National Tennis League

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National Tennis Leagues (NTL) was a tour for professional male tennis players established in 1967 by George MacCall. In 1970 it was sold to the World Championship Tennis (WCT), a competing professional tennis league run by Lamar Hunt.

History[edit]

The National Tennis League (NTL) was formed by former U.S. Davis Cup captain George MacCall in 1967, as a governing body to a US Professional tennis tour. It was key in moving tennis from a mostly amateur sport to a professional sport.

Proposals for Open Tennis were always defeated by conservative elements within the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF—later the ITF). In 1967, however, two new professional groups were formed: the National Tennis League (NTL), founded by former U.S. Davis Cup captain George MacCall, and World Championship Tennis (WCT), co-founded by New Orleans Sports Promotor, David Dixon, and Lamar Hunt.

Billie Jean King has had a career of firsts. In 1968, she was the first woman of the Open Era to sign a pro contract to tour in a female tournament group with Rosie Casals, Françoise Dürr and Ann Haydon-Jones as the women's auxiliary of the National Tennis League. It also included six men Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzales, Andrés Gimeno, Fred Stolle and Roy Emerson.[1] "On April 1, 1968, we signed with the National Tennis League, as George MacCall's troupe was called. Frankie (Durr) and Rosie (Casals) received a guarantee of $20,000 per annum for two years, mine (Ann Haydon-Jones) was $25,000 and Billie Jean King's was $40,000. George envisaged us playing a lot of matches and tournaments amongst ourselves and did not expect us to be as much involved in open tennis as later proved to be the case....We joined the six men that he already controlled - Emerson, Laver, Gimeno, Gonzales, Rosewall and Stolle. A group of ten was an attractive proposition to offer and he believed he was going to do very well from it. His main problem was one of administration. He had to keep flying all over the world to tie up arrangements with the various associations but didn't leave sufficient time to organize his professional tours in America, the most important part of the operation, and didn't seem to be able or willing to delegate."—From A Game to Love by Ann Jones. Published 1971 by Stanley Paul & Co Ltd; p. 135 and 136

George MacCall served as U.S. Davis Cup Captain from 1965 to 1967, when he had Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston and Marty Riessen in his team. During that time, MacCall organized a professional tennis circuit, the National Tennis League. Tennis still largely comprised amateurs at the time, but MacCall convinced some of tennis' biggest names, including Ashe, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Stan Smith, to take part in his pro circuit, despite the fear that they could be shut out of Wimbledon, which up to that point was strictly an amateur event. The players were able to play Wimbledon while keeping their prize money. It launched a new era in tennis.[2]

In June 1969 Fred Podesta's formed Tennis Champions Inc. and became the parent company of the NTL with Podesta as president and MacCall as executive director.[3][4][5][6]

Nevertheless, except for the 1969 and 1971 tournaments, many of the best players missed this championship until 1982, because of the remoteness, the inconvenient dates (around Christmas and New Year's Day), and the low prize money — in 1970 the National Tennis League (NTL), which employed Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Andrés Gimeno, Pancho Gonzales, Roy Emerson and Fred Stolle, prevented its players from entering the tournament because the guarantees were insufficient, and the tournament was ultimately won by Arthur Ashe.[7] By 1967, most professionals were contracted to either the National Tennis League (NTL) run by George MacCall or WCT, Dave Dixon's and Lamar Hunt's baby. This caused problems in its own right, the promoters could effectively hold the tennis world to ransom by deciding whether their charges would play at a tournament or not, depending on the amount of money up for grabs.

Both professional organizations, the NTL and WCT, banned their contracted players from contesting the grand slams at some stage during their short tenure and this made the International Lawn Tennis Federation, the predecessor of the current ITF, very nervous. That was the catalyst that led to the abandonment of the distinction between amateur and professional tennis players and by 1968, the beginning of the Open Era, all tennis players could compete in all tennis tournaments [8] George MacCall sold the NTL's player contracts to Lamar Hunt in July 1970.[9] He became the first Commissioner of World Team Tennis in 1974. Some of the players he signed to contracts were: Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Pancho Gonzales, Fred Stolle, Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals. He traveled the world to sign players. Many tournaments had to get their players through George.[10]

The two touring professional groups, World Championship Tennis and Tennis Champions, Inc. (formerly the National Tennis League) wanted nothing to do with the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association, which presumes to run the game in this country. The USLTA is governed by committee, and is factionalized and fractionalized, mainly into anti-professional and pro-professional groups.[11][12]

"Our contract was to play for 10 months of the year, but out of that we had one further month off, on location so to speak... In the end we played for about eight months".--From A Game to Love by Ann Jones. Published 1971 by Stanley Paul & Co Ltd; p. 144

1969 NTL Earnings[edit]

  1. Rod Laver 30 weeks $123,405
  2. Roy Emerson 30 weeks $62,655
  3. Ken Rosewall 20 weeks $46,800
  4. Pancho Gonzales 22 weeks $46,320
  5. Fred Stolle 28 weeks $43,115
  6. Andrés Gimeno 21 weeks $35,115

Source[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Billie Jean King". Tennis Hall of Fame. 
  2. ^ Steve Carp (Dec 25, 2008). "MacCall, fixture of local tennis, dies at 90". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 
  3. ^ Robert H. Boyle (February 9, 1970). "Big Cat On The Prowl". Sports Illustrated. 
  4. ^ "Tennis Pros View Grand Prix Circuit With Optimism". Ludington Daily News. Apr 9, 1970. 
  5. ^ "Around the World". World Tennis 17 (4): 85. October 1969. 
  6. ^ "Podesta, MacCall Head Tennis Group". Reading Eagle. AP. Jun 29, 1969. 
  7. ^ "Grand Slam Preview:2009 Australian Open". International Tennis Magazine. 
  8. ^ "Tennis Turns Pro, The move toward the "Open Era"". 
  9. ^ "Lamar Hunt obtains six pro tennis stars". Eugene Register-Guard. Jul 29, 1970. p. 2D. 
  10. ^ "Former USTA official George MacCall passes away at 90 in Las Vegas.". Bob Larson's Tennis News. 
  11. ^ Kim Chapin (September 1, 1969). "Living Dangerously At Forest Hills". www.si.com. Sport Illustrated. 
  12. ^ Red Smith (February 16, 1970). "Tennis Czar Has A Demanding Job" (PDF). Buffalo Courier-Express (Fulton History). p. 20. 
  13. ^ John Barrett, ed. (1970). BP year book of World Tennis 1970. London: Clipper Press. p. 134. ISBN 0851080049. OCLC 502255545. OL 21635829M.