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.
By Melissa Boyd
The Sun Life Financial Esplanade, Tennis Canada, Tennis Quebec and Tennis Montreal have announced the implementation of a unique project, as they are combining their efforts to build kids’ tennis courts at Olympic Park in Montreal where the city’s Olympic Stadium is located. The new courts will allow kids from all over the province of Quebec to learn how to play the sport with equipment adapted to their size.
“This project is unique and innovative because these permanent courts will be built from scratch according to the correct kids’ tennis sizes and not from already existing courts,” said Mr. Eugène Lapierre, Vice-President of Professional Tennis in Quebec and Tournament Director of the Rogers Cup. “It will be one of the few places in Quebec where kids will have their own courts built exclusively for them. It will be great for kids and families who are looking for an activity on the weekends and want to learn how to play tennis.”
In addition to the kids’ tennis courts, equipment rental kiosks (racquets, balls and games), resources to help the kids and organize tournaments, events and leagues will be available throughout the year.
“We are very proud to benefit from a renowned space like Olympic Park to organize tournaments and activities for our future tennis players,” said Mr. Jean-François Manibal, Director General of Tennis Quebec. “We are working together with the Sun Life Financial Esplanade to ensure we offer activities which target our young athletes.”
The location of these courts is very interesting strategically for Tennis Montreal who have very few courts in the eastern part of Montreal.
“This project will mark the first time that kids’ tennis courts have been set up in this neighbourhood,” added Mrs. Nicole Nobert, Director General of Tennis Montreal. “We will offer programming for elementary schools in the area to get more kids involved in tennis and this, in optimal conditions. Among our many projects, we will also launch a new activity for three and four-year olds called Little Tennis, something offered to kids in daycare and of course, families with young children.”
Furthermore, the participating organizations are exploring the possibility of making these new courts available year round with tennis on the snow during the winter months with appropriate equipment.
A mini Rogers Cup will be held to inaugurate the courts during qualifying weekend of the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal, from August 3-5. An official launch event featuring a WTA player is scheduled for August 3.
The construction of the kids’ tennis courts will begin in May and will be completed in July.
Following in the footsteps of the USTA and their progressive tennis program endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama, Tennis Canada has launched a new campaign to promote the active, healthy living of children through the sport of tennis. World no. 26 Milos Raonic will be the ambassador for Kids’ Tennis, a scaled-down version of the sport that ensures earlier success for children by using modified racquets, balls and nets.
Kids’ Tennis is a way to attract young children to the game and allow them to improve their tennis skills quicker which makes for a more fun and successful transition to a regular court.
“Getting more kids playing the sport of tennis in Canada is extremely important to me,” said Raonic. “I hope that my recent success and results on the ATP World Tour will help to inspire more people to pick up a racquet. But they also need to know there are now easier ways for their children to learn the sport with this smaller equipment that is tailored to suit their abilities. That’s what I’m hoping these public service announcements will accomplish.”
The campaign will roll out in the form of two public service announcements with supporting print elements aimed at raising awareness and encouraging participation. Raonic made himself available for both the TV and print creative development which was shot over a full day at the Hollyburn Country Club in Vancouver early during the week of Davis Cup in February.
Developed by Toronto ad agency Bensimon Byrne, the two public service announcements take a humorous approach using role reversal where Raonic, the 6’5” ATP World Tour star, has difficultly playing Kids’ Tennis against a young girl. The spots began airing in Canada this past weekend during the final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and will run continuously on several stations throughout the summer.. To date, the PSAs have been very well received, getting over 2,700 views on YouTube since last Thursday. Watch the first PSA below. The second one will be posted this week.