World Team Tennis (1974)
Born: 1973 – WTT founding franchise.
Moved: November 1974 (Indiana Loves)
Arena: Cobo Arena
The Detroit Loves were a one-year wonder, active for the inaugural season of World Team Tennis in the summer of 1974. World Team Tennis sought to take the genteel sport of tennis and market it to the American masses in large hockey arenas. Fans were encouraged to boo and cheer loudly. Each match consisted of five sets – one each in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Each game won was worth a point and teams earned wins and losses in league standings, as with the dominant American team sports leagues of the era.
The Detroit Loves were one of sixteen franchises that began play in the spring of 1974, playing a busy 44-match schedule. The fledgling league was relatively successful in attracting top players from around the world, particularly from the women’s game. The Loves boasted one of the top American females in Rosie Casals, the singles runner-up at the U.S. Open in both 1970 and 1971.
Casals was the top gate attraction on a roster that also included Aussies Phil Dent, Allan Stone and Kerri Harris and Americans Mary-Ann Beattie and Lenny Simpson. Dent would achieve some notoriety later in that summer of 1974, reaching the final of the Australian Open where he lost to Jimmy Connors in what would turn out to be the only Grand Slam singles final of Dent’s career. Simpson was one of the few African-Americans to play World Team Tennis in the 1970’s. The team was highly competitive, finishing first in their division with a 30-14 record, before a disappointing first round playoff exit courtesy of the Pittsburgh Triangles.
The Loves fared poorly at the gate, attracting a disappointing announced crowd of 3,600 to their home debut on May 9th, 1974 at the 11,000-seat Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit. Crowds for the season hovered around the 2,000 mark in the big building, according to The Associated Press, and the club lost a reported $300,000 on operations for the lone season of play. In November 1974, Loves owners Seymour Brode and Marshall Greenspan sold the franchise to Indianapolis tennis promoter William Bereman who relocated it to that city’s Market Square Arena.
The Loves continued in Indianapolis as the Indiana Loves for four seasons (1975-1978) before folding along with the rest of the league in November 1978.
Any material from the Detroit Loves lone season is exceptionally scarce, but we were lucky to dig up these rare 8″ x 10″ glossy PR stills in a collection a few months back.