Venus Williams and the Washington Kastles are bearing down on the record for consecutive all-sports wins.
By Joe Favorito, special to USTA.com
Mylan World TeamTennis and the Los Angeles Lakers have crossed paths before, as the late Jerry Buss was one of the original owners of the Los Angeles Strings franchise when Billie Jean King came up with the WTT concept in the 1970s. And the Forum, the iconic home of so many Lakers titles, also hosted Davis Cup, the other area where team and tennis meld, during John McEnroe’s only year as Davis Cup captain in 2000.
This week the Lakers and another team, the Washington Kastles, could share some rarefied air. The Kastles – owned by Mark Ein and featuring Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Bobby Reynolds and others – will look to tie and then eclipse the Lakers’ all-sport consecutive game winning streak of 33 when they meet the New York Sportimes Monday and then the Boston Lobsters Tuesday night in Washington.
The two wins would give the Kastles 34 straight, breaking the Lakers record of 33 set in 1971-72. The defending WTT champions have already surpassed the MLB mark of the New York Giants (26 straight wins, 1916) and the NFL mark of the New England Patriots (21 straight, 2003-04) last season, but what makes the Kastles so interesting is the business built around the tennis on the court that has made the business of tennis in Washington, D.C., so popular.
"We really have three goals with the Kastles, and they all tie back to growing the game overall," Ein said. "First we have to connect with the community, and we think that with the inner-city programs we do and the year-round clinics and racquet giveaways, we have been successful. Second, we needed to be easy to access when we are playing, so putting the stadium right in the city, where people can come and enjoy the game without having to trek to the suburbs, was very important. And third, we needed to reach fans who might love sports but not really be fans of tennis, and that’s why WTT worked so well here.
"Fans identify with Washington versus New York, they get the simpler scoring and all the cheering and promotions. It has become a happening that regardless of the streak has worked for us and really works for tennis."
The overall goal of the Kastles is to embody King’s dream of a fun team sport with wide appeal that mixes in stars and rising players and even some veterans. Ein said the franchise has sold out almost all of its seats every night for the past few years, a capacity of just over 2,000.
So on any hot July night, you will see captains of industry, politicians and everyday fans of the game of all ages mixing together and enjoying a fun and affordable night out.
"Sure, the notoriety of the streak has been a rallying point for the short term, but we have always employed a long-term vision with the Kastles, and that is to use the team to get people of all ages engaged in tennis," Ein said. "That’s what’s been fun about this, bringing the game that we love to a new audience while providing quality entertainment and competitive tennis for those who are already engaged in the game. That’s what Billie Jean and Ilana Kloss have preached, and we are excited to help fulfill that mission."