World Team Tennis (1981-1982)
Born: 1981 – WTT founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1982 – The Breakers cease operations.
Arena: Oakland Coliseum
Team Colors: Blue & Green
Owner: Bill Schoen
The Oakland Breakers were one of four original franchises in the low-key, California-only relaunch of World Team Tennis in 1981. The original World Team Tennis, founded in part by superstar Billie Jean King, existed from 1974 to 1978 and included a Bay Area franchise known as the “Golden Gaters”. The Breakers, like the Gaters before them, made their home at the Oakland Coliseum.
The original league played 44-game, four-month long summer seasons and succeeded in luring many of the top players of the era, especially on the women’s side. In addition to King, the original World Team Tennis signed Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong, Ilie Nastase and Martina Navratilova among others. But the league collapsed under its own weight in late 1978.
King and her then-husband Larry King re-booted the league in 1981 on a modest footing. The season was only three weeks long and the four participating clubs were all in California. In addition to Oakland, there were Team Tennis franchises in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Diego. King served as player-coach of the Oakland Breakers and was the league’s only household name, other than Navratilova, who played for the Los Angeles Strings. Other members of the 1981 Breakers included Fritz Buehning,Phil Dent andAnn Kiyomura.
The Breakers returned in 1982 with an entirely new cast of characters. King departed and was supposed to be replaced by her former mixed doubles partner from the 1970 French Open, South African Bob Hewitt. But Hewitt left the team shortly before the season and was replaced by Larry Stefanki. The all-new Breakers players for 1982 included Leslie Allen, Rosie Casals and Peter Rennert.
The team folded after the 1982 season. Oakland got a new World Team Tennis franchise in 1985 – the Oakland Aces – but that team would also last only two money-losing summers at the Coliseum before going out of business. World Team Tennis remains active enters its 34th season in 2014.
Bob Hewitt, intended to be the Breakers star attraction in 1982, had his plaque removed from the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2012 in the wake of a Boston Globe article that alleged Hewitt sexually assaulted and harassed numerous young girls from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. The disgraced former champion currently faces a rape trial in South Africa scheduled to start in May 2014.
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