Phoenix Racquets

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Phoenix Racquets
Phoenix Racquets World Team Tennis team logo.jpg
Sport Team tennis
Founded May 22, 1973 (1973-05-22)
Folded March 1979 (1979-03)
League World Team Tennis
Division Western
Team history Denver Racquets
Phoenix Racquets
Based in Phoenix, Arizona
Stadium Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Golden Yellow, Black

Owner Reggie Jackson,
Gary K. Walker
President Jimmy Walker
Head coach Syd Ball
Championships 1974 (as Denver Racquets)
Division titles 1974 (as Denver Racquets)
1977 (as Phoenix Racquets)
Playoff berths 1974 (as Denver Racquets)
1975, 1976, 1977
(as Phoenix Racquets)
Section titles 1974 (as Denver Racquets)

The Phoenix Racquets were a charter franchise of World Team Tennis (WTT). The team was founded as the Denver Racquets and won the 1974 WTT championship in the league's inaugural season, before moving to Phoenix in 1975. Following the 1978 season, eight of the 10 WTT franchises folded leaving only the Racquets and the San Francisco Golden Gaters prepared to participate in the 1979 season. WTT suspended operations of the league in March 1979, ending the Racquets existence.[1]

Team history[edit]

Inaugural season[edit]

Denver Racquets logo used in 1974.

The Racquets were founded by San Diego businessmen Bud Fischer and Frank Goldberg along with Ben Press in 1973.[2] The team began play in WTT's inaugural 1974 season, and played their home matches at the Denver Auditorium Arena in 1974. Press served as a nonplaying assistant coach for the Racquets.[3]

The Racquets' inaugural match was a 35–26 loss at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena to the San Francisco Golden Gaters on May 8, 1974.[4]

The team got off to a rough start in the inaugural season of WTT winning only two of their first 10 matches. However, the Racquets went 28–6 from there and won the Pacific Section Championship with a record of 30 wins and 14 losses.

WTT playoff series in the division semifinals and division championship series in 1974, were played over two legs, one match on the home court of each team. The team with the best aggregate score over the two matches was the winner. As the higher seed, the Racquets had the choice to play either the first or the second match at home. The Racquets met the San Francisco Golden Gaters in the Western Division Semifinals and won both matches, 29–17, at home and 32–24, in Oakland to advance to the Western Division Championship Series against the Minnesota Buckskins.

The Racquets chose to play the opening match at home and won it against the Buckskins, 29–18. Françoise Dürr of the Racquets beat Ann Haydon-Jones, 6–1, in women's singles and then teamed with Kris Kemmer Shaw to beat Wendy Turnbull and Mona Schallau in women's doubles by the same 6–1 score.[5] The Buckskins came back in Minnesota to win the second match, 26–25. Despite the Buckskins' victory in the match, the Racquets kept the score close by winning three of the five sets.[6] This gave the Racquets a victory in the series by a cumulative score of 54–44 and made them Western Division Champions.

In the WTT Finals, the Racquets met the Philadelphia Freedoms who had the league's best regular-season record and were led by their player=coach and WTT Most Valuable Player Billie Jean King. The Racquets swept the best-of-three series, 27–21 at home and 28–24 in front of 5,134 fans in Philadelphia, to win the championship. In the second match, Andrew Pattison's 6–0 set win in men's singles proved too much for the Freedoms to overcome despite winning three of the five sets in the match. Buster Mottram started that set for the Freedoms against Pattison. King sent Brian Fairlie in as a substitute after Mottram fell behind, 3–0, and managed only three points in those three games. Fairlie didn't fare better, not getting any points in his first two games.[7]

The second match of the finals opened with Dürr falling behind King, 4–0, in women's singles. Dürr won the next four games to tie the set before falling, 6–4. Pattison's men's singles victory gave the Racquets a 10–6 lead. The Freedoms followed with a 7–6 tiebreaker victory in women's doubles posted by King and Julie Anthony over Dürr and Kemmer Shaw that cut the Racquets lead to 16–13. It was the only women's doubles set Dürr and Kemmer Shaw lost in the playoffs. Fairlie and Fred Stolle cut the Racquets' lead to 22–20 with a 7–6 set win over Pattison and Tony Roche in men's doubles. When Anthony and Stolle broke Roche's serve in the second game of the final set, the Freedoms were ahead 2–0 in the set, and the match was tied at 22. The Racquets broke back in the next game on Anthony's serve, and the teams both held serve for the next five games. With the set tied at 4, and the Racquets leading the match, 26–24, Denver broke Roche's serve to give themselves a chance to serve for the championship. Roche followed by serving out the match.[7]

Following the clinching win in the second match, Racquets player-coach Roche admitted he didn't think it would mean quite so much to win the first World Team Tennis championship. Roche said, "It's great. I'd compare it to a Davis Cup team effort. We started off with a lousy record. Something like 2 and 8. Everybody felt team pressure. Then one night after a loss to Los Angeles, we all went out, had a few beers, and decided to relax. It paid off, and now I feel great."[7]

