There is another professional sports league in New York and Tuesday night in the Bronx they completed their home schedule on the tennis court. The New York Empire of World Team Tennis completed a brief successful run on their home court at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the heart of Crotona Park.
The New York Empire presented by Citi competes in the World Team Tennis League. Matches consist of five sets, with one set each of men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The league is set to begin WTT playoffs Friday with the top four teams at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
In the 44th year of competition, the WTT has been a welcome addition for a tennis buff. And for the Bronx, in coordination with sponsors and Billy Jean King, co-founder and tennis legend, the league has been a welcome addition.
The setting is a spacious and new facility in a New York City Park. During the day and most evenings , youngsters are seen on the courts at the facility and learning the sport. They are trained by experienced instructors at the center. The sport, known for the elite competition and world-wide attention is continuing efforts to expand in the inner city.
On this night, the final home match in the Bronx, The Empire lost the first of a home-and home match with first place Philadelphia Freedoms in an overtime tie breaker. They face a must win Wednesday evening in Philadelphia, if not they won’t be one of four teams headed to the playoffs.
Ulises Blanch, the 21-year old expert of the right-handed and two-handed backhand sat out the last home match. From San Juan Puerto Rico, with a background from Spain, this is his first year of WTT competition.
Blanch is one of many in the league that have kept their skills sharp with some headed to compete at the US Tennis Open next month. The Grand Slam two-week event is held at the United States Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens.
His favorite event is the US Open, is a former world No. 2 ranked junior player and reached the Wimbledon Junior singles and doubles semifinals in 2016.
“It’s been great the atmosphere, the matches we played here,” he said. “The team has made me feel welcome. You go around the country, see people going out there obviously want to promote it, “ Blanch said about said about tennis in the inner city and overall.
Blanch has been one of the elite players for the Empire and the league He said some rest will determine if he should decide to compete in the Open in his first year as a professional.He won his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Peruga, Italy in 2018 and did not drop a single set en route to a win and beating Cuevas for his first 100 win.
The Empire, in partnership with the Women’s Sports Foundation, held a special ceremony between the third and fourth sets honoring International Tennis Hall of Famer and Co-founder of World TeamTennis, Billie Jean King.
In addition to King, the two groups honored Executive Director of the Women’s Sports Foundation Deborah Antoine, District Attorney of Bronx County Darcel D. Clark, Council Member of the 16th District of New York City Vanessa Gibson, Four-time Olympian and Team USA’s Flag Bearer at the 2018 Winter Olympics Erin Hamlin, Chief Strategy & Impact Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation Olga Harvey, Executive Director of the Cary Leeds Center Liezel
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