Billie Jean King wasn't bashful about her opinion on the state of tennis during a quaint meet-and-greet for the new Orange County Breakers at the Ayres Hotel in Costa Mesa Tuesday night.
She said tennis, mainly men's, is great globally, but the U.S. is in last place.
With regard to World TeamTennis, she would like her Breakers to be in first place, and that doesn't just mean in the league standings. Lindsay Davenport and a new venue just might be the right combination to deliver.
The O.C. Breakers begin their new season at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center July 9. It will be a challenging debut, as they take on the Washington Kastles, who went undefeated last year.
Davenport, who lives in Laguna Beach, is playing all seven home matches.
King has seen World TeamTennis franchises succeed in other cities and she believes that can take place here. She's determined to make it happen. She spent most of her day talking to media, sponsors and potential fans. She even shared her excitement about meeting the new interns working for the Breakers this season.
It was an intimate-type setting Tuesday night when King sat with Coach Trevor Kronemann and answered his questions.
Kronemann provided a lengthy introduction of King, listing all her accomplishments. When he was done King added, "I'm not finished yet."
King shared a stories with the small group — she said Andy Roddick named his bulldog after her because the dog is feisty — and talked about her momentous victory over Bobby Riggs in "The Battle of the Sexes," in 1973.
She remains proud the victory helped stream women's equality in tennis and other sports.
King showed tenacity in that match and throughout her career. She applies that to her mission now, promoting World TeamTennis and the new Breakers, who had played in Newport Beach.
"I want it to be packed every night," she told me Tuesday morning, talking about her dream for her O.C. Breakers. "I want it to be in the community every day and making a difference. I want people to actually get behind the team and not think about individuals."
King said the Breakers will be fan friendly and family-oriented once again this year. She expressed excitement about the new venue. So did new general manager Kerry Schneider. Kronemann is also thrilled. As men's tennis coach at UC Irvine he had always envisioned the Breakers playing at UCI.
CEO and commissioner of WTT Ilana Kloss also attended Tuesday's meet-and-greet. Davenport met with the Daily Pilot Tuesday morning along with King.
They are looking forward to the new season. Davenport said she enjoys playing tennis and close to home so that her family can attend the matches.
She said the Breakers will have the Kids Zone that will include many pre-match activities for children. There's even a new team mascot, FlutterFrog.
The Breakers will also have theme nights. They will have a charity awareness theme July 23 when Andre Agassi and King will make a special appearance.
More information, including ticket prices, can be found at breakerstennis.com.