Elton John

Billie Jean King on World TeamTennis, the Bryan Brothers, and Elton John

By Ashley Babich

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Before the Philadelphia Freedom took on the Kansas City Explorers at their home base at Villanova University, the creator of World TeamTennis, Billie Jean King, sang the praises of the organization, the fans, and the dedicated players. King cited the success of World TeamTennis to “keeping the economics under control” and finding support from the people who surround her. “I’m very fortunate with the team of people I have working with us.”

Speaking about the importance of team tennis, King highlighted the need for children’s tennis to operate from a team framework.
“For over 50 years now, my mantra has been, when they sign up for tennis, put them on a team. Get rid of the word ‘lesson.’ Kids don’t like that word. They’ll learn lessons in life from it, but they don’t need that word. Here’s what most kids do today, they play lacrosse or baseball or football; it’s a team sport usually. They practice two times a week and have a game. And what do they say about tennis? ‘Oh, I have a tennis lesson once a week.’ If a child is putting in 8 hours a week on one sport and then an hour on tennis, which sport do you think they’re going to choose after a year or two? I want them to practice two or three times a week and then I want them to have a game or a match. So they look forward to it every week. I don’t care what the skill level is, it’s fun!”

The WTT match on Monday night promoted marquee players Mike and Bob Bryan playing for the Kansas City Explorers. When asked to discuss the Bryan Brothers’ dedication to WTT, especially during an Olympic year, King had many positive things to say.

“It means a lot to us. Our format is totally built for them because they’re so great in doubles, and doubles is 60% of our scoring effort. They’re fantastic. They play their butts off.”

King also celebrated the recent Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title won by Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond: “Do I love it?! My little team tennis players? I love it.”

King ended the conference with a conversation about how special Elton John’s song “Philadelphia Freedom” is to her.

“We have the best signature song in all of sports, which no one ever writes about … He used to sit on the bench, when I played for the Philadelphia Freedoms, yelling, ‘c’mon!’ He was a maniac!”

King recalled that she was on her way to a concert with Elton John when he offered to write a song about her, and she candidly described her reaction: “I’m thinking, ‘are you kidding, yeah right, what are you smoking?’”

“He said, ‘let’s name it Philadelphia Freedom after the team,’ and I said, ‘Great! That would be a great gift to the people of Philadelphia.’”
King laughed as she described a favorite part of the song: “He told me the part [in the refrain] that goes, ‘Phi-la-delphia,’ that’s you getting ticked off at the umpires. And I said, ‘I love it!’”

The Philadelphia Freedoms went on to beat the Kansas City Explorers 20-16 in Monday night’s match, with strong playing from the other twins involved that evening, Kristyna and Karolina Pliskova, playing for the Philadelphia Freedom. “Tonight is twin night,” as King put it.

Before exiting the press room, King went over to Carmine, who was quietly stringing racquets for the team in the corner of the room, and thanked him for executing his crucial job for WTT King asked him to take a picture with her, and he happily obliged. She’s a dynamic one, that Billie Jean King.

Celebrity Smash Hits Boasts Entertaining Tennis, Charming Personalities, and AIDS Awareness

It’s one thing to root for your favorite players on a dimensionless TV, coaching them through the screen. It’s a completely different matter to interact with them directly and observe their personalities in a relaxed, yet competitive, setting. And that’s exactly what happened Monday night at American University’s Bender Arena where current and retired professional players took part in bringing awareness for a great cause while entertaining patrons with power-hitting tennis and charming on-court exchanges. On hand were several greats, including Elton John himself and the always entertaining Billie Jean King.

As I made my way into the arena, the atmosphere was calm, yet the anticipation of the night’s event was palpable. Patrons walked in joyful and carefree, as if entering a new world disconnected from a cold and dreary outside. For the next five hours, all that mattered was tennis and raising awareness of HIV and AIDS through the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Washington AIDS Partnership.

Media Room

After winding stairs, small corridors, and sweaty campus athletes running by, I found myself in a room full of photographers and reporters. I felt lucky to find a spot in the third row and settled in for two press conferences. First up was Team Billie Jean King which included Rennae Stubbs, Mark Philippoussis, Martina Navratilova, Eric Butorac, and Billie Jean King. Philippoussis replaced an injured James Blake, and Butorac (given only 24 hours notice) replaced Mark Knowles who qualified for the year end doubles championship in London.

As soon as the players sat down, the noise level increased exponentially and it was only then that I realize how many photographers were present. The clicking and snapping shook me to the point where I half-believed a motor vehicle was being started right inside the room. It took more than a few minutes to adjust but the players didn’t seem to notice a difference. I guess that’s what happens when you travel the world and get grilled by media everywhere you go.

It was my first time seeing several of these players in person, including Billie Jean King whose presence filled the room. Her take-charge attitude took me by surprise but she didn’t get this far in the tennis business without her candor and resilience. Philippoussis was also incredibly microphone-shy but I completely forgot about that when he opened his mouth to speak. His Australian accent was inviting and his devilish smile put me in a trance. Navratilova was also a class act and raised awareness of one of the evenings’ causes while giving us some hard statistics: “93% of the time when a gay kid is bullied, teachers do not correct the action.” But if “any other name [had been used], they would have corrected it.” Although no source was stated, she went on to say that “a gay teenager is six times more likely to be bullied over their sexual orientation than a straight kid. It’s astonishing.” It’s truly heart-breaking to see the recent deaths of youth and it begins within our educational system she added.