Pattison's stellar play earned him the Playoffs Most Valuable Player Award. Pattison downplayed his award saying, "There is no most valuable player in a team effort."[7] Roche was named Coach of the Year. The other members of the Racquets' championship team were Dürr, Kemmer Shaw, Stephanie Johnson and the brother and sister Jeff and Pam Austin.[8][9]

Pattison's playoff performance was somewhat surprising. He won only 17 of 40 (.425) sets he played in men's singles during the regular season. He won 5 of 6 (.833) in the playoffs. Dürr was solid for the Racquets all season. She won 4 of 6 (.667) women's singles sets in the playoffs and 30 of 39 (.612) overall. Dürr and Kemmer Shaw won 5 of 6 (.833) women's doubles sets in the playoffs and 26 of 40 (.650) overall. Roche and Pattison won 4 of 6 (.667) men's doubles sets in the playoffs and 27 of 38 (.711) overall. Roche and Kemmer Shaw won 3 of 5 (.600) sets in the playoffs, including the championship-clinching set, and 21 of 29 (.724) overall.[7]

None of the Racquets players went back to Denver after winning the championship. They all went to New York City to play in the US Open.[7]

Following the season, Fischer, Goldberg and Press put the team up for sale, and a new ownership group that included Reggie Jackson and his agent Gary K. Walker bought the Racquets on February 6, 1975, and moved them to Phoenix, Arizona.[10][11]

Move to Phoenix[edit]

The Racquets broke even in their first season in Phoenix finishing with 22 wins and 22 losses, second place in the Western Division. The Racquets played their home matches at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.[12]

The Racquets hosted the Western Division Semifinal Match against the Los Angeles Strings and dominated the Strings in a 20–8 victory.

The Western Division Championship Series was a best two-of-three match series. The Racquets fell in two straight matches to the San Francisco Golden Gaters, 25–24 and 26–20, ending their season.[8][9]

Return to prominence[edit]

On October 29, 1975, the Racquets announced that they had acquired the rights to negotiate with superstar Chris Evert from the Golden Gaters. Under the terms of the deal, the Racquets would send a player to be named later and undisclosed cash consideration to the Golden Gaters if they were able to sign Evert. If the Racquets failed to sign Evert before the 1976 season, the rights to her would revert to the Golden Gaters. The Golden Gaters had tried unsuccessfully to sign Evert after the 1975 season. When the trade was announced, Golden Gaters owner Dave Peterson said, "Chris indicated she had a strong preference for starting her World Team Tennis career in Phoenix. I feel her decision was greatly influenced by the fact that her closest friend, Kris Shaw, is on the Phoenix roster. We hated to make the deal. If it were just a matter of money we would have signed Chris, but money wasn't the major factor."[13] After signing Evert, the Racquets sent Françoise Dürr to the Golden Gaters to complete the deal.[14]

In 1976, the Racquets raced to the top of the Western Division standings with a record of 30 wins and 14 losses, 2 games ahead of the Golden Gaters. However, for the second straight season, the Racquet fell in the playoffs to the Golden Gaters in two straight matches, 32–16 and 24–18.[8] The Racquets' new superstar Evert was named Female Most Valuable Player and Female Rookie of the Year.[9]

Under the leadership of new player-coach Ross Case, the Racquets had their second consecutive first-place finish (and third in four seasons) in 1977, with a record of 28 wins and 16 losses, 3 games ahead of the Golden Gaters. Chris Evert repeated as Female Most Valuable Player.[9]

The Racquets swept the Sea-Port Cascades in the Western Division Semifinals, two games to none, 30–14 and 27–26. Meanwhile, the Golden Gaters fell in their semifinal series to the San Diego Friars, eliminating the chance that the Racquets and Golden Gaters could meet in the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The Racquets dropped the first match of their series against the Friars, who had a losing record during the regular season, 29–26. However, the Racquets came back to win the second and third matches, 27–20 and 30–22, to win the second Western Division Championship in franchise history and first since the team moved to Phoenix.

In the WTT Finals, the Racquets faced the defending champion New York Apples. The Apples swept the Racquets in two straight matches, 27–22 and 28–17, to end the season for Phoenix.[8] Key points in the series were Sandy Mayer's 6–1 set win for the Apples over the Racquets' Butch Walts and Virginia Wade of the Apples dominating Chris Evert in a 6–0 set win.[9]

Final season[edit]

Following her back-to-back female most valuable player awards, Chris Evert sought to leverage her value to WTT and as the year-ending number 1 player in the world each of the previous three years (1975 to 1977). Since the Racquets were unable to meet her demands, Evert's rights were traded to the Los Angeles Strings who signed her to a multi-year $1.2 million contract.[15] Without Evert, under the leadership of their new coach Syd Ball,[16] the Racquets slipped to a record of 14 wins and 30 losses in 1978, last place in the Western Division.[8][9]

Following the 1978 season, eight of the 10 WTT franchises folded leaving only the Racquets and the Golden Gaters prepared to participate in the 1979 season. A few weeks after most of the franchises announced they were folding, WTT announced the creation of three new expansion franchises in Dallas, Los Angeles and San Diego and said that there would be five more expansion franchises chosen from a pool of candidates.[17] WTT suspended operations of the league in March 1979, ending the Racquets existence.[1]

Season-by-season records[edit]

The following table shows regular season records, playoff results and titles won by the Phoenix Racquets franchise since its founding in 1974.

