World TeamTennis, the coed professional tennis league that has operated in summers after Wimbledon since the 1970s, has chosen a site in West Virginia to conduct its entire 2020 season, according to several people familiar with the league’s plans.
Play on the men’s and women’s professional tennis tours has been suspended until at least Aug. 3, but World TeamTennis plans to stage a three-week season featuring nine teams from July 12 to Aug. 1 at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The reigning Australian Open women’s singles champion, Sofia Kenin; the 2017 United States Open women’s singles champion, Sloane Stephens; and the most successful men’s doubles team in the game’s history, the twins Bob and Mike Bryan, are among the players who have committed to participate. With no tournaments available on either the ATP or the WTA tours for the next two months, World TeamTennis officials are expected to pursue other marquee signings before play begins.
Carlos Silva, the league’s chief executive, declined to comment on Saturday. In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Silva said World TeamTennis was “still on track for July 12” to open the season, adding that an announcement about site selection was imminent. The Greenbrier is owned by Jim Justice, the state’s governor.
Matches in World TeamTennis consist of sets to five games (rather than to six) in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The league, still one of the few in pro sports that enables men and women to play on the same team, was founded in 1974 with Billie Jean King as a driving force on and off the court.
This month, there have been some regional exhibition events, including separate men’s and women’s four-player fields in Florida that featured top-50 players. World TeamTennis is not tour-level tennis, but it is regarded as more competitive than exhibition play, offering nearly $5 million in total prize money, including $1 million for the playoffs. CBS and ESPN have been confirmed as World TeamTennis broadcast partners.
The league, according to the people, was still finalizing its safety protocols, including whether to permit fans. Tennis was at the forefront of sports’ response to the coronavirus outbreak when tournament officials abruptly canceled the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., which is regarded as the sport’s unofficial fifth major, on March 8 — three days before the N.B.A. suspended its 2019-20 season.
The rest of the 2020 tennis season, including the U.S. Open, remains in doubt even though the sport, at least in singles, naturally encourages social distancing while the ball is in play. With tennis’s multinational nature that relies heavily on travel and the frequent crossing of global borders, it is unclear when tournament play can resume during the pandemic.