INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA -- The 2018 World TeamTennis season began in earnest on Tuesday as the six teams in the league finalized their rosters through the annual draft, which took place at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden concurrently with the BNP Paribas Open.
Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and former World No.1 Venus Williams leads a number of players who are returning to their teams from last season as "protected" players. Williams heads back to the American capital as part of the Washington Kastles, who are trying to reclaim the glory of their era as six-time WTT champions after a last-place finish in 2017.
Regarding other protected players, US Open champion Sloane Stephens of the United States was retained by the Philadelphia Freedoms, while Canadian former World No.5 Eugenie Bouchard will head back to the New York Empire for another season.
The defending WTT champion Orange County Breakers protected both of their female stars from last season, as singles stalwart Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium and doubles sensation Andreja Klepac of Slovenia will both return, in an attempt to bring the trophy back to Southern California for a second straight year.
16-year-old rising talent Amanda Anisimova will contest her rookie World TeamTennis season in 2018, as the American teen was drafted by the Freedoms to join Stephens and fellow protected player Taylor Townsend of the United States. Anisimova is enjoying a breakthrough week on the WTA, notching her first Top 10 win over Petra Kvitova at the BNP Paribas Open.
Top 50 player Tatjana Maria was also drafted today, as the German will join the Empire alongside Bouchard and another draftee, Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who has been in the WTA Top 20 in singles and doubles throughout her career.
The Kastles retained American Madison Brengle as well as Williams, and drafted another American, Nicole Melichar, to complete the female side of their roster. The Springfield Lasers, meanwhile, drafted two-time Grand Slam doubles champion Vania King of the United States to supplement their protected player, her compatriot Abigail Spears.
Finally, the San Diego Aviators drafted Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld, another player who has been Top 20 in both singles and doubles, to join their protected player, Naomi Broady of Great Britain.
World TeamTennis was founded in 1973 with WTA Legend Billie Jean King being an instrumental figure in getting the league off the ground. The WTT season will take place for three weeks during the summer, as each team will field competitors to contest sets of men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles in a high-energy, fast-paced environment.
Among the top men joining the aforementioned women for the 2018 World TeamTennis season will be US Open runner-up and World No.9 Kevin Anderson for the Freedoms, top-ranked American and World No.10 Jack Sock for the Lasers, and the winningest men's doubles team in history, Bob and Mike Bryan, who will return to the Kastles.