston Lobsters pumps her fist during a World TeamTennis match