Rare match program from the final season of the original World Team Tennis (1974-1978), Billie Jean King’s oddball co-ed tennis league that haunted the nation’s hockey arenas for five summers in the mid-1970’s.
This June 16, 1978 match pitted the Indiana Loves against the Phoenix Racquets at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. The night marked the return to Indianapolis of Racquets players Sue Barker and Syd Ball,who both played for the Loves in 1977. Barker, 20, of England won the 1976 French Open before signing on with World Team Tennis. True to the Indiana Loves brand name, she went head over heels for Ball, her 26-year old Australian teammate during the 1977 WTT season. At the end of the season, Barker and Ball asked Loves management to package them together should the team consider trading either one of them. In the winter before the 1978 season, the couple announced their engagement and were traded together to the Phoenix Racquets.
Can’t find any record of whether the pair ever did marry, but by the early 1980’s Barker was linked romantically to the English pop star Cliff Richard.
The Loves had a strong Australian connection that summer. Indiana’s formidable 1978 trio of Aussies – Player/Coach Allan Stone, Geoff Masters and Dianne Fromholtz – all won Grand Slam doubles titles during 1977. Before arriving in Indiana, Fromholtz was the subject of another World Team Tennis love connection. While playing for the league’s Los Angeles Strings, she was briefly engaged to Johnny Buss, son of the Strings’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss (yes, the future owner of the Lakers and the Kings). But Fromholtz’s engagement to the son didn’t prevent the father from trading her away to San Diego.
After the 1978 WTT season concluded, eight of the league’s ten franchises folded, citing cumulative losses of $30 million over five seasons. The Loves were among the casualties, throwing in the towel on November 9th, 1978. The league folded shortly thereafter.
Loves President William Bereman passed away young at the age of 54 in April 1996.
Billie Jean King helped launch a lower-budget re-boot of World Team Tennis in 1981 and that league continues to muddle along in quiet respectability more than thirty years later. One big difference: the World Team Tennis franchises of today play at small country club stadiums rather than the 15,000-seat hockey arenas of the 1970’s league.