Team Elton John, consisting of Anna Kournikova, Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, and Jan-Michael Gambill, elaborated on this phenomenon. Elton John pleaded saying that he was “worried about the current climate in America.” As much as he loves America and what we stand for, he sees the difference between us and other nations. As Americans, “we’re not talking to each other, whether it’s spite, sexuality, etc. It’s time to change and talk to each other.” He likened the situation on a global scale with his example of the Burmese woman who is in talks with the military to bring peace to her country. It’s only through communication that we can begin to solve our differences.

The mood then changed to a more light-hearted topic and Agassi’s foundation was also touched on. Graf looked calm and exquisite, while Kournikova remained relatively quiet. What Kournikova didn’t say was made up for with the amount of makeup on her face and enormous square-cut yellow-gold plated engagement ring (isn’t she supposed to be married by now?). Regardless, she was beautiful and became more engaging when her fans were present during the next stop in the evening: The very loud auction, headed by none other than Baltimore, MD-native Pam Shriver.

Live Auction

As I had never attended a live auction before, I didn’t know what to expect. But as soon as it began, it was clear who was in charge. The players were assigned to help Pam auction off the items, but she single-handedly commanded the room with her charm and humor, talking football, modern art, and even tennis. The rallies were intense and the attendees were smitten into bidding hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kournikova privately commented to Billie that Pam was “brilliant” in the way she took charge. Pammy, if commentating doesn’t work out, you’ve always got a career in auctioneering.

The auction went as follows:

  • Two signed Sir Elton John Piano Benches and a photo with Elton John went for $10,500 each.
  • 2011 BJK’s Wimbledon Package included two tickets to the Men’s and Women’s Finals in her box, private tour of the grounds with Billie Jean King and 4 nights’ accommodation, and went for $32,000.
  • 2011 US Open Package included two suite tickets in BJK’s suite for two sessions during Labor Day weekend, air transportation, and 2 nights’ accommodation, and went for $17,000.
  • Andre Agassi Grand Slam Limited Edition watch from Longines, 18-carat rose gold case set, with 56 VVS quality diamonds, and a gold ‘8’ representing his grand slams. Billie herself got a bid in for $10,000 and Elton John outbid her for $12,000. Agassi then came to the microphone and surprised everybody with his offer: “I’ll hand [the watch] to you personally, I’ll sign it if you want, … and you can kiss my wife!” The crowd roared with laughter and cheers, with Pam exclaiming to Stefanie to “pucker up” when it sold for $16,000.
  • 2011 French Open Package included tickets for the first two days, 4 nights’ accommodation, a meet and greet with Tennis Channel on-air personalities and a visit to the Roland Garros set among other things. Navratilova then took the mic and said, “We’ll see you in the booth. We might even get you to answer a couple questions during the match. I’ll be there!” She sold the package for $25,000.
  • 2011 Super Bowl Package included four tickets, two hotel rooms for a three night stay. Stubbs even bid on the item but it was taken home by an attendee for $11,000.
  • Tennis lesson and hitting session with Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf for two people for 60 minutes was the most expensive event of the night. As the rallying became heated, Agassi even bid “$25,000 NOT to do it.” Elton John bid twice among others as well. In the end, it went for $50,000.
  • An original limited-edition Herb Ritts Photograph of Madonna went for $18,000 to Billie Jean King.
  • Agassi’s Grand Slam Experience included two tickets to his “Grand Slam for Children” event in Las Vegas, two nights’ accommodation. There were two packages sold for $12,000 each.
  • 2011 International Tennis Hall of Fame Tournament and Induction Ceremony included two tickets to the induction ceremony as well as two tickets to the semifinals to the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships next July, and one night accommodation. Agassi will headline the ballot for induction. There were two packages and the winning bid was for $11,000 each.

In total, $267,000 was raised during the auction, with half of the proceeds staying in the Washington, DC area to benefit the Washington AIDS Partnership. The total money raised for the evening was around $500,000 and this took the World Team Tennis Smash Hits event over the $10 million mark during its eighteen year history. The remaining proceeds will go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Court Battles

After the auction, it was time for what everyone had been waiting for, the on-court matches. It began with a celebrity mixed doubles showdown, and then went into the World Team Tennis match format, consisting of men’s doubles, women’s doubles, men’s singles, and mixed doubles.

As the player introductions were being made, I noticed that although it was Team Elton John pitted against Team Billie Jean King, it might as well have been Team Nike versus Team Adidas. Elton John sported Rafael Nadal’s white/lime green Nike Court Ballistecs while the majority of his team sported other Nike shoes. Meanwhile, Billie Jean King was clad in white/dark blue Adidas Barricades, with the rest of her team also in Adidas. During the press conference Billie had mentioned that there was no method to the way teams were chosen this year, but I believe I figured out their secret.

The celebrity showdown consisted of Elton John with Martina Navratilova taking on married couple Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf. As Elton John walked onto the court, I began to wonder if he could actually play tennis. He started this pro-am event when he was 45 years old and today he stood at a sturdy 63. My doubts completely vanished when he hit several unorthodox forehand winners and “out-lobbed” Agassi on two occasions.

It was more than once that Navratilova and Graf got into heated cross-court volley rallies while the crowd cheered and applauded. But what took me most by surprise was the level of hitting from Graf. As I had seen both Navratilova and Agassi live at the US Open the year they both retired (2006), they looked just as strong and animated in their play tonight. However, I had never before watched Graf play live. Her attitude and poise on court was unmatched. She graciously applauded unreturnable shots but hit booming cross-court forehands when she had the opportunity as well. She was not only quick on her feet, but had a gentle smile permanently glued on her face. And why not? It was a good evening to have fun for fans, for a cause, and she was playing with her hubby as well who was cheering her with “come on, baby!” and “you got this!”

