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Inside Events: Mylan World TeamTennis

7 Sep, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Ilana Kloss, Commissioner

2016.wtt.com

Mylan World TeamTennis, (formerly World TeamTennis but renamed in 2013 following a long-term sponsorship agreement) was founded in 1973 as a mixed-gender professional tennis league played in a team format on a distinctive multi-colored court. Each match is played in a different format (men's singles, men's doubles, women's singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles). Players from the ATP and WTA generally take a break from their tour schedules to partake in World TeamTennis.

Pro teams are the New York Empires, Orange County Breakers, Philadelphia Freedoms, San Diego Aviators, Springfield Lasers and Washington Kastles.

The USTA’s highly successful Tennis On Campus program is played in the WTT format. WTT also has a recreational league and sponsors Mylan WTT Corporate Leagues, the WTT Junior Nationals and X TeamTennis High School Regional Championships. In addition, WTT Smash Hits, to be held once again at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in October, benefits the Elton John AIDS Foundation as well as local AIDS organizations.

Sports Destination Management: How is World TeamTennis doing?  

Ilana Kloss: From a global point of view, we are doing very, very well. In the United States, our role is to provide people with opportunities to see the very best professional tennis in their backyard.

SDM: Why do you think WTT has been so successful?

Kloss:  The team format. When you’re playing for a team, you’re playing for something much bigger than yourself. That’s what it’s really all about: there is a really intense completion, but it can result in the shared experience of winning together. We’ve been really successful at getting the tennis community behind us – and not just tennis but sports fans in general.

SDM: WTT is very active in the community.

Kloss: Yes, we all feel like we have a role to play in growing the sport. We have a lot of grassroots programs that play year-round. We also offer play dates at every one of our professional matches and a lot of kids are getting their first introduction to tennis there. Each team is trying to build the sport and grow it from a young age.

SDM: What are the venues like that WTT uses?

Kloss: I think our venues seat between 2,500 and 4,000. It’s a very intimate experience. For the most part, each team has a home venue, just like any other professional  sports league. We keep the same venues, which allows us to keep the same consistency

SDM: WTT has been around a long time.

Kloss: Yes. We are part of a special group with Major League Baseball, the NFL, NHL – there really haven’t been that many leagues that have lasted 40 years.

SDM: World TeamTennis starts in August of each year.

Kloss: Yes, but we started late this time because of the Olympics. We adjusted our schedule to fit around it.

SDM: Do you think the Olympics benefits tennis?

Kloss: I think they should be using the WTT format for a team medal in the Olympics. I can see it hugely helping tennis as an Olympic sport. It could really enhance tennis there.

SDM: Because of the team aspect?

Kloss: Most of the sports that do well are team sports. And when kids take up sports, they want to take up team sports that allow them to play with their friends. Our Junior World TeamTennis has a great format that has men and women on the same team.

SDM: World TeamTennis also has a very active social media presence.

Kloss: – I think the boom of social media has helped us. We are able to get information out so quickly, and that can really help smaller leagues and properties such as World TeamTennis. Look at how much money big leagues are spending on advertising; it’s hard to compete with that. But I think social media and digital content has helped make up for it. We live stream and televise a match every day, and we can take that content and put up highlights packages at the end of the night, as well as grabbing content like pictures of players and coaches celebrating wins. Our platform is also shared internationally by some of our media partners – we have a partnership with EuroSport.

SDM: What’s the economic impact like?

Kloss: Think about all the jobs we create and the playing opportunities for people at all levels – not just pro players but GMs, officials and more. Then there’s the long-term commitment we have made to the sport. On all levels, we’re allowing players to experience unbelievable team camaraderie.

SDM: What do you think has been key to WTT’s continued success?

Kloss: Our whole platform is about access. We invite every kid under 16 onto the court to get autographs. I think it’s aspirational and inspirational. Kids dream about playing for their hometown team, and this is a way to do that.

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