R&B legend William King keeps cool even under the hot sun, whether on the court or in concert with The Commodores.
© Michael J. Le Brecht II
By Kevin Wittner, special to USTA.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. – USTA League National Championships often draw tennis aficionados from all walks of life – tennis pros, teachers, businesspeople and retirees, among other backgrounds. At this week’s 7.0 and 9.0 Super Senior championships, one man has held the same job for the last 43 years: Founding member of The Commodores.
William King of the 9.0 Super Senior USTA Southern Section team may be better known as "WAK" from the Grammy-winning soul group has been playing tennis since his days as a student at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama when The Commodores were only a fledgling act. Soon after, they were opening for the Jackson Five.
While King still loves performing, he says touring can take its toll and can keep him away from working on his tennis game.
"My favorite part of being on tour is actually being on the stage. The travel gets old, having to get up at 3 or 4 in the morning. I could go without that part," King laughed. "It’s nice to be on the stage though."
But when he is on the stage, it is difficult to find the time to hit the courts.
"That’s the problem. I try to find a stationary bike when I’m on the road and ride that for 30 minutes in the morning and then in the evening so when you get back on the court you’re not worn out," King said. "But there is nothing like just playing."
Given his on-court results, it would seem King’s tennis game has not taken too much of a hit.
Fortunately, The Commodores have modified their current tour schedule – recently back from Europe – to be on the road Thursday through Sundays and be home a few days every week, rather than the traditional tour method of traveling for six months at a time.
"I try to get on the court about three days a week, and when I’m off tour I’m on it five to six days a week." King said. "I do a lot of drills, training to try to get better. You can’t just get better playing matches.
"My favorite thing about tennis is the competition to play someone who thinks they’re as good as you are and beating them into the ground," King joked.
Teammates say their trumpet-playing teammate who wrote this such as "Brick House", "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" and "Too Hot ta Trot" is just one of the guys.
"I’ve known William for 10, 15 years playing tennis with and against each other," Southern Section captain Steve Duffel said. "William is a down to earth guy. We promote him and hype him more than he ever would. He is a great player who plays in a lot of national tournaments."
Commodore fans will be pleased to hear that in the coming weeks King will convene with the group in Orlando, Fla., to work on its first album with original music in years.
"We are taking about 10 days off -- three of which I am here in Arizona -- and then we will meet back up to be get ready for a new album. We will sit in a room and argue about what songs we’ll put on it," King teased they would, "Tell everybody your melody is OK but your lyrics are terrible."
The writing and performing will have to wait for now, however. King has a championship to win.
for more news & photos from the 2010 USTA League 7.0 & 9.0 Super Senior National Championships.