While the world’s media and 99 percent of the U.S. Open crowd had eyes only for the current stars of the tennis tour, a modest crowd gathered around the small perimeter of Court Four at Flushing Meadows.
What had drawn this assorted gaggle of people away from the main throng during the second week of drama? Only some of the most illustrious names from the record-books of Grand Slam tennis.
For the first time, the U.S. Open hosted a Champions Invitational that pitted three co-ed teams against one another in the World Team Tennis (W.T.T.) pro-league format.
The competition featured a line-up of Grand Slam champions and finalists under the leadership of three of the greats of the game: Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl and, the real star of the show, the eponymous Billie Jean King. Not only was the venue named after this tennis icon, but she is co-founder of the Team Tennis tour.
The W.T.T. format is designed to be fan- and player-friendly, with short games, plenty of variety and, most of all, a lot of fun. So each match consists of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.
The rules are a little tricky to follow for the uninitiated: cumulative scoring, sets to five games, no ad after a deuce, playing let serves, and many more.
But the atmosphere is competitively light-hearted, and rules a little flexible. The best approach is to just sit and soak it up.