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TeamTennis Set Not Ready for Centre Court Showing

July 06, 1988|BROCK MULLINS | Times Staff Writer

They play the same sport at Wimbledon, but the comparison stops there.

There won't be any royalty on hand, or strawberries and cream for sale, when the Los Angeles Strings kick off their 14-game TeamTennis season at the Forum tonight at 7:30 against the Sacramento Capitals.

Still, String owner Jeanie Buss, 26-year-old daughter of Laker owner Jerry Buss, isn't necessarily competing with the All England Lawn Tennis Club for attention as she attempts to improve on last year's average home attendance of 973.

"Everyone likes Wimbledon. Everyone likes to see (Boris) Becker vs. (Stefan) Edberg," she said. "We don't have a (John) McEnroe or a Chris Evert. But the players in TeamTennis are ranked pretty much on the same level, so you still have very competitive matches. It's good, competitive tennis, and the fans have a team to root for."

Things have been tough for Buss' team since 1981 when the TeamTennis league returned after a two-year absence and the Strings won the league title with Martina Navratilova on the squad. According to Buss, the Strings drew an average of about 3,000 that year. Finishing sixth among eight teams last year, their attendance was well below the league average of about 2,300, according to the league office.

This season's eight-team league will compete over a month for $400,000 in prize money. Elna Reinach of the Charlotte Heat was last year's money leader with $29,578.

TeamTennis is short on big-name players. The Strings' are made up of player-coach John Lloyd, Olympic squad member Elise Burgin, two-time Princeton All-American Leif Shiras and Penny Barg. Tim Wilkison is playing for Charlotte, Rosie Casals for the Fresno Sun-nets, and Peter Fleming for the New Jersey Stars.

Tonight's match will be shown live on the Prime Ticket network, one of four telecasts this season. Buss is hoping that the telecasts and an increased promotional effort will boost the Strings' attendance.

TeamTennis features five one-set matches with no-ad games. The team with the higher cumulative score over the five sets wins. Charlotte won the league title last year, and Reinach was named both the league's most valuable player and rookie of the year.

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