WTT Hopes To Capture Momentum From Recent Team Tennis Events
World TeamTennis will try to capture some of the buzz surrounding the team formats that has grown around tennis in recent months -- like the revamped Davis Cup and the new ATP Cup -- ahead of its '20 season. A celebrity All-Star match will be held on March 1 that will be recorded and broadcasted in an edited form April 4 on CBS, and WTT CEO Carlos Silva hopes that serves as an appetizer for the upcoming campaign. The '20 season will feature nine teams after the addition of the Chicago Smash that will play a total of 63 matches over 19 days from July 12-30. "It's a lot of matches, a lot of great players in a short period of time," Silva said of the WTT season. "We wanted to sort of extend that reach throughout the year, and one of the ways to do that was through this all-star event." WTT had a strong '19 season, adding distribution partners CBS and ESPN+, which resulted in over 2 million total TV viewers. The league also announced last year that it was increasing its '20 prize money to a record $5M. WTT owners kicked in an additional $1M in playoffs compensation, including $500,000 for the team that hoists the King Trophy on Aug. 1. The four-team WTT playoff will again be held at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on July 31 and Aug. 1. Silva said the increased prize money marks a "super-positive endorsement from the current ownership." He added, "They see growth and the quality improving, and the folks at CBS and ESPN are more happy."
MORE EARLY COMMITMENTS THIS YEAR: The added prize money -- in addition to already guaranteed salaries -- had a noticeable impact on WTT's ability to sign players for '20. WTT locked in 80% of its rosters by February, including the Bryan Brothers and Maria Sharapova, a huge improvement compared to the same time last year, when about 10% of players were signed. Silva announced in December '19 that the WTT would shift to a free agency model with salary cap to ensure that teams had the chance to sign players native to their area. Among the interesting early matches is the July 14 opener between the Vegas Rollers and N.Y. Empire, which will be held at the Empire's new home court on the roof of Pier 17 in Manhattan, overlooking the East River and Brooklyn Bridge. The Empire previously played at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in The Bronx.