Agassi, Seles, Roddick, Navratilova, Kournikova, Sharapova, Bryan Brothers and Fish among tennis greats set for WTT action
NEW YORK – Patrick Rafter returns to tennis action this summer when he makes his World TeamTennis Pro League debut for the Philadelphia Freedoms. Rafter was the top pick in the 2004 WTT Player Draft held today via teleconference from WTT League Headquarters in New York City. He joins an impressive lineup of tennis stars, including WTT National Ambassador Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova, who will take to the courts this summer when the WTT Pro League presented by ADT Security Services gets underway. The season runs July 5-25 with the WTT Finals set for Aug. 27-28.
In addition to Rafter, several other notable names highlighted the first round of the 2004 WTT Marquee Player Draft. Seles, a 9-time Grand Slam champion and WTT veteran, was selected by the New York Sportimes. The fan favorite, who has been sidelined since the 2003 French Open with a stress fracture in her foot, is targeting a return to the WTA Tour this spring.
The entire U.S. Davis Cup team will be in action this summer as Roddick will be back with the St. Louis Aces and fellow U.S. teammate and WTT newcomer Mardy Fish will be playing for the Hartford FoxForce. Also part of the Davis Cup team and selected by the Newport Beach Breakers will be the world’s top ranked doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe is an owner of the New York Sportimes.
Many favorites from the 2003 season will also be back this summer. Agassi returns for his third season for the Sacramento Capitals. Navratilova will play for the New York Buzz as she returns for her 13th WTT season as the 3rd overall draft pick. Kournikova will be back for her second WTT season as the Kansas City Explorers protected the rights to one of tennis’ most popular players. Also returning for another WTT season is Russian teenage superstar Maria Sharapova who was protected by the Newport Beach Breakers. The defending champion Delaware Smash are bringing back the core of their 2003 squad with Liezel Huber, Paul Goldstein and Samantha Reeves leading the way.
“Many of the world’s top tennis stars will be playing WTT this summer,” said WTT Commissioner Ilana Kloss. “The best of American men’s tennis will be showcased with Andre, Andy and the rest of the U.S. Davis Cup team playing. It will be great to see Monica back on the WTT courts this summer and we’re also very excited about the return of Patrick Rafter to the U.S. tennis scene. With a lineup that ranges from the remarkable endurance of Martina Navratilova to the continuing emergence of one of the sport’s next great champions in Maria Sharapova, it will be a great summer of WTT tennis.”
The top two teams from the Western and Eastern Conferences will advance to the seasonending WTT Championship. Semifinal matches will be played on Friday, August 27, and the WTT Finals will be held on the following day at the USTA National Tennis Center. The winning team will be awarded the King Trophy, named after WTT co-founder Billie Jean King.
Here is a team-by-team breakdown of today’s Marquee and Roster Player Draft:
With the first pick in the 2004 WTT Draft, the Philadelphia Freedoms selected Australian legend Patrick Rafter who will make his WTT debut in July and play three matches for the Freedoms. Joining Rafter will be local favorite and Fed Cup standout Lisa Raymond, Josh Eagle, Elena Tatarkova and John Paul Fruterro. Craig Kardon will coach the Freedoms.
ST. LOUIS ACES
The St. Louis Aces protected the rights to one of tennis’ most dynamic champions, Andy Roddick. Currently ranked #2 in the world, Roddick returns for his fifth WTT season. Last year, Roddick became the youngest American and second overall to finish an ATP season ranked #1 and is the defending U.S. Open Champion. Rounding out the Aces lineup will be Tatiana Panova, Tzispora Obzilar, Amir Hadad and a college player to be named at a later date. Greg Patton is the St. Louis coach.
NEW YORK BUZZ
Martina Navratilova returns for her 13th WTT season as the #3 overall draft pick. With 58 Grand Slam titles (18 singles, 31 doubles, 9 mixed doubles), Navratilova’s credentials are among the best in the history of the game. Last July, Navratilova tied tennis legend and WTT co-founder Billie Jean King for an all-time record of 20 Wimbledon titles. The Buzz also selected Justin Bower, Marissa Irvin, Bryanne Stewart, and Shaun Rudman. Jolene Watanabe returns as the Buzz coach.
KANSAS CITY EXPLORERS
The Kansas City Explorers protected the rights to Anna Kournikova who returns for her second WTT season. Kournikova has won 16 doubles titles including two Grand Slam championships. Kournikova has battled a continuing back injury but will be back out on the court for four matches during the season. Joining Kournikova on the Explorers roster will be Sylvia Talaja and Alex Kim. After selecting Don Johnson and Lisa McShea, the Explorers traded them to the Hartford FoxForce for David Macpherson and Rachel McQuillan. Paul Smith will once again coach the Explorers.
