While we still don’t know for sure what the fate of the U.S. summer hard-court season will be, World Team Tennis has decided that it can’t even contemplate having a “regular” season.
As such, CEO Carlos Silva has announced that the three-week competition, which typically involves coast-to-coast travel, will now be held – if it’s held at all – in one city, to be determined.
“World Team Tennis has made the decision that due to the coronavirus outbreak it would be inappropriate (not to mention unsafe – ed.) for players, staff and fans to travel between ine host cities and will now hold the three-week competition in one city. The league will follow all CDC and state guidelines, as safety is our top priority.”
Silva’s statement said that WTT “remains hopeful” that the season will begin on July 12 as scheduled. He said the league “is in discussions with several cities which are located in states that have begun to ease restrictions”.
It’s a tough blow as Silva, who joined WTT as CEO from the Professional Fighters League and has a tennis-playing background, had come in just 16 months ago and had a lot of plans to grow the league, and bring it back to some semblance of the popularity it had in its heyday.
Citi Open owner Mark Ein (who also owns the WTT Washington Kastles franchise) and Silva grew up together. Ein and partner Fred Leddy bought a majority stake in WTT back in March 2017.
The first effort was to add teams in Orlando, Fla. and Las Vegas, Nev. in 2019. This year, a new franchise led by Sloane Stephens coach Kamau Murray was to begin play in a big city that’s often underserved by the pro game, Chicago.
The Vegas franchise had already signed on the Bryan brothers and Sam Querrey for the entire home-and away season. As well, the Orange Country team had signed home-area favorite Steve Johnson for a full season of play back in December. They also had signed Maria Sharapova – until she up and retired on them.
The Breakers also signed Grigor Dimitrov to make his Team Tennis debut.
The league had also added a big prize-money bump, to $5 million for the 2020 season, as well as increased online viewing possibilities in 2019.
So it’s a tough blow for an organization that was working so hard to make moves – and for the local franchises that now will not be able to put on their seasons at home.
There’s no way to know if they will play with no fans, socially-distanced fans, or somewhere in between.
Or, in reality, if they’ll be able to play at all. It’s too soon to tell.
But it’s just another example of how the pandemic is hurting businesses of all sorts, all around the planet.