Whither World Team Tennis? In Denver Fran�oise Durr accompanies her airedale Topspin on court and the yellow-shirted "Racket Rowdies" beat a rubber chicken with a stick in the balcony. In Honolulu a bugler blows taps when visitors serve and a fan club of garbage collectors cheers the results. In Buffalo the "star of the game" receives $100 from Desenex foot powder, possibly because there is no air conditioning in the arena. And in Baltimore the new Wimbledon champion, wondering why his team is called Banners, says, "Francis Scott Key? I thought we were named after some guy named Banner."
In nine short weeks WTT has changed its format, drawn a crowd of 176 and had its TV package canceled after just one match. It has produced women coaches, pinch servers, boo-requesters, coed showers, pizza magicians and cheers such as "Get hot, Stove" and made a buck-skinned hero out of the acerbic South African Bob Hewitt, a feat previously believed humanly impossible.
WTT has uncovered fear and loathing, enabled romance to bloom and rediscovered Iggy Geneva and his Mummers string band. Rosie Casals says the great thing about WTT is "it's impossible to dump." Sandy Mayer calls his home fans "typical New York—crude and obscene."
WTT is the most unprofessional, kinky, bizarre and ridiculous sports gambit to come along since Tony Galento. And probably the most fun, too. It will need fewer franchises, fewer matches, a shorter schedule and probably another revised format to escape sinking into oblivion, but it is a living, breathing spectacular tribute to fools and their money. And here is one vote for them. May they long live. And continue to double fault.
The Boston Lobsters are the funk 'n soul team of WTT, a kind of Brooklyn Dodgers of tennis. Nobody knows why this is, unless it is because their player-coach is the magnificent bewhiskered Carpathian Count, Ion Tiriac, or because the Lobsters have the only communal shower room in the league. The team includes Pixie and Roger, two ranked tournament players; Trish, a Phi Beta Kappa from Seattle who helped organize the Women's Players Association and is "currently published"; Raz, a Southern country boy given to hyperbole, non sequiturs and the exclamation wow!; Strawberry, who would like to lose weight but keeps winning bottles of champagne in airplane-flight games; and Junior, a champion roller skater who can balance a tennis racket on his nose.
Recently the Lobsters took it upon themselves to traverse WTT, which meant going a quarter of the way around the world, five cities in nine days, putting up with each other and trying to play tennis. Though they lost four of five matches, nobody died.
Oakland outside in the parking lot is most of a crowd of 50,000 Jehovah's Witnesses meeting in convention at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. When Raz Reid of Greenville, S.C. and Roger Taylor, the left-handed Englishman, meet a Witness, they are invited to return tomorrow for a terrific resurrection ceremony in memory of the 350 million who have passed on to the great beyond. "Wow, you gonna resurrect all of 'em?" says Reid.
"Only the good ones," says the Witness.
That night, when Lesley Hunt, the leading woman player for the Golden Gaters, is introduced the announcer reveals that Hunt thinks Oakland fans are not loud enough and hardly compare with the boo birds on the road.
As the Lobsters' Kerry (Pixie) Melville serves late in their set a man screams "Break her serve!" Across the way a boy replies "Break her leg!" Melville is smooth and graceful, but Hunt is aggressive and tough. Hunt wins 7-5.