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July 21, 2008

Billie Jean King

THE MODERATOR: Talk about why it's special to be here.
BILLIE JEAN KING: I think it's special because the playoffs are on the line. Both teams still have an opportunity. This happens almost every year. We're a short season, and it seems like every year we get down to the last two or -- actually last year I think on the last night it was decided who was in the playoffs. It looks like it could get down to the last night again.
Tonight is vital for both teams, really, I think. Do I have that right? There's always different scenarios. I read that Brian Hicks, our IT guy -- Sacramento has a chance, Newport has a chance, I think Boston has a chance, as well. I'm telling you, it's just tight. If I went through the scenarios, I'd have to go through two, three scenarios, so I'm not going to do that.
But it's important because we're getting down to the short -- I mean, we have three more matches tonight, Tuesday night, and then we have Kansas City -- the Breakers have Kansas City on Wednesday. Do I have that right? I think I have that right.
Ramon has become a real star here. I checked into the hotel, and everybody was talking about Ramon. It's great. There's so many terrific players in our sport that don't get recognized, and that's why World Team Tennis is so great. Sam Warburg, for instance, in Sacramento is a big deal. He's not going to be a big deal at Wimbledon, but that's what's great. You have 800 players that play Major League Baseball, and if you say, the guy is a Major League Baseball player, everyone goes, oh, wow, that's great. I want people in the world to recognize all the great tennis players we have.
In the men's rankings we have over 2,000 rankings for the top level throughout the world, and in the women I think we're up to 1,500. It's incredible the amount of great players that people never see, never learn about. The one thing I love with World Team Tennis is you can be a star for your team, you can be a role player like in basketball or other sports. And that's what's important, that we get more players appreciated because they're really great players and they have great wins over some of the best players in the world, and nobody ever realizes it.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
BILLIE JEAN KING: Ramon has got wins over Sampras, he's got wins over a lot of players. Ramon is perfect for World Team Tennis because he can play singles, doubles and mixed if we need him, if Coach Kronemann needs him, and also, he is very entertaining. He's got that extra little flair and energy that people love. He's a great entertainer, and that's also -- I mean, that's kind of a God-given -- that's usually God-given, what he's got. I call it the "it" factor. People love him, men and women. People at the hotel are talking about him. He's our local, our Breakers hero, and I appreciate him playing year after year, which makes a difference, as well. They get to know him over time. We've got our desperate housewives for him.
You've got to love all that stuff. And the kids, he's very good with the young people. But the whole team is. I really love this team, and I hope the community and beyond in this area, in southern California, appreciate them, too. It's fun. The ball kids are great. They keep growing up every year. I can't recognize them.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
BILLIE JEAN KING: It's not about being casual. It's still competitive, but it's more like a team sport. It's more like what you see in basketball or baseball or other sports. I grew up in team sports, as well. Some of you know my younger brother was a Major League Baseball player. So I played baseball, softball, touch football. My parents wouldn't let me play tackle.
So tennis was my last sport, but I loved teams. I always promised myself someday if we could ever -- I think coed, too. I think coed is the greatest.
And I love doubles over singles. Three out of the five sets, 60 percent of the scoring effort, is in doubles, which I think makes it much more of a team effort.
And when we did this, we really thought about it, and we can't want it to be too long but we didn't want it to be too short, and we wanted the hometown team to get behind the kids because these kids could truly dream about playing for the Breakers, and I hope -- well, we had Robert Van't Hof played, and now here's Kaes this year. I started cracking up when I saw that, and I went, wow, because when I first saw him he was a baby, and now here he is playing for the local team where they live, and that's what I'm talking about.
Those are great stories. They're truly success stories for the community and make the community stronger and have a better quality of life and hopefully help these young people be champions in life and productive participants in the world.
There's a lot behind when we thought up the format to have the equality, the gender equality, and have both the men and women contributing equally to the team effort on a level playing field. We thought about the socialization process with the youngsters. They seen men and women cooperating and helping each other, and that's what you want the world to be.
If you see a match, you've just seen my whole philosophy on life in tennis. I think I said this last year here.
I've been to a few cities again this year, and it's been a better year than last year in attendance. The sites keep improving. Of course, this site is beautiful anyway, but some of the other cities have gotten better. Boston's site is a huge improvement. We've had Schenectady move to a bigger market, to Albany.
So we're trying to make shifts. We have a new team this year, the Washington Kastles. And the Kastles probably is the hottest thing in town. If you go to restaurants, if you read the newspapers, if you read some of the articles out of the Washington Post and some of the blogs and different things, all the athletes in that area are coming out, all the celebrities. It's a big deal to come to the Kastles matches this year. It's a hit.
And we have unbelievable diversity there compared to any other place we play because there's a huge population of African-Americans in that area. They're coming out to support us. We have billionaires coming out. We have people who play rec tennis or are barely making it economically come out to watch us, so it's a real mix. I'm thrilled, it's been sold out I think every single night. It's like you can't believe what the papers are writing.
We were front page above the fold on the Washington Post after the first night. Front page of the Post. And then in the sports page we got about another page, and it's continued to be unbelievable coverage from -- not only the Washington Post but just everybody in the state, from all the television stations to every kind of newspaper possible and the weeklies, whatever.
It's just been amazing what's happened there. So that's a real success story. Mark Ein, I have to take my hat off to him, he's done a great job. He loves to play tennis and he's very connected to the business community there, the old boy network. He's totally connected to that. And he knows all the politicians.
And Mayor Fenty has gotten totally behind it. He's not a tennis player but their two boys play and they're waiting for a third child. He's a triathlete. He's come out to all the matches. He's been very committed to having the Kastles there.
So the tennis community, the political community, the celebrity community, that's the hottest ticket in town this year. It's been unbelievable what's happened. I didn't think it could ever go as well as it did for the first year, so I have to take it off to Mark and his associates.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
BILLIE JEAN KING: In a few years, I would say so. I think so. I think it is. I think it's unbelievable.
I went the first night; it was just great. They're crazy. The people got -- they got it, the format like that. They got why they're there. They got the fact that they don't have to sit on their hands. They got the fact that they can get into it. They were totally there. They were bopping, they had drums, they had cheerleaders, they had everything. It's the way that I kind of envisioned that I'd like to see it. But every community is a little different. Each one of them has their own personality, there's no question.
If the Breakers get in the playoffs that would be the biggest story here. It's all where you live, right? I grew up here, and how we would -- Lakers, Dodger blue. I grew up with the Los Angeles Rams. They were my team then.

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