WCT - The Road to Open Tennis

Now the story of how open tennis was created and developed into a major sport is told in this informative DVD.

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For much of its life, the game of tennis was dominated by amateurs and the organizations that governed them. That changed in 1968, when the British Lawn Tennis Association voted to conduct Wimbledon as an “open” tournament – one that welcomed professionals and amateurs alike. That decision signified the dawning of a new era in professional tennis.

Based on his experience with the American Football League and the North American Soccer League, Lamar Hunt had a well-known reputation for starting new sporting ventures.  In partnership with his nephew, Al Hill, Jr., and New Orleans sports entrepreneur Dave Dixon, Lamar set out to create a new professional tennis enterprise – World Championship Tennis.  Backed by Hunt’s money, Dixon signed six top amateurs and two pros – dubbing them the “Handsome Eight.”

Later Hunt assumed control of WCT and brought in former touring pro Mike Davies, who signed up 32 of the world’s top professionals.  Each player agreed to play a number of tournaments each year that led to an annual, high-profile championship in Dallas.

World Championship Tennis gave the game a professionalism, strength, and sense of purpose that it had previously lacked.  It was the first to present the game consistently and properly at the world’s major stadiums.  It was the first to trade traditional white clothing for more colorful clothing – and to introduce colored tennis balls as well.  It was the first to use a tie-breaker system, electronic linesmen, on-tour trainers, and full-time public relations professionals.

It was also the first to establish a permanent doubles championship.  In time, WCT expanded to present two simultaneous 32-player tours competing in events around the world.

NBC televised the first series of weekly finals on Sunday in the winter and spring of 1972.  The Rod Laver vs. Ken Rosewall 1972 final was seen by a record 23 million Americans, and is widely believed to be responsible for the explosive growth of tennis in the United States.  World Championship Tennis reached its peak in 1974 and 1975, when 85 players participated in its tours.  As the decade of the 1990s began, WCT closed its doors and ended its role as one of the active leaders in the game.

Fortunately, the WCT archives were preserved and maintained by Lamar Hunt’s family.  The archives contain dramatic footage from many of the greatest matches in the history of tennis, with appearances by stars such as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, John Newcombe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Dick Stockton, Guillermo Vilas, Vitas Gerulaitis, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, and many others.  Portions of the WCT archival footage are available for licensing and use.  If you are interested in licensing a portion of the WCT archival footage, please let us know by using the contact form.