How it’s New York: World Team Tennis, which has a local team, The New York Empire, plays here
How it’s Irish: All the teams have players and coaches from a wide array of countries including Canada, Great Britain and the US.
For tennis enthusiasts looking for a fix between Wimbledon and the US Open, there is courtside action to be found locally thanks to Mylan World Team Tennis, co-founded by Billie Jean King in 1973. World Team Tennis is like the tennis equivalent of minor league baseball, and offers fans a relaxed evening of on-court action, contest giveaways, amusing mascots, trivia and a lot of music. Literally after every point the announcer played a few seconds from a vast array of songs. Last week the big news was the arrival of Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who joined the home team, the New York Empire, coached by two-time Olympic gold medal winner Gigi Fernandez.
I attended last Friday night’s match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. There was a considerable amount of construction going on in preparation for the US Open at the end of August and the audience had intimate seats inside Court 17. The New York Empire faced off against the San Diego Aviators, the reigning champs. Along with Bouchard, the Empire, which is like a mini United Nations, included Americans Mardy Fish and Maria Sanchez, Brit Neal Skupski and Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.
It was a “tennisapalooza” with three hours of play featuring singles, doubles and mixed doubles to entertain the crowd. In the first match, an intense Fish went up against Rajeev Ram. After one point Fish had a McEnroe moment and smacked his racket on the court in frustration. Bouchard, who reached the Wimbledon finals in 2014, took to the court for mixed doubles, paired with Skupski against Darija Kurak and Raven Klaasen. Bouchard played part of the set and was replaced by Flipkens. The Belgian was hit by a ball during a volley, but had fun with it, pretending to turn her racket into a weapon against her opponent. The Aviators dominated early, taking the men’s singles 5-3 (in WTT the sets are five games) and the mixed doubles 5-2. Fish and Skupski teamed up to take on Ram and Klaasen and battled, but ultimately lost 5-4 following a tie-break. The audience got pumped when a rousing clip from Hoosiers came up on one of the big screens before the tie break.
Following an intermission the women were back on the court. Flipkens and Sanchez played Naomi Broady and Jarek. The Empire got energized after the break and crushed the Aviators 5-1. The last match of the night was between Bouchard and Broady. The two went to a tiebreak with Bouchard, who was the recipient of a lot of vocal support, getting in some strong returns. But Broady’s serve was too big and the Aviators ended up the victors, winning with a total score of 21-18 that put them in first place in the WTT standings.
The Mylan World Team Tennis finals between The San Diego Aviators and the Orange Country Breakers airs today on ESPN2.