Year Team Name W L PCT Playoff result Titles won
1974 Denver Racquets 30 14 .682 Won Western Division Semifinals
Won Western Division Championship Series
Won WTT Finals
WTT Champions
Western Division Champions
Pacific Section Champions
1975 Phoenix Racquets 22 22 .500 Won Western Division Semifinal Match
Lost in Western Division Championship Series
1976 Phoenix Racquets 30 14 .682 Lost in Western Division Championship Series
1977 Phoenix Racquets 28 16 .636 Won Western Division Semifinals
Won Western Division Championship Series
Lost in WTT Finals
Western Division Champions
1978 Phoenix Racquets 14 30 .318 Missed playoffs
Subtotals Denver Racquets 30 14 .682 WTT Finals: 1 win, 0 losses, 1.000
All Playoff Series: 3 wins, 0 losses, 1.000
WTT Champions - 1 (1974)
Western Division Champions - 1 (1974)
Pacific Section Champions - 1 (1974)
Subtotals Phoenix Racquets 94 82 .534 WTT Finals: 0 wins, 1 loss, .000
All Playoff Series: 3 wins, 3 losses, .500
WTT Champions - 0
Western Division Champions - 1 (1977)
124 96 .564 WTT Finals: 1 win, 1 loss, .500
All Playoff Series: 6 wins, 3 losses, .667
WTT Champions - 1 (1974)
Western Division Champions - 2 (1974, 1977)
Pacific Section Champions - 1 (1974)

Home courts[edit]

The following table shows home courts used by the Phoenix Racquets franchise.

Venue Location Duration
Start End
Denver Auditorium Arena Denver, Colorado 1974 1974
Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum Phoenix, Arizona 1975 1978

Individual honors[edit]

The following table shows individual honors bestowed upon players and coaches of the Phoenix Racquets franchise.

Year Player/Coach Award
1974 Tony Roche Coach of the Year
1974 Andrew Pattison Playoffs Most Valuable Player
1976 Chris Evert Female Most Valuable Player
1976 Chris Evert Female Rookie of the Year
1977 Chris Evert Female Most Valuable Player

Hall of Fame players[edit]

The following players who are enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame played for the Phoenix Racquets franchise:

Final roster[edit]

The Phoenix Racquets final roster for the 1978 season was


Preceded by
World Team Tennis Champions
Succeeded by
Pittsburgh Triangles

See also[edit]

Tennis ball.svg Tennis portal


  1. ^ a b Crossley, Andy (April 1, 2011). "1974-1978 Los Angeles Strings". Fun While It Lasted. Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ Janoff, Murray (July 7, 1973). "Tennis: New Pro Circuit". Sporting News. 
  3. ^ "A Legend at Balboa - Ben Press". Center Court (PDF) (Newsletter). Balboa Tennis Club. February 2008. p. 5. 
  4. ^ "World Champ A's Lose to Gaters: Team Tennis Outdraws Baseball". Charleston Daily Mail. May 9, 1974. p. 29. 
  5. ^ "Racquets Rip Bucksins". Daily Review. Hayward, California. August 23, 1974. p. 34. 
  6. ^ "Racquets Make WTT Playoff Finals". Greeley Daily Tribune. August 24, 1974. p. 16. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Wilt, Tom (August 27, 1974). "Racquets Win WTT Championship". Greeley Daily Tribune. p. 16. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "World Team Tennis Life Events". World TeamTennis. Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Steve Dimitry's Extinct Sports Leagues: World Team Tennis (1974–1978)". Steve Dimitry. 1998. Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  10. ^ Crossley, Andy (September 14, 2013). "1974 Denver Racquets". Fun While It Lasted. Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  11. ^ "A Roundup of the Week Feb. 3-9". Sports Illustrated. February 17, 1975. Retrieved August 30, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Innovations to Spice Play". The Arizona Republic. May 2, 1976. p. 125. 
  13. ^ "Gaters Assign Evert Rights to Phoenix". Redlands Daily Facts. October 30, 1975. p. 8. 
  14. ^ Chatoian, Ralph (March 9, 1976). "Golden Gaters Add Some French to Arsenal". Daily Independent Journal. San Rafael, California. p. 24. 
  15. ^ Perry, Douglas. "The Rise and Fall of the Cascades: Portland's Wild '70s Adventure in World Team Tennis". Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Transactions: Tennis". Valley Morning Star. March 21, 1978. p. 12. 
  17. ^ "Struggling WTT Adds Three New Franchises". The San Bernardino County Sun. December 1, 1978. p. 65. 

External links[edit]