The New York Empire of World Team Tennis will begin their second season of existence on July 16 in a new venue, Court 17, at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The Empire played their maiden season at Forest Hills Stadium.
A team official told me at the team’s media day last Thursday that they wanted return to the West Side Tennis Club but it would be too much work to set up and break down for tennis between the many concerts that are scheduled to take place there this summer.
Douglaston native Patrick McEnroe was the Empire head coach last summer but after a lamentable 2-10 record, the worst in World Team Tennis, he has been replaced by Gigi Fernandez, who had a very successful career on the Women’s Tennis Association tour, and is now the only female head coach in the WTT.
To say that last year’s Empire team lacked star power was a gross understatement. Christina McHale was the team’s marquee player which says a lot. Andy Roddick deigned to play one match for the Empire but the rest of the team was fairly anonymous.
Apparently the league paid attention because this year’s Empire squad includes popular Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard, perennial fan favorite Mardy Fish, and arguably the best American player in the game today (granted, he’s never won a Grand Slam event), John Isner.
Billie Jean King, who co-founded World Team Tennis 42 years ago, told the press at the Empire event that this was her proudest accomplishment. “It was always a dream of mine to have men and women playing together on the same team.”