NEW YORK SPORTIMES
With the fifth pick in the Marquee Draft, the New York Sportimes picked up Monica Seles who returns to the League for the first time since 2001. This will be the 4th WTT season for Seles who played for Hartford from 1999 to 2001. Seles holds 53 singles titles and 6 doubles titles. She also holds nine Grand Slam Titles with wins at Wimbledon, Australian Open and the US Open and was a member of the winning US Fed Cup teams in 1996, 1999 and 2000. Along with Seles and returning favorite Bea Bielik, the Sportimes will add Ruxandra Dragomir, Hermes Gamonal and Joe Sirianni to their roster. John Roddick will be the Sportimes coach this season.
NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS
The Breakers selected the world’s top-ranked doubles tandem of twin brothers Mike and Bob Bryan with their first round Marquee pick. The 2003 French Open doubles champions, who previously played WTT for the Idaho Sneakers in 1999, have posted several wins in 2004 including Acapulco, Adelaide and Memphis tournaments. The Breakers also protected the rights to rising star Maria Sharapova who has won two WTA singles titles and two doubles championships. Rounding out the Breakers lineup will be Ramon Delgado, Aniko Kapros, Ellis Ferreira and Nana Miyagi. Dick Leach will once again coach the Breakers.
With the 7th pick in the draft, the FoxForce selected #28 ranked player Mardy Fish. The U.S. Davis Cup team member won his first ATP singles title in 2003 in Stockholm and recently won his first doubles title in San Jose, Calif., with James Blake. The FoxForce also protected the rights to Milagros Sequera, who will be joined by new teammates Wesley Whitehouse, Don Johnson and Lisa McShea. Johnson and McShea were acquired after the draft when the FoxForce traded David Macpherson and Rachel McQuillan to the Kansas City Explorers.
The Springfield Lasers did not select a player in the Marquee Draft but focused their draft day decisions on a solid lineup from the Roster Draft. The Lasers selected Daja Bedanova, a 21-year-old Czech standout who has been ranked as high as #16 in singles (July 2002). Bedanova, who has won one WTA singles title, has been a member of the Czech Fed Cup and Olympic teams. Joining Bedanova on the Lasers roster will be Andrew Kratzmann who played in Springfield in 2003, former college star Kristen Schlukebir and Jalal Chafai. Trevor Kronemann returns as the Lasers’ coach.
The Capitals will have a new look in 2004 with only their top pick Agassi and Mark Knowles returning to the team. This summer will mark Agassi’s third consecutive year in Sacramento where he has shown fans why he’s not only considered one of tennis’ greatest champions, but also one of sports’ greatest showmen. The world’s #3 ranked player will be joined this season by Knowles, Dmitry Tursunov, Nicole Vaidisova and Anastassia Rodionova. Wayne Bryan returns as the Capitals coach.
The 2004 WTT Champion Delaware Smash also passed on a selection in the Marquee Draft rounds and will be returning most of their championship team from one year ago. The Smash protected Liezel Huber, Paul Goldstein and Samantha Reeves and added U.S. tennis veteran David Wheaton to the squad. Brad Dancer will coach the Delaware squad.
Billie Jean King and Larry King originated World TeamTennis and its unique gender-equity team concept in the early 70s. The format used for a WTT Pro League match features teams comprised of two men, two women and a coach. Each match consists of five sets, with one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
The WTT Pro League is presented by ADT Security Services. Other official WTT Pro League sponsors include Advanta, Gatorade, Head/Penn Racquet Sports (official ball) and Wilson Racquet Sports (official racquet). For more information on the WTT Pro League, visit www.WTT.com.
2004 World TeamTennis Pro League Rosters
** (Teams in alphabetical order; Team Rosters in order of draft selection) **
The 2004 WTT Pro League season will run from July 5 – 25
KANSAS CITY EXPLORERS
NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS
NEW YORK BUZZ
NEW YORK SPORTIMES
John Paul Fruterro
ST. LOUIS ACES
College Player (to be named later)
- Marquee Players
– acquired in trade from Hartford FoxForce
^ – acquired in trade from Kansas City Explorers
MARQUEE PLAYER MATCHES
Andre Agassi (Sacramento Capitals)– Philadelphia, Sacramento
Patrick Rafter (Philadelphia) – St. Louis, Philadelphia, Delaware
Andy Roddick (St. Louis Aces) – St. Louis
Anna Kournikova (Kansas City Explorers) – New York Buzz, New York Sportimes, Kansas City, Hartford
Mardy Fish (Hartford FoxForce)– New York Sportimes, Sacramento Capitals, Hartford
Monica Seles (New York Sportimes)– New York Sportimes, Newport Beach, Delaware
Martina Navratilova – (New York Buzz) NY Buzz, Philadelphia, St. Louis, NY Sportimes, Springfield, Sacramento
Maria Sharapova (Newport Beach) – Newport Beach (2)
Mike & Bob Bryan – (Newport Beach) Newport Beach (2), Sacramento, New York Sportimes
- Schedule to be announced at a later date