The first match in WTT format was men’s doubles consisting of Agassi and Gambill taking on Philippoussis and Butorac. From Philippoussis’ first serve, it was clear that I chose the wrong seat to sit at. With media sitting directly behind the baseline, Philippoussis blasting powerful serves right at us, and no barrier between the two, I was quickly reminded how easy it can be to get hit if you’re looking down for a split second. The crowd applauded his aces and Agassi even stood baffled a few times. When Team Billie Jean King went up 4-1 due to Philippoussis’ serve it seemed like it would be over quickly, but Agassi and Gambill stepped up their games and put pressure on Team Elton John with better returning. In the end, Team Elton John came out victorious with a 5-4 win.

The women’s doubles that followed was considerably livelier with players taking body shots left and right! Of course, none were intentional as Graf and Kournikova teamed up against Navratilova and Stubbs.

At one point, Graf perfectly aimed a forehand for Stubbs’ right shoulder which playfully knocked her down before Graf ran over smiling and helping her up. The next time it was Kournikova’s shot that accidentally hit Navratilova. Stubbs retaliated by chasing Kournikova around the court and bringing the crowd to their feet. What amazed me was that as small of stature as Kournikova is, she has a piercing forehand and splendid accuracy on her volleys. Navratilova and Stubbs walked away victorious giving Team Billie Jean King the win 5-3.

In possibly the most anticipated serving clinic of the night, Philippoussis took on Agassi with both players served blinding balls that the crowd responded by “Oooing” and “Ahhhing.”

When points were actually played, it wasn’t hard to see how Agassi had won his 8 grand slams or how Philippoussis attained world number 8 in his prime. The only difference I could notice between retired players such as Agassi and Philippoussis and current pros such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was the level of consistency. The power of these retirees was still as compelling as ever and their precision to paint the lines was evident. It was only their somewhat decreased level of consistency that separated them from their younger and stronger counterparts. Although Philippoussis walked away with the win, 5-3, the match wasn’t without giggles from both the players and the ball kids as Philippoussis once held up play to direct the ball kids to where they were “supposed” to be standing.

In the night’s final match, Agassi once again teamed up with his wife Graf and took on Philippoussis and Navratilova. By this time, the players were even more comfortable on court and it showed by their increased interaction with fans.

Several times Agassi apologized to Graf after fumbling a point “Sorry babe, here we go!”, but it was Navratilova’s stamina that amazed me most of all. She was the oldest on court at 54 but moved like someone nearly half her age slicing backhand winners down the line. At 2-2, Graf sustained a minor injury to her upper left calf and Kournikova stepped in to finish. The baseline duel between the men continued until Kournikova stepped in to put away a perfect short volley confusing both of her opponents, Philippoussis and Navratilova. On the next point, Philippoussis took it easy on Kournikova as they hit cross-court baseline shots to each other. After 8 rallies someone in the crowd yelled “boring!” This was enough to make Philippoussis lose his focus and smile while his next shot went straight into the net. The match went to a tiebreaker but Philippoussis and Navratilova were just too much for Agassi and Kournikova, who won 5-4. This brought the final cumulative score to 19-15 for Team Billie Jean King and the 18 year record of this event was evened out at 9-9.

As the evening was brought to a close and the players began walking off court while signing autographs, I realized that I had never attended an event like this before. As a tennis fan, I appreciated the competitive yet animated edge of the evening’s festivities. As a supporter of bringing goodness and awareness into this world, I was proud to be a part of history. But I think it’s the players most of all who make this positive energy possible. They search for ways to educate and interact with their fans and the causes that are important. May we each take time in our own small ways to bring prosperity and awareness to others, and stand in the footsteps of our favorite tennis players who set the supreme example of charity.

To view a video of the evening, go to USA Today’s Tennis page

Video courtesy of USA Today Sports

Until next time, cheers!

SERENA WILLIAMS AND MILEY CYRUS ATTEND ELTON JOHN’S OSCAR PARTY

The Oscars aren’t just for the actors and directors and everybody else who is part of the process of creating a movie and see their hard work pay off with a nomination or perhaps even winning the prestigious award.

The Oscars are also a time where big stars organize huge events to create awareness for a particular topic.  Elton John is one of the people who sought to create awareness for AIDS  at the 18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Viewing Party.

Big names attended naturally, among those are Serena Williams and Miley Cyrus.

We managed to obtain photos of Serena Williams and Miley arriving at the party in West Hollywood.

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A Smash Hit In Baton Rouge

There was great fun and great tennis had Tuesday night in Baton Rouge, La., as Elton John and Billie Jean King captained their respective teams at the annual WTT Smash Hits event. Elton John’s team, that featured Serena Williams and Tommy Haas, defeated Billie Jean King’s team that featured Andy Roddick and Lindsay Davenport. Smash Hits entered its 17th year looking to build on the more than $9 million it has raised for the Elton John AIDs Foundation and various AIDs charities in host cities. For more information on World Team Tennis, go to www.wtt.com. For more detailed information on the evening, read here – http://www.2theadvocate.com/sports/78841842.html?showAll=y&c=y

Photos courtesy of Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA.

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Obama’s Billie Jean King Gaffe

By TennisGrandstand.com Staff

President Obama gaffed at Wednesday’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring 16 global citizens, including tennis legend Billie Jean King. In describing King’s illustrious playing career, Obama talked of King’s “12 Grand Slam titles, 101 doubles titles and 67 singles titles.” King’s total number of “major” titles actually stand at 39, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. In defense of Obama, King won 12 singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments, but King was well known if not best known for dominating all events at the majors, including winning “triple crowns” (singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same year) at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973 and the U.S. Championships in 1967. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, King also won an additional 37 singles titles in the “amateur” era of tennis (pre-1968).

