It’s been a rough year for us tennis super fans in 2020 as both the French Open and Wimbledon were cancelled. The U.S. Open is still scheduled to go on, but we’ll see how many of the top players commit to it. Rafa Nadal just gave the signal that he’ll likely participate, as a result of his decision to play in the Western & Southern Open in a few weeks, which is a tune up for the major in September.
Recently I’ve been tuning into the World TeamTennis action. I had never heard of it before now, but it’s actually been around since 1974. There are currently 9 teams; the Chicago Smash, Philadelphia Freedoms, New York Empire, Orange County Breakers, Springfield Lasers, Orlando Storm, Washington Kastles, San Diego Aviators, & the Vegas Rollers. Usually they play in their respective cities, but under the current circumstances they’ve been playing in a bubble-type atmosphere in Greenbrier, WV. Most years there might not be as many big names but without Wimbledon & the French, players are hungry for competition. Top names include Venus Williams for Washington (who has actually has been playing WTT since the early 2000s, the Bryan twins for Vegas (arguably the best doubles duo ever in the history of the sport), Sofia Kenin for Philadelphia (Australian Open Champion), Taylor Fritz for Philadelphia (one of the best young American male players), Jack Sock for New York, Sloane Stephens for Washington, Stevie Johnson for Orange County, Genie Bouchard for Chicago, Kim Clijsters for New York, plus many others. The regular season concluded this past Thursday with the semi-finals set for Saturday and the Finals on Sunday. The NY Empire will play the top ranked Philly Freedom, and the Chicago Smash will play the Orlando Storm.
It’s not just me who has been thrilled by the WTT this summer, it’s the rest of the world. On July 19th, the match between Vegas and Washington had 484,000 viewers, which was the most in the history of the league. It really is an entertaining watch as it has a few different wrinkles than the usually tennis you’re accustomed to. First off, it’s team play, which means it’s about the which team win the most amount of games throughout the match. It’s split up between 5 sets; Mixed Doubles, Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Singles, & Women’s Singles. Players can play in up to 3 of those sets with the Mixed Doubles, and the Singles & Doubles of their gender. Also, the head coach can sub a player out of a set, such as if of instance someone isn’t playing well or get’s injured, which adds a lot of strategy. However, a player who’s subbed out cannot return in the same set. There is no deuce, as games are decided after 40-40, with the returning team deciding if they want to return the serve on the deuce or ad side. Also, the sets are a max of 9 games, with a tiebreaker to 5 if the set goes to 4-4. Another interesting thing is that if someone serves a let (a ball that hits the net) it is still playable if the serve lands in, unlike usual matches. Probably the coolest aspect of the WTT is how the teams actually work as a team, root each other on, and strategize with each other, similar to Olympic tennis. It all makes for great energy in the matches, and overall better entertainment.
For this weekend, I predict for Philly & Chicago to meet in the final, with Philly coming out on top. The Freedoms are just to good, and have been dominant all summer. Kenin & Fritz have arguably been the best in their respective singles matches all summer, and they also have Taylor Townsend and Patrice Martin who have been crushing it at mixed doubles It should be a very good cap-off to what has been an historic season for the WTT.