As the WTA and ATP seasons concluded with their respective year-ending championships this past week or so, World TeamTennis is being played out at one venue, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, home of the BNP Paribas Open in the United States, for the second consecutive season.
If you have ever seen a WTT match you have seen my philosophy of life in action – men and women, competing together, on a team and both genders making equal contributions to the result. Billie Jean King, World TeamTennis Founder
This is the third consecutive year that the championship match will be played at a neutral site on Sunday 28 November, and the 19th time in the league’s history.
Along with the defending champion New York Empire, the Orange County Breakers, San Diego Aviators, Springfield Lasers and Chicago Smash are playing for the King Trophy, the first time since 1981 that 5 or fewer teams will play in WTT.
Sponsored by more than a dozen sponsors, the WTT player field includes 24 combined Major titles between singles, doubles and mixed doubles champions, highlighted by Tennis Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Ranchos Palos Verdes native, and current No 1 ranked American Taylor Fritz.
WTT was co-founded by tennis legend and visionary Billie Jean King, and has continued to innovate the sport every year since its debut season in 1974.
The league introduced a number of fan-friendly initiatives, including playing let serves, timeouts, service clocks, men and women playing equal roles on a team, substitutions, instant replay, on-court coaching, music between points, names on back of players shirts, letting fans keep balls that are hit into the stands, Extended Play and the Supertiebreaker.
In 2017, WTT introduced on-player microphones, a first for pro tennis competition and, in July 2015, WTT became part of an elite and small list of US pro sports leagues to reach the 40th season milestone, joining the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.
The fast-paced action and unique scoring format creates an energised and exciting atmosphere for WTT fans and players.
Each team, which is a Franchise, has a coach and at least 4 players (5 or more players if there are Franchise or Wild Card players on the team), who are permitted to play in a maximum of 3 sets per match.
For all players (other than Franchise players), a season is defined as either (a) playing in 3 matches for one team, or (b) playing a total of 4 matches in one season regardless of the number of teams.
To be eligible for Bonus Money or Awards they must appear on the roster for 80% of a team’s matches.
All players must participate on their team for 3 matches during the regular season to qualify for participation in the WTT Final.
A match is a contest between two WTT teams, consisting of 5 sets plus Extended Play (if any) and a Supertiebreaker (if necessary).
The sets are men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles, and the home team coach determines the order of sets, while every match includes a halftime break, either after the second or third set.
Scoring is no-ad (first team to win 4 points wins the game), using game scoring 15, 30, 40, game, and the receiver chooses which side he/she will receive serve should the game reach 3 points each while the serve is always gender-to-gender at 40-all (deuce) in mixed doubles.
All games, sets and Supertiebreakers are won by a margin of one point, and each game counts as one point in the team’s cumulative match score.
Teams change sides after every 4 games, and let serves are played.
The first team to reach 5 games wins a set. If the set is tied at 4-4, then a 9-point tiebreaker is played with the players changing sides after 4 points.
The tiebreaker counts as one game and decides the outcome of the set.
If the team ahead in the cumulative score wins the final game of the last set, then that team is the winner.
However, if the trailing team wins the final set, the match is sent into Extended Play and continues until a) the leading team wins one game, or b) the trailing team ties the match score.
If the match is tied at the conclusion of five sets OR if the trailing team ties the score in Extended Play, a 13-point Supertiebreaker, involving the same 5th set, decides the outcome of the entire match.
A coin toss determines the choice of side, server and receiver. Players change sides after six points. The first team to win 7 points is awarded a single game and the match.
An on-court service clock counts down 25 seconds from the end of a point to the next serve. The first-time violation per set is a warning and additional violations will result in point penalties.
As with other professional league team sports, WTT features the use of timeouts during match play.
Each team will be allotted two timeouts per set with an additional timeout being awarded to each team if a match goes into Extended Play.
Timeouts are 20 seconds in length and do not carry over between sets. Only the coach may call a timeout. Coaches or players may enter the court area during these breaks in action.
A coach may substitute one player, per set, per gender at the conclusion of a point. If a player is substituted, he/she may not return to the match during that set.