In a video after the ceremony shown on the MSNBC television show “Morning Joe,” King joked that Obama got her stats wrong but said with class that it was “adorable.” Joked MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle of Obama undercutting King’s credentials, “It’s the first time he has come under the numbers.” The video of Obama’s remarks and Billie Jean’s reaction can be seen here –

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King’s bio from THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS is excerpted here….

Billie Jean King

United States (1943—)

Hall of Fame—1987

The fireman’s daughter, Billie Jean Moffitt King, began blaz­ing through the tennis world in 1960 when she first appeared in the U.S. women’s rankings at No. 4. She was 17. For more than four decades she has continued as a glowing force in the game—the all-time Wimbledon champion, frequently the foremost player, a crusader in building the female professional game (enhanc­ing the game as a whole), remaining relevant to sport today, an inspiration to millions. The Flushing Meadows home of the U.S. Open was named the USTA / Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.

Born Nov. 22, 1943, in Long Beach, Calif:, Billie Jean, a 5-foot-4 1/2, 130-pound right-hander, was named for her father, Bill Moffitt, a Long Beach fireman and an enthusiastic athlete, though not a tennis player. Her brother, Randy Moffitt, became a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. She developed on the public courts of Long Beach and first gained international recognition in 1961 by joining 18-year-old Karen Hantze for a surprising triumph in the Wimbledon women’s doubles over Aussies Margaret Smith (Court) and Jan Lehane, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, they were the young­est team to win it. That was the first of 20 Wimbledon champi­onships, making King the record winner at the most prestigious tourney, sharing it since 2003 when her friend Martina Navratil­ova caught up. Centre Court was her magic garden from the first time she saw it in 1961.

In 1979, she got the 20th at her 19th Wimbledon, the dou­bles, in the company of Navratilova (over Betty Stove and Wendy Turnbull, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2). She won her last major, the U.S. doubles, in 1980, beside Martina, over Pam Shriver and Stove. Elizabeth Ryan’s 19 Wimbledon titles (between 1914 and 1934) were all in doubles and mixed doubles. King won six sin­gles, 10 doubles, and four mixed between 1961 and 1979, and in 1979 lengthened another Wimbledon record by appearing in her 27th final, the doubles. Ryan was in 24 finals. Of all the men and women to compete at Wimbledon only Navratilova played more matches (279) than King’s 265, of which B.J. was 95-15 in singles, 74-12 in doubles, 55-14 in mixed. She won 12 singles titles at major championships (one Australian, one French, six Wim­bledon and four U.S.)

In her initial singles major final, Wimbledon in 1966, she beat three-time champ Maria Bueno of Brazil, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, She followed up by beating Ann Jones of Britain in 1967,6-3, 6-4 and Judy Tegart (Dalton) of Australia, 9-7, 7-5, in the first “Open” Wimbledon in 1968. In 1967, she took her first U.S. singles over Jones, but the most rousing of the four was 1974, a pyrotechnical performance from two assault-minded dolls, over Evonne Goolagong of Austra­lia, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Probably her most memorable Wimbledon match was a loss, the record 46-game 1970 final to Court 14-12, 11-9. Nei­ther let up in attacking, even though both were playing hurt.

Billie Jean’s has been a career of firsts. In 1968, she was the first woman of the Open era to sign a pro contract to tour in a female tournament group, with Rosie Casals, Francoise Durr and Jones, the women’s auxiliary of the NTL (National Tennis League), which also included six men. (A few women before King had turned pro to make head-to-head barnstorming tours, notably Suzanne Lenglen in 1926.)

In 1971, B.J. was the first woman athlete over the 100-grand hurdle, winning $117,000. During that memorable season, she played 31 tournaments in singles, winning 17, and 26 in doubles, winning a record 21. She had a match mark of 112-13 in singles, a record number of wins, and 80-5 in doubles. Overall, it added up to 38 titles on 192 match wins, both records. Imagine how many millions such a campaign would be worth today.

In 1973, Billie Jean engaged in the widely ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes,” defeating 55-year-old ex-Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, a nationally-televised lallapalooza that cap­tured the nation’s fancy and drew a record tennis crowd, 30,472, to Houston’s Astrodome.

In 1974, she became the first woman to coach a profes­sional team containing men when she served as player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis, a league she and her husband, Larry King, helped establish. As a tribute to her, Elton John composed and recorded Philadelphia Freedom. Traded to the New York Apples, she led that team to WTT titles in 1976-77 as a player.

Ten years after Riggs, BJK was to establish a geriatric mark herself, winning Birmingham (England) over Alycia Moulton, 6-0, 7-5. At 39 years, five months, she was the oldest woman to take a pro singles title.An aggressive, emotional player, Billie Jean specialized in serve-and-volley tactics, aided by quickness and a highly com­petitive nature. She overcame several knee operations to con­tinue as a winner into her 40th year. As a big-match player, she was unsurpassed, excelling in team situations when she repre­sented the U.S. In nine years on the Federation Cup team, she helped the U.S. gain the final each time, and take seven Cups by winning 51 of her 55 singles and doubles. In the Wightman Cup against Britain, she played on only one losing side in 10 years, winning 21 of her 26 singles and doubles.

Outspoken on behalf of women’s rights, in and out of sports—tennis in particular—she was possibly the most influ­ential figure in popularizing professional tennis in the United States. She worked tirelessly to promote the Virginia Slims tour during the early 1970s when the women realized they must sepa­rate from the men to achieve recognition and significant prize money on their own. With the financial backing of Virginia Slims, the organizational acumen of Gladys Heldman and the sales­manship and winning verve of King, the women pros built an extremely profitable circuit.

