World Team Tennis (1974)
Born: 1974 World Team Tennis founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1974 – The Royals cease operations.
Owner: John Bassett
The Toronto-Buffalo Royals were one 16 original franchises in World Team Tennis (1974-1978) in the summer of 1974. The league was founded by Billie Jean King, her husband Larry, and serial sports promoter Dennis Murphy. A few of the founding investors from Murphy’s World Hockey Association (1972-1979) signed on as investors in the new venture, including Royals owner John Bassett. Bassett’s burgeoning sports empire included the WHA’s Toronto Toros and the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League. All three of Bassett’s pro sports franchises were organized during a spree of activity in 1973 and early 1974.
The Royals’ star attraction was player-coach Tom Okker of the Netherlands, the 1968 U.S. Open finalist and a Top Ten-ranked singles player throughout the late Sixties and early Seventies. Other members of the Royals’ six-person roster included Mike Estep, Jan O’Neill, Wendy Overton and Laura Rossouw.
In the “team” concept, each World Team Tennis club consisted of three male and three female players. Matches consisted of a single set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles, with one point awarded to a team for each game won within a set.
A July 30, 1974 contest against the Pittsburgh Triangles at The Aud in Buffalo illustrates the league’s unique scoring system. The match opened with Pittsburgh’s Evonne Goolagong overpowering Jan O’Neill 6-2 in the women’s singles set. Then Goolagong and partner Peggy Michel edged O’Neill and Rossouw 7-6 in women’s doubles to open up a 13-8 lead for the Triangles. The Royals pulled ahead during the men’s portion. Okker beat Pittsburgh’s Ken Rosewall 6-2in singles and the Okker/Estep doubles team bested Rosewall and Gerald Battrick 6-4 in doubles. The Royals entered the fifth and final set of the night – mixed doubles – holding a 20-19 lead in points. The Estep/Overton duo held off Pittsburgh’s Battrick/Michel pairing 7-6 for a final score of 27-25 in favorite of Buffalo-Toronto.
The Royals finished the 1974 season with the second-worst record in the league at 13-31. The Royals went out of business shortly after the season as World Team Tennis shrunk from 16 original teams to only 10 for the league’s second season.
==1974 Toronto-Buffalo Royals Match Results==