Team Tennis hits Chicago this summer

Chicago, a huge market long undeserved by tennis of any description, will be home to a new World Team Tennis expansion franchise this summer.

The Chicago Smash will be coached by Chicago native Kamau Murray, and play its home matches at Credit Union 1 Arena at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Smash will debut on the road July 13 against the two-time defending WTT champion Springfield Lasers. The next night, they’ll host the Lasers in Chicago.

With Murray, comes his player, Sloane Stephens.

Stephens will play “select matches” this summer. Also signed on is Chicago native Evan King.

Hopefully, the team will be able to get Donald Young and Taylor Townsend, the two highest-profile players with Chicago roots, to play as well. 

Chicago

WTT Chicago history spotty

Back in 1973, with World Team Tennis was a huge thing, Chicago was one of the league’s eight charter franchises.

Called the Aces, they played at the Lakeshore Racquet Club and were owned by Billie Jean King’s then-husband, Larry.

This … did not end well, apparently. And the team only lasted a year.

By 1982 they were back. They played one season as the “Aces”. They returned in 1983 as the “Fyre”, then were renamed the “Fire” as they muddled along a few more season until closing the doors in 1986.

Last year, WTT expanded to Orlando and Las Vegas. The prize money on offer this year is up to $5 million, with another $1 million for playoff compensation.

It should be noted that the Credit Union 1 Arena is a … really big arena. Also, it’s indoors. 

Journos, pols join World Team Tennis

The Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis held their Congressional Charity Classic Tuesday.

The cast was a mix of Kastles players, elected representatives, members of the D.C. media and the head coach of the DC United soccer team, Ben Olsen.

They even had … two women!

CNN journalist Michelle Kosinski and Senator Shelly Moore Capito took part; Moore Capito more then held her own against the fellas.

The next two nights, the Kastles will have Venus Williams (and her EleVen pop-up shop) as a guest star.

So the six-time champs are working hard to get fans.

Bob Bryan return lasts two games

Doubles star Bob Bryan hasn’t played since Madrid because of a hip issue.

So he had to watch as his twin, Mike, won the Wimbledon men’s doubles with fellow American Jack Sock.

Mike also returned to the No. 1 ranking at age 40. (Bob’s ranking, despite being idle, moved up to No. 4).

The pair was to return to the Tour next week in Atlanta.

But after Thursday, when he managed just two games for the Washington Kastles in World Team Tennis before an in-match substitution, you have to think at least the short-term future is not looking good.

Melichar’s Wimbledon ‘mo goes to WTT

American Nicole Melichar was a revelation at Wimbledon.

She reached the women’s doubles semis with Kveta Peschke, and won the mixed with Alexander Peya.

Her doubles ranking jumped 14 spots, and she’s in the top 20 for the first time.

But Melichar won’t be able to build on that for a bit because of her commitment with WTT’s Washington Kastles.

She played with another Wimbledon champ, Mike Bryan, in the mixed doubles Thursday night (They lost to Groenefeld/Matkowski).

Peschke will play with Latisha Chan next week in San Jose.

They’ll be reunited in Montreal.

WTT offers full streaming in ’18

If you’ll be feeling the need for a post-Wimbledon tennis fix and can’t wrap your head around clay-court action from Kitzbuhel, World Team Tennis is coming to a laptop or mobile near you.

The league, in its 44th season, will have every match – 43, over 22 days, involving six teams – streamed online.

It’s free.

Some matches will be available on the WTT’s Facebook and YouTube channels, and other digital outlets “to be announced soon”.

There will also be expert commentary.

It starts on Wimbledon men’s finals day, and wraps up Aug. 5.

Marcus Willis back on the court

Annual Wimbledon sensation Marcus Willis skipped a couple of Futures events in Ireland to pick up a few bucks playing World Team Tennis in the U.S. this month.

As the substitute on the New York Empire, the 26-year-old Brit hadn’t seen action so far. But with Mardy Fish gone to Newport to support BFF Andy Roddick in his Hall of Fame induction and play a little seniors tennis, the Empire took Willis on a West Coast trip.

The Empire lost to the Orange County Breakers Saturday and to the San Diego Aviators Sunday night.

Sharapova returns in Team Tennis

Maria Sharapova took the court Sunday for the first time since she retired from a singles match in Rome in early May.

Her Orange Country Breakers were the visitors for the World Team Tennis season opener in San Diego. 

Sharapova played singles, losing 5-3 to Shelby Rogers.

But first, she played doubles, teamed with Andreja Klepac of Slovenia. They won their match 5-1.

The event was a sellout, the first in the San Diego Aviators’ history. And the home team won. You can watch it here.