Only two women, Margaret Smith Court (62) and Navratilova (59) won more majors than King’s 39 in singles, doubles and mixed. In regard to U.S. titles on all surfaces (grass, clay, hard court, indoor), King is second at 31 behind Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman’s 34. But Billie Jean is the only woman to win on all four, equaling Tony Trabert, and Art Larsen, the only men to do so. King and Casals were the only doubles team to win U.S. titles on all four surfaces. She won seven of her major doubles with Casals, her most frequent and successful partner.

Between 1963 and 1980, Billie Jean was in the world’s Top 10 18 times, including five times as No. 1(1966-67-68, 71, 74) and four times as No. 2 (1970, 73, 75, 77). She held her last world ranking, No. 13, at age 40 in 1983.

She greatly aided Owen Davidson of Australia in making his mixed doubles Grand Slam in 1967 with two partners. King and Davidson won the French, Wimbledon and U.S. after he took the Australian with Lesley Turner. She scored three major triples, winning the singles, doubles and mixed at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973, and at the U.S. in 1967, and won the longest singles set played by a woman (36 games) in a 1963 Wightman Cup win over Christine Truman, 6-4, 19-17.

Billie Jean’s major swan song occurred at 39 in 1983 at Wim­bledon, a semifinal finish (her fourteenth), losing to 18-year-old Andrea Jaeger, 6-1, 6-1. Seven years later she played a cameo role in the Boca Raton, Fla., tourney, winning a doubles match with 13-year-old pro rookie Jennifer Capriati.

In a career encompassing the amateur and Open eras, she won 67 pro and 37 amateur career singles titles, 101 pro doubles. She reached 38 other pro singles finals and had 677-149 singles W-L record as a pro. Her prize money: $1,966,487. Divorce ended her marriage. A founder and ex-president of the WTA, she remains active in World Team Tennis as an officer, formerly commissioner. She returned to her USTA roots in 1995 as captain of the Federation Cup team, having been player-cap­tain in 1965 (a loss) and 1976 (a win). She guided the U.S. team to three Cups (1996, 1999, and 2000). As U.S. women’s Olympic coach, she mentored Lindsay Davenport, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez to gold medals in 1996, as well as Venus and Serena Williams to golds, and Monica Seles to a bronze in 2000.

MAJOR TITLES (39)—Australian singles, 1968; French singles, 1972; Wimbledon singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975; U.S. singles, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974; French doubles, 1972; Wimbledon doubles, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979; U.S. Doubles, 1964, 1967, 1974, 1977, 1980; Australian mixed, 1968; French mixed, 1967, 1970; Wimbledon mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1974; US. Mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1976. OTHER U.S.TITLES (18)—Indoor singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1974; Clay Court singles, 1971; Hard Court singles, 1966; Indoor dou­bles, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1975, with Casals; 1979, with Navratilova; 1983. with Sharon Walsh; Clay Court doubles, 1960, with Darlene Hard; 1971, with Dalton; Hard Court doubles, 1966 with Casals; Indoor mixed, 1966, 1967, with Paul Sullivan (USA) FED­ERATION CUP–1963-64-65-66-67,76-77-78-79,25-4 singles, 27-0 doubles: WIGHT­MAN CUP—1961-62-63-64-65-66-67, 70, 77-78, 14-2 singles, 7-3 doubles SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Australian (17-4), French (21-6), Wimbledon (95-15), U.S. (58-14).

Newport Beach Breakers Clinch Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League Playoff Berth With 21-20 Supertiebreaker Win Over Rival Sacramento At Breakers Stadium At Newport Beach Country Club

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 19, 2009 – The toughest games to win in tennis are typically the ones that close out a match or, in Sunday’s instance with respect to the Newport Beach Breakers, the games that clinch an Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League playoff berth. For Breakers coach Trevor Kronemann, there is no better money player and closer in World TeamTennis history than Ramon Delgado.

Thus, the Breakers’ WTT playoff-clinching celebration ensued in dramatic fashion as reigning WTT Male MVP Delgado rallied his team with a final-set victory in regulation and one-game overtime and Supertiebreaker wins that capped a 21-20 victory over the rival Sacramento Capitals at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club.

The Breakers (8-4) clinched the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with the four-match season sweep of Sacramento. The Breakers last made the playoffs in 2006, the last of three consecutive years in which the team reached the WTT Finals. The Breakers last won the King Trophy (WTT championship) in 2004.

“Once again, Ramon is just unbelievable in this format,” Kronemann said. “Amazing. Absolutely amazing. At some point, you’re a skeptic and you wonder how many times he can come back. Now I’m a believer. I’ve been around World TeamTennis for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s the greatest World TeamTennis player that’s ever played. He skipped the Davis Cup to play WTT this year. We recognize that and we want to do it for him, too.”

The Breakers will play at the Springfield Lasers (11-0), WTT’s only perfect team, in the WTT playoffs’ Western Conference final on July 24. The teams met in Springfield on July 6 as the Lasers pulled off the second-largest comeback in WTT history, rallying from a 20-12 deficit heading into the final set and emerging victorious, 22-21 in a Supertiebreaker. Springfield then topped the Breakers two days later at Breakers Stadium, 22-17 in overtime.

“We were up eight games. I don’t think we do anything different,” Kronemann said. “If they run the table and go 14-0, all the pressure is on them. We want to redeem ourselves. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.”

Down 16-14, the match was left on the racket of Delgado, the only holdover from the Breakers’ 2004 WTT title team who had already beaten Michael Chang, Sam Querrey and Andre Agassi over the past week. Facing Sacramento’s Sam Warburg, Delgado fended off two break points and won three consecutive points, capped by an ace, to win the first game of the set. Warburg fought off three set points-against to force a tiebreaker, which Delgado controlled and won, 5-1.

