Part of the Mylan World Team Tennis (WTT) league, the Austin Aces had their inaugural season in July 2014. Founders Larry King and tennis great Billie Jean King created the unique gender equity team concept in the early 70s; play began in 1974 with 16 teams from all over the United States, and the league was the first professional sports organization to give equal weight to competitors of both sexes. In 1984, Billie Jean King became commissioner of Mylan WTT after retiring as a pro player. Many international tennis stars (including King, who is a major owner of the league).
The Mylan WTT format is designed to showcase tennis’ wide variety of players and forms of play, including women’s and men’s singles, women’s and men’s doubles, and mixed doubles. A match is a contest between two of the seven teams in the league, with the winner taking the best of five sets. Game scoring is no-advantage and, should a set go to 4-4, it is decided by a nine-point tiebreaker. One point is given for each win, and league champions are crowned. The teams that participated in Mylan WTT this past season are the Boston Lobsters, Philadelphia Freedoms, San Diego Aviators, Springfield Lasers, Texas Wild (located in Irving), and the Washington Kastles (2014 Mylan WTT champions).
Austin has an active tennis community, and the Aces are an exciting addition. Originally the Orange County Breakers (2012–2013), the team was purchased by Lorne Abony and relocated to Austin. Abony, a Canadian businessman and the former CEO of Mood Media Corporation, resides in Austin. He has founded a number of media ventures in his career, and is also an avid tennis player and member of the Competition Committee of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).
The Aces features hometown tennis legend Andy Roddick as a player. Roddick has played on various Mylan WTT teams over eight seasons since he first appeared with the Idaho Sneakers. Joining Roddick for the Aces are 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, and doubles specialists Eva Hrdinova and Treat Huey. The team’s coach is former doubles great Rick Leach. The Aces’ home court is the Cedar Park Center, which has turned out to be a great venue—one that offers intimate, family-friendly fan interaction and close access to the tennis stars. In 2013, Roddick joined the Mylan WTT ownership group, which includes Venus Williams, King, and the U.S. Tennis Association, and was instrumental in bringing the Aces to Austin.
The Mylan WTT season is short—only three weeks every July—and is scheduled after Wimbledon and prior to the U.S. Open; however, the team has a year-round presence in Austin through charitable giving, community outreach, and special events.
The 2014 season was very successful for the Aces; the team played seven home matches at the Cedar Park Center and was 6-8 for the season. It was encouraging to see the number of people attending. Roddick, though retired from the regular tour, is still very impressive, and the air-conditioned Cedar Park Center was a welcome arena in July. Every seat was close to the action, and there was music between points and an exciting scoring system that kept fans engaged and play moving.