Navratilova, Connors sign up for TeamTennis

October 30, 1990|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,Los Angeles Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The youth movement in tennis took a step backward yesterday when 38-year-old Jimmy Connors and 34-year-old Martina Navratilova announced that they will play TeamTennis in 1991.

Navratilova first played World Team Tennis in 1976, the year Jennifer Capriati was born. Navratilova, though, said she had a ,, very good reason for deciding to play again next summer: "The money is there."

Navratilova and Connors were introduced at a news conference at the Forum by TeamTennis chief Billie Jean King, who said the players received financial guarantees and multiyear contracts to play for unspecified teams. The deals are believed to be worth more than $100,000 and cover two seasons.

"I'm definitely going to be playing TeamTennis for more than two years," Navratilova said. "I'll still be playing TeamTennis when I'm no longer playing tournament tennis singles."

Henry Holmes, attorney for TeamTennis, said it wasn't easy to sign either player.

"We got them after tough negotiations," he said. "We just can't put anything else on our credit cards."

The 10-year-old league, which features nine teams playing a five-week season after Wimbledon and before the U.S. Open, was begun as World Team Tennis in 1974 by Billie Jean King and Larry King, her former husband.

Navratilova and Connors both have played World Team Tennis. Navratilova was with Cleveland in 1976 and Boston in 1977-78. Connors, who is one year younger than the combined ages of U.S. Open finalists Pete Sampras, 19, and Andre Agassi, 20, played with Baltimore in 1976.

Connors said he had only one question about returning to TeamTennis: "Are there any fines?"

Connors, who underwent surgery three weeks ago in Santa Barbara to repair a damaged tendon in his wrist, wore a cast on his left wrist and forearm. Connors said the cast will be removed in another month and he expects to start practicing again by the end of December for a possible return to the pro circuit by February.

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