Delgado’s win forced overtime on Warburg’s serve, which was broken by Delgado at deuce (also Sacramento’s match point with no-ad scoring) with a running forehand down the line past the charging Warburg. Tied 20-20, the Breakers played their third Supertiebreaker of the season. Delgado again proved too good for Warburg and clinched the Breakers’ playoff berth with a 7-3 Supertiebreaker triumph.

“I am really stressed out there. Really nervous. Really anxious. At least it looks like I am in control out there,” Delgado said. “I think (the win over) Querrey was a real turning point for me. Querrey gave me the confidence, and when I am playing like this, I feel like I can compete with anybody in World TeamTennis. My priority is to beat Springfield and then go to (Washington) D.C. (for the WTT finals).”

Trailing 15-9 after Sacramento (5-7) won the first three sets of the match by 5-3 scores, the Breakers’ comeback attempt began with Julie Ditty and Marie-Eve Pelletier in women’s doubles. The tandem stormed through Sacramento’s Coco Vandeweghe and Angela Haynes to win 5-1 – the set highlighted by Ditty returning three consecutive reflex volleys, the last of which broke Sacramento to increase their set lead to 4-1.

“We knew we had to perform well tonight,” said Ditty, the first-year Breakers player. “We took it to them. You have to have positive energy out here.”

Knowing it had to win to keep its playoff hopes alive against a Breakers team that won 11 of the 15 sets through the teams’ first three meetings this season, Sacramento was all business from the start as Capitals coach Wayne Bryan (father of Mike and Bob Bryan, the world’s No. 1 men’s doubles team) led the cheers.

Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Mark Knowles and Irvine’s Angela Haynes broke the service of the Breakers’ Kaes Van’t Hof and Ditty at 3-3 – the Breakers double-faulted on game-point at deuce – and captured a close first set in mixed doubles, 5-3.

Then, 17-year-old Vandeweghe, the niece of ex-UCLA and NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe, avenged an earlier women’s singles loss this season to Pelletier and put together her best set of tennis of the team’s four season matchups in a 5-3 singles win. Again, the set was tied 3-3 before Vandeweghe broke Pelletier and closed out the set with a big first serve.

The Breakers dropped the match’s middle set, 5-3 in men’s doubles, a set typically owned by Delgado and Van’t Hof and typically dropped by Sacramento. Before Sunday, Sacramento sported the worst men’s doubles win percentage in WTT while the Breakers’ dynamic duo had won nine of their last 10 sets and was WTT’s top doubles team (53-of-89 games won, 60%).

Results:

Mixed Doubles – Mark Knowles/Angela Haynes (S) def. Kaes Van’t Hof/Julie Ditty (NB), 5-3

Women’s Singles – Coco Vandeweghe (S) def. Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB), 5-3

Men’s Doubles – Sam Warburg/Knowles (S) def. Ramon Delgado/Van’t Hof (NB), 5-3

Women’s Doubles – Ditty/Pelletier (NB) def. Haynes/Vandeweghe (S), 5-1
Men’s Singles – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 5-4 (5-1 tiebreak)

Overtime – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 1-0

Supertiebreaker – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 7-3

Final: Newport Beach Breakers 21, Sacramento Capitals 20 (STB)

Limited tickets are available for the Newport Beach Breakers Series Finale Presented by HOM Real Estate Group – Tuesday, July 21 against John McEnroe and the WTT Eastern Conference champion New York Sportimes (9-3) and Wednesday, July 22, in which Maria Sharapova will play for the Breakers against the Kansas City Explorers. Tickets are $60 for general admission or $45 for the top three rows, and can be purchased by calling 714/352-6301 or visiting www.newporteachbreakers.com.

The Breakers encourage the community to drop off old, unused cell phones at Breakers Stadium on July 21 and July 22 to support soldiers needing cell phones overseas through the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness, program funds and aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women. All used cell phones will be collected at the Wounded Warrior Project expo booth on-site. Each cell phone donated will grant one entry to win a trip to the 2009 Smash Hits on Dec. 8 in Baton Rouge, LA. The Smash Hits is Elton John and Billie Jean King’s annual event that raises money for the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The Breakers are in their third year of operation under the auspices of Hoag Hospital Foundation, which has been granted the rights to manage the Breakers through 2009 by WTT with profits from the team’s season operations benefiting Hoag Hospital. Breakers Stadium (capacity 2,000) is located at Newport Beach Country Club along Pacific Coast Highway, with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Breakers supporters can congregate online and expand the team’s fan base through the team’s official fan pages on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Newport-Beach-CA/Newport-Beach-Breakers/73887254402?ref=ts), MySpace (www.myspace.com/newportbeachbreakers) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/nbbreakers). Register to become a fan or follower of the Breakers at each fan page and use them to meet and chat with new friends and tennis fans and stay up to date on all team and player information related to the Breakers.

About Newport Beach Breakers
The Newport Beach Breakers are one of 10 nationwide teams that make up the World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League and are co-owned by WTT founder Billie Jean King. In July 2009, the Breakers will play seven home matches at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club, and will be managed by Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian through the 2009 WTT season. Profits from the team’s operations for the season will go towards Hoag Hospital Foundation, the Breakers’ primary beneficiary. Hoag Hospital’s expert involvement with professional sports also extends to its organization of the PGA Champions Tour’s Toshiba Classic held annually in March. For tickets, sponsorship and more information, visit www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or call 714/352-6301.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Thanks to your Royal Highness for coming

STARS

Venus Williams beat Vera Zvonareva 6-7 (5) 6-0 6-2 to win the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha Qatar

Anne Keothavong won the Salwator Cup in Krakow, Poland, beating Monica Niculescu 7-6 (4) 4-6 6-3

Jan Hernych beat Stephane Bohli 6-2 6-4 to win the Tatra Banka Open in Bratislava, Slovakia

John McEnroe won the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships at Surprise, Arizona, by beating Todd Martin 3-6 7-6 (3) 11-9 (Champions tiebreaker)

SAYINGS

“Thanks to your Royal Highness for coming. Wow!” – Venus Williams, after being presented the Sony Ericsson Championships trophy by the first lady of Qatar, Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned.