Crowds are encouraged to be vocal about great play, while still being respectful of all players, and are allowed to enter/exit the stadium during play without having to wait for a changeover.
Often between games, music is played and the DJ fires up the crowd.
WTT affords the opportunity for men’s and women’s Major champions to share the court in each and every match throughout the WTT season, including in the championship match with the King Trophy on the line.
WTT is the only sports league in the world where men and women play equal roles.
“If you have ever seen a WTT match you have seen my philosophy of life in action – men and women, competing together, on a team and both genders making equal contributions to the result,” says Billie Jean King.
This year’s Team Roster
New York Empire
Kim Clijsters (BEL), Chris Eunamks (USA), Marcos Giron (USA, 20-28 Nov), and Kirsten Flipkens (BEL), with Coach Luke Jensen
Orange County Breakers
Amanda Anisimova (USA, 13-20 Nov), Steve Johnson (USA), Austin Krajicek (USA, 17-28 Nov), Desirae Krawczyk (USA, 18-28 Nov), and Tatjana Maria (GER), with Coach Rick Leach
San Diego Aviators
Will Blumberg (USA), Caroline Dolehide (USA), CoCo Vandeweghe (USA), and Aleks Vukic (AUS, 20-28 Nov), with Coach John Lloyd
Marcelo Arevalo (SAL), Denis Kudla (USA, 22-28 Nov), Mackenzie McDonald (USA, 13-21 Nov), Caty McNally (USA, 13-21 Nov), Asia Muhammad (USA), and Giuliana Olmos (MEX, 22-28 Nov), with Coach John-Laffnie de Jager
Alexa Guarachi (CHI, 17-28 Nov), Bethanie Mattel-Sands (USA), Nick Monroe (USA), Tommy Paul (USA, 20-28 Nov), and Sloane Stephens (USA), with Coach Kamau Murray
WTT opened the 2021 season on 13 November when the San Diego Aviators and the Orange County Breakers each knocked off a 2020 World TeamTennis finalist.
Despite trailing after the first three sets, the Aviators defeated the 2020 WTT runner-up Chicago Smash 22-21 by a supertiebreaker, with CoCo Vandeweghe pulling the Aviators within 4 games with her effort in women’s singles against 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
Will Blumberg & Caroline Dolehide forced and claimed extended play after a win over Stephens & Donald Young in the 5th set in mixed doubles, scoring the win for San Diego through a tightly-contested 13-point supertiebreaker.
The win kept San Diego undefeated in season openers since 2014 and gave coach John Lloyd his 92nd WTT win.
The Breakers defeated the defending champion New York Empire 22-17, winning 4 of 5 sets after Amanda Anisimova, one of 8 players 20 or younger ranked in the top 100 WTA rankings, defeated Tennis Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters in women’s singles after helping the Breakers grab the upper hand in women’s doubles.
After New York clinched the mixed doubles set to move within one game, the Breakers swept men’s singles and doubles to clinch its first win of the season, and so the competition took off, with mixed fortunes for the teams but excitement and fun along the way.
On Monday, the Springfield Lasers jumped into first place in the Points Standings following a 25-18 win over the Orange County Breakers, while the New York Empire picked up its second win of the season, thanks to a 20-16 over the San Diego Aviators in the second match of the day.
Monday’s battle between WTT’s top two teams in Springfield and Orange County was the first match this season that went to 4 consecutive tiebreaks, all won by Springfield that allowed the Lasers to sweep the 5 sets.
Marcelo Arevalo & Giuliana Olmos, the 2021 US Open mixed doubles finalists, capped off the victory with a 5-2 win over 3-time Major mixed doubles champion, Desirae Krawczyk & Austin Krajicek in the final
After the Aviators took the lead with a win in men’s doubles, Clijsters defeated Vandeweghe 5-0 in women’s singles to give the Empire the lead.
Chris Eubanks & Kirsten Flipkens came up with the mixed doubles win to extend New York’s advantage, but the Aviators cut the deficit to one point heading into the final set following women’s doubles.
Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, finished the match with a victory in men’s singles to give the Empire just their second win of the season and they languish at the foot of the table.