We took a great mini-vacation this week to D.C. for World Team Tennis. It's the more fun, fans involved kind of tennis celebrating its 35th anniversary this season. It's also the best kept secret - unfortunately - in tennis.
There are ten teams nationwide who play a one-month season every July. The closest team to us is the Washington Kastles so we ordered tickets for two nights this week, booked a hotel and made tracks for the nation's capital on Tuesday morning. Having lived in DC years ago, we are familiar with the city, with the Metro, and with the weather, so we went prepared. Fortunately, altho the heat had returned the humidity stayed low, so by moving slowly and planning plenty of breaks for liquid, we did fine.
Kastles stadium is a court that has been constructed on a parking lot at H and 11th - if you know DC. [Same location if you don't!] One multi-colored court, 3,000 fans, better than average food concessions (beer, Italian ice and food from Ridgewell's) and noise makers - not yet - thankfully - vuvuzelas. I loved the way it was nestled in among the office buildings and apartments of downtown.
Billy Jean King "invented" team tennis in 1975 to bring tennis to everyday folks, to encourage team play, and to make tennis more accessible to everyone. There are WTT leagues in many cities for recreational players. The "events" are only one five-game set and each match includes men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles. The scoring is total games won for each team, with all sorts of tie breaking opportunities designed to force the decision for the match to the last event of the evening. And, altho relative calm is encouraged for serving, there are cheerleaders, games between the events, team mascots and a general encouragement of audience participation - not at all the quiet atmosphere of, say, Wimbledon.
If you follow tennis at all, you will know Leander Paes and Rennae Stubbs - two of the best doubles players in recent years - who played Tuesday night for the Kastles. Their other players are the lesser known Angie Haynes and Bobby Reynolds. Their stars are Venus and Serena Williams. Venus played on Wednesday night, altho Serena didn't join the team in time for us to see her.
The real joy of this event, tho, was the relaxed atmosphere on the court. The players and their opponents joked and traded barbs on and off the court. When Venus played Martina Hingus on Wednesday night they clearly enjoyed the camaraderie as much as the competition. But the other nice thing for the fans was the opportunity to see the players up close and relaxed. Venus cheered for her team, gave advice, and exchanged words with fans in the first few rows - all within range of the camera.
We stayed two nights in Alexandria and rode the hotel jitney to the Metro station; visited the very interesting International Spy Museum; and made our downtown rest stop in the bar at the Grande Hyatt - just across the street from the stadium. Great wines and good h'ors d'ouevres - what more could a girl want?
Having lived nearly 10 years in DC, we still enjoy a periodic DC fix and this was a nice one. If WTT comes to a city near you, consider dropping by. It's a relaxed way to spend a summer night.
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