“Venus is very powerful. She came up with some great serves when she needed. It was tough on me.” – Vera Zvonareva, after losing the final at Doha, Qatar.

“I just don’t like the ring of it. It sounds a bit awkward to me. It is a challenge to get back to number one.” – Roger Federer, on being ranked number two in the world.

“I didn’t even look like a top-eight player today. Maybe top 600 in the juniors.” – Serena Williams, after losing 5-7 6-1 6-0 to sister Venus in a round-robin match at the Sony Ericsson Championships.

“Competing at so many events might have harmed, especially at the end of the season, my physical condition, taking away the freshness needed to play at the top level of the game on these last events.” – Rafael Nadal, writing on his web site about his right knee injury.

“Being a professional tennis player is about a lot more than just hitting tennis balls and winning matches. The off-court side of things is also very important, and it’s essential that we as athletes do what we can to promote the sport.” – Ana Ivanovic, after winning the ACES award.

“It’s the first time I’ve got the chance to play against top 10 players five matches in a row. And I was able to come up with four wins, so, of course it’s a good week.” – Vera Zvonareva.

“It’s really a tough format here, just because there are four teams and the way the draw is. It’s really hard to just come out and be ready to play like in the semifinals. So we were just really happy with our performance.” – Cara Black, who teamed with Liezel Huber to win the doubles at the Sony Ericsson Championships.

“I haven’t thought too much about next year yet, but I have high and wonderful hopes for it, and at the appropriate time I’ll start working hard again.” – Venus Williams, after winning the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.

“I thought this may have been the best I played all year and I think a lot of that had to do with the crowds. I was able to feed off of their energy all week.” – John McEnroe, who won a seniors tournament in Surprise, Arizona.

“Sometimes I really enjoy playing not at home. I don’t think about any pressure.” – Nikolay Davydenko, on why he won his opening match at the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai.

“When you play against (Rafael) Nadal, (Roger) Federer or (Novak) Djokovic, you have just one chance or two. I had a break point. I didn’t get it.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after losing to Djokovic in his opening Tennis Masters Cup match.

“I can’t play singles competitively any more, but like to play doubles up to three times a week, although sometimes injuries do not permit that frequency.” – Michael Henderson, who at age 76 is still playing and winning matches.

SHACKLED

Tendinitis in his right knee caused world number one Rafael Nadal to pull out of the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China. It is hoped that a week of rest and treatment will mean Nadal will be able to lead Spain in the Davis Cup final against Argentina later this month. The injury forced Nadal to retire from his Paris Masters quarterfinal against Nikolay Davydenko. Nadal blamed the injury on the busy tennis calendar, saying it took its toll on his body. Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, a Spanish Tennis Federation doctor, said Nadal was being treated with anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and ice packs.

STRICKENED

US Open champion Serena Williams and French Open winner Ana Ivanovic both withdrew from the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha with injuries. Williams suffered from a pulled stomach muscle while Ivanovic had a virus. Serena beat Dinara Safina in her first round-robin match, then suffered a strange 5-7 6-1 6-0 loss to her sister Venus. Serena said she only felt the problem develop after she returned to her hotel. Ivanovic played two round-robin matches, losing both. Nadia Petrova replaced Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska replaced Ivanovic in the eight-player competition.

SCOTT AGREES

The WTA Tour is changing next year’s rules to reinstate byes in two big tournaments. Several players complained that they were being asked to play two high-intensity events in a row with no opportunity to rest between tournaments. WTA CEO Larry Scott said the problem came because twice in the year there are two big tournaments played in consecutive weeks: Rome being followed by Madrid and, in the fall, Tokyo followed by Beijing. The four players reaching the semifinals at Rome and Tokyo will get first-round byes in the following events. Scott said adjustments also were made to allow players to participate in at least two of the following tournaments: Paris Indoors, Charleston, Stuttgart, Stanford and Los Angeles.

SEPARATED

Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker and his fiancée of three months have separated. The 40-year-old Becker and Sandy Meyer-Woelden, who is 16 years younger, became engaged in August. She is the daughter of Becker’s former manager, Axel Meyer-Woelden. Becker has been divorced from Barbara Becker for seven years. They have two children. He also has a daughter with London-based model Angela Ermakova.

SAYS NO WAY

Andy Roddick said he was only joking when he said he would give a tennis lesson in the nude. That offer brought a USD $11,200 bid from a woman at a charity auction earlier this year. “First and foremost, I am not going to be playing naked tennis,” Roddick said. “It was said in jest and the lady who bid was really cool afterwards.” The offer from Roddick was auctioned off to help Elton John’s AIDS Foundation fundraiser.

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SERBIAN WINNER

Ana Ivanovic is the 2008 winner of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ACES Award. The award is given to the player who consistently goes above and beyond to promote women’s tennis to fans, media, in the community and beyond. The French Open champion said her most enjoyable off-the-court activities this year were playing doubles with amateur players in Tokyo and participating in a photo shoot by the WTA Tour players in Dubai. Larry Scott, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, said: “Ana is not only an incredible athlete and champion, but also a player who has earned the respect and admiration of fans, media and sponsors by continuously giving back. Throughout the 2008 season, Ana has given of herself selflessly and been a true ambassador in promoting our sport.”

