Armed with a new CEO, two new franchises, a new TV partner and a new streaming partner, World TeamTennis is set to return for its 44th season this month, with the eight-team league, which now includes the Vegas Rollers and Orlando Storm, set to feature 16 matches on CBS Sports channels from July 14-Aug. 3, including the league’s debut on broadcast TV on July 21 at 4p. Meanwhile, ESPN+ will exclusively live stream 18 matches during the 2019 WTT season, with an additional 25 streaming on both ESPN+ and WTT.com. This year’s WTT franchise field includes staples such as Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Bob and Mike Bryan, Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka, Monica Puig, Eugenie Bouchard and John Isner.
WTT CEO Carlos Silva joined the organization earlier this year, and Cynopsis asked him about his plans for World TeamTennis as the new season kicks into gear.
Silva on joining WTT: Tennis has been a big part of my life and all I wanted to do…I played Tennis at Boston College and then played the pro satellite tournaments after college before I hung it up to get my Masters Degree. It was a dream job opportunity to take everything I have done in digital sports, running cable sports channels, and running a major MMA fighting league. To be able take all of my experiences and bring them to WTT is a dream come true.
3 goals when I took the job for 2019:
Build audience and partner with major players in Sports and Tennis…Check Check…We have CBS Sports (TV) and ESPN (Digital), along with our own distribution on WTT.com.
Build the league beyond the six teams so we can create a real post-season playoff system. Check again. We added the Orlando Storm and the Vegas Rollers to the league as league owned teams much like leagues like MLS have done. Build a great team and infrastructure and then find the best local owners in those markets. We now have eight teams with the top four making the playoffs to compete for the King Trophy in Las Vegas August 2nd and 3rd.
Attract the best players in the world. We have Grand Slam Champs in Singles and Doubles, Olympic Gold medalists, Top 10 players, Top 20 players, and some of the most exciting young men and women in the world representing the next generation of tennis star. We have made significant strides this year evident by our players going deep in the Australian Open French Open and now in Wimbledon. We have even had a few up and coming players that have now reached out and want to play for a WTT team this season as Wild Cards.
On the CBS partnership: I grew up watching the US Open on CBS Sports. It still remains, in my opinion, the best coverage of Tennis ever. It had personality and excitement. We knew they would be a great partner from the beginning because they care deeply about Tennis and also understand how we can grow the game together with the WTT team format as well as how we bring entertainment into the telecast and the teams. Adding LMFAO frontman and tennis fanatic RedFoo as our Assistant Coach in Vegas is a great example, as well as adding in personalities like Shawn T and LZ Granderson, Nick Gismondi, Holly Saunders, Katrina Adams and more.
On new franchises: Vegas is turning into the sports and entertainment capital of the world. I really learned this in the fight business with PFL and the UFC, and obviously with all the major boxing matches. Add in the success of the NHL’s Golden Knights and WNBA’s Aces, plus the impending move by the Raiders and we saw a great opportunity with a market and community embracing professional sports with open arms. The Vegas Rollers will be the next pro team for the city and with great Tennis in Vegas and top players spending a good amount of time practicing there we think it is a perfect fit, with the Orleans Casino serving as the perfect venue. Orlando is more foundational as we partner with the USTA on our Rec Tennis initiatives where regular players play all year in leagues powered by the WTT format. We started talking and visited the National Campus in Lake Nona and loved it. Kurt Kamperman liked the idea of bringing a WTT team to the Campus and we made it happen.
On future plans: We would like to add two teams a year, get to 12 teams and then look to international expansion. We are already exploring these opportunities. It’s called World TeamTennis, so we are excited about a few cities and a Europe group to add to the play in 2020 or 2021.