Sometimes, all it takes is a few words of encouragement to change the entire course of a young player’s life. That was the case for Ilana Kloss, Commissioner of Mylan World TeamTennis (WTT).
“She has talent, she should pursue it.”
Growing up in South Africa, Ilana would often practice with her Dad, Shlaim, and early on it became clear she was talented. “I am so grateful to my entire family for the sacrifices they made for my career. My Mom would constantly drive me to tournaments and my poor sister would always get dragged along. You never do anything alone.” At age 11, Ilana was a ball girl at the South African Open and had an opportunity to hit on one of the practice courts with her Dad. Fate was at hand, when one of the world’s top players took notice and told Shlaim: “She has talent, she should pursue it.”
“I had a great passion for tennis as a kid, but it wasn’t until I heard those words of encouragement, that I began to dream of the possibilities and work towards becoming the best player I could be.” —Ilana Kloss
“I have never forgotten that moment, and now I believe that the work we do at Mylan World TeamTennis (WTT) provides a unique platform to inspire and make a difference in the lives of young players,” says Ilana. Especially appealing about WTT, is the idea of a professional tennis ‘team’ representing a particular city similar to basketball or baseball leagues. Currently there are six WTT teams in six cities competing to reach the finals. The teams play in their home cities (New York, Philadelphia, Orange County, San Diego, Springfield and Washington), and this year the winners will compete in the finals at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, NY.
“I loved team sports as a young player and was more drawn to having people with me on and off the court.” —Ilana Kloss
There are strong benefits to a tennis team concept when it comes to engaging players, communities of fans and kids on a personal level. For players it’s an opportunity to form lasting, supportive friendships on tour; for fans it’s a way to connect as a community to the professional players in a meaningful way; and for kids it’s a way to get inspired by greats in their own backyard.
Ilana remembers her experience on tour and the desire to have a sense of community and support, that is often missing in professional tennis competition…
“While I loved doubles and had great success, singles competition was not my favorite. I was always drawn more to team sports and having people with me on and off the court. My partner retired in 1976 and that was it for me. We were buddies. When she retired I lost my way. I kept playing but I wasn’t happy. I was able to stay out there, but I was miserable. I had no support and felt alone. I wasn’t ready to give up tennis, but I was ready for a change. That was about the time, Billie Jean King asked me to recruit players to WTT and introduced me to the tennis team concept beyond doubles. It was perfect. While recruiting, I could still be on tour and be part of a team.”
Mylan World TeamTennis (WTT) is infused with Billie Jean’s “Do well and do good” spirit of inclusiveness, equality and innovation showcasing the best in professional team tennis competition. Co-founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 and based on the concept of gender equity, Mylan WTT offers unique access to the sport and some of its greatest champions who have played over the past four decades including: Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, James Blake, Bob & Mike Bryan…and more.
“Do well and do good”
— Billie Jean King
“We are a think tank, innovators in the sport, and we continue to push the envelope. Changing the rules to adapt is key,” says Ilana. “Our fans and the media are just as part of the team as our players. Our players value the World TeamTennis experience both for the high-level competition and the lasting memories they make through the relationships they build here.”
“We are a think tank, innovators in the sport, and we continue to push the envelope. Changing the rules to adapt is key.” —Ilana Kloss
World TeamTennis isn’t just about making tennis better, it’s about inspiring and supporting the people who love and play the sport. Through the combined passion and intention of Ilana and Billie Jean leading a team of change makers, WTT continues to set the standard of innovation, moving the sport of tennis forward and reminding us that we can only go so far on our own, sometimes we need a team to get there.
. . . . . . .
Mylan World TeamTennis Finals presented by Citi
Friday, August 26, 2016
1:30–3:45PM ET Trunk Show & Gourmet Tasting
4:00PM Matches Begin
West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills, NY
Hope to see you there!
See this story on “Top 10 Reasons to See, Play, Love: Mylan World TeamTennis (WTT)”