STEP ASIDE

Formula One auto racing is moving its 2009 date in Shanghai to make room for a Tennis Masters tournament. The 2009 Chinese Grand Prix will be run in April, following the Australian Grand Prix on March 29 and the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 5. The Chinese Grand Prix had previously been run in Shanghai in October. But with the new tennis calendar set for next year, the ATP tournament will be held in Shanghai October 12 to 18.

SURPRISE

John McEnroe saved three match points and finally beat Todd Martin in a wild final to win the $150,000 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships at Surprise, Arizona, in suburban Phoenix. After losing to Martin in three previous finals on the Outback Champions Series tour, the 49-year-old McEnroe outlasted Martin 3-6 7-6 (3) 11-9 (Champions tiebreaker) to win his second career title on the tennis circuit for champion players over the age of 30. Martin served for the match and led 6-3 6-5 40-0 before McEnroe rallied for the victory.

SHAHAR SWITCH

Israel’s top women’s player, Shahar Peer, has got a new coach. Peer is now working with Pablo Giacopelli, a Peruvian-born British citizen. She will begin her training with Giacopelli in South Africa, accompanied by her physical trainer, Muli Epstein. According to published reports in Israel, Peer will train for two weeks at high altitude in the Johannesburg area, followed by two weeks in the Durban area. She will compete in the Israeli Championships in December.

SPOTLIGHTED

Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association has honored Dennis and Doris Lloyd with the LTA’s meritorious service award. The two met during World War II and have been members of Westcliff Hardcourts tennis club for 62 years. As a player, Dennis Lloyd won numerous titles and was district doubles champion six times with partner Howard Stone. Dennis became a coach and helped develop many players, including his own children. Attending the ceremony was two of their sons, David and Tony, and their daughter Ann, who was a strong club player. Their third son is John Lloyd. David Lloyd is a former Davis Cup captain.

SENIOR TENNIS

It will be “old home week,” with the emphasis on old, when the Grand Slam Winners Classic is held in the Sarasota, Florida, area next month. The competition will help raise money and awareness for The Wellness Community, a national not-for-profit organization that offers free education, support and hope for patients diagnosed with cancer. Among those scheduled to participate in the tennis are Eddie Dibbs, Fred Stolle, Virginia Wade, Hana Mandlikova, Johan Kriek, Owen Davidson, Robbie Seguso, Ken Flach and Kathy Rinaldi.

SERVING STILL

Billie Jean King has been appointed a Global Mentor for Gender Equality by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). She was named to the post at a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, during the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour season-ending championships. As part of the appointment, the Billie Jean King Leadership Internship program will be set up to give young women experience in the sports industry through internships at the Women’s Sports Foundation and then job placement opportunities in the sports business. Besides winning 12 Grand Slam singles titles between 1966 an 1975, King has been a vocal advocate against sexism in sports. She also founded the WTA Tour and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

SWEDISH SADNESS

The man who coached Bjorn Borg for 12 years and captained Sweden to its first Davis Cup title has died. Lennart Bergelin was 83 when he died from heart failure at a hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. As a player, Bergelin won nine Swedish singles titles between 1945 and 1955, and captured the French Open doubles in 1948. But he was more famous for coaching Borg from 1971 to 1983, helping him win eleven Grand Slam tournament titles. Bergelin coached the Swedish Davis Cup team from 1971 through 1976, giving a 15-year-old Borg his Davis Cup debut in 1972 against New Zealand’s Onny Parun. Borg won the match.

STARTING THE HALL

The three new inductees into the Nevada Tennis Hall of Fame includes Andre Agassi’s father, Mike. Also being inducted later this month are community leader Ann Rockwell and twins Catrina and Christian Thompson. Mike Agassi gave free lessons to the children in his neighborhood, including his son Andre. “What Mike Agassi has doe for the world of tennis is immeasurable, his kindness is limitless and this is our community’s chance to thank and recognize him,” said Ryan Wolfington, executive director of USTA-Nevada. Rockwell played on the United States Wightman Cup team and won the USPTA National Championships in singles and doubles. The Thompson twins were junior standouts and, while at Notre Dame, were ranked number one in doubles by the NCAA.

STILL PLAYING

With a combined age of 156, Michael Henderson and Tony Bennett are doubles partners who are still playing winning tennis. Bennett won the British Veterans’ grass court over-80 doubles title at Wimbledon with another partner in the summer. Henderson, the younger of the two at 76, played in the Wimbledon Junior doubles in 1949. He was set to return 50 years later after qualifying for the 70-year-old singles, but pulled so many muscles in the qualifier he couldn’t play in the event.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Doha: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 6-1 7-5

Krakow: Angelique Kerber and Urzula Radwanska beat Olga Brozda and Sandra Zaniewska 6-3 6-2

Bratislava: Frantisek Cermak and Lukasz Kubot beat Phillipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya 6-4 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Shanghai: www.masters-cup.com/1/home/

Dnepropetrovsk: www.peoplenetcup.com

Odense: www.nordeadanishopen.dk/

Helsinki: www.ippopen.net

Macao: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com/3/events/2008/macao.asp

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$3,700,000 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai, China, carpet

$125,000 PEOPLEnet Cup, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

DAVIS CUP

(Final)

(Nov. 21-23)

Argentina vs. Spain at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, hard

ATP

$125,000 IPP Open, Helsinki, Finland, hard

WOMEN’S TOUR

$100,000 Nordea Danish Open, Odense, Denmark, carpet

SENIORS

Blackrock Tour of Champions, Macao, China