- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Washington Kastles of World TeamTennis announced they will play their inaugural season at the site of the old Washington Convention Center.

The team, which includes eight-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams and ATP tour veteran Justin Gimelstob, will play seven home matches at the site in July.

“I was really trying to think of a location that would be really easily accesible to all people in the Washington community,” Kastles owner Mark Ein said. “I was driving around and thought, that would be the most unbelievable place.”

Currently, the site consists of a parking lot bordered by New York Ave. NW and 9th St. NW, just south of Mt. Vernon Square. But it will be transformed into a tennis venue with temporary bleachers and box seats for as many as 2,000 fans.

The old convention center was demolished in 2004. A development team led by Hines and Archstone have planned new condos, offices and retail space at the 10-acre site, with construction planned for early next year. In the interim, the city has been seeking ways to bring activities to the site.

Playing on a temporary site not originally designed for tennis is not unusual to WTT. The Philadelphia Freedoms play at a parking lot adjacent to the King of Prussia Mall, and the Sacramento Capitals play at a temporary stadium next to the Wesftield Galleria mall in Roseville, Calif.

King said she had been looking to place a team in Washington for many years.

“D.C. is great,” said Billie Jean King, who played in Washington several times as a pro and co-founded World TeamTennis in 1973. “It’s the nation’s capital… and there are a lot of professional people in that area.”

The league promotes a fan-friendly style of play, with no-ad scoring and unique rules that allow “let” points to be played and coaching to be permitted during matches. The league was the first organized tennis league to use to instant replay, which is now standard on the professional circuits.

“We’ve been sort of ahead on that, and we’ve pushed others to debut some more friendly things,” King said. “We’ve been a leader in that.”

The Kastles lineup also includes Mashona Washington, the sister of former Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington; Sacha Jones, a former top junior from New Zealand; and Scott Oudesma, former top American junior now on the ATP tour.

The team has not yet named a coach. It’s first match will be on July 8 against the Boston Lobsters. Former pros John McEnroe and Anna Kournikova will be among the visiting players during the season.

At each event, there are five sets consisting of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

“It’s very fan friendly, the whole format, the whole approach,” Ein said. “They’re combining the best of the sport and the best of entertainment.”

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