Few restaurants were open on a sleepy summer Sunday in Charleston — certainly none serving the pulverized medley of kale, cucumber and wheat grass that Williams loved before important matches.
At Ein’s behest, a Kastles staffer contacted Williams’s nutritionist for the recipe, worked the phones until finding a restaurant with a chef willing to whip it up and sped off on the 90-minute round trip. Just before Williams strode on court, Ein surprised her with the special concoction.
Williams led the Kastles to their second consecutive WTT title that day and was paraded around court atop her teammates’ shoulders for her MVP heroics. While it’s doubtful the green juice sealed the outcome, Ein’s zeal to procure it offers a window on the lengths the Washington-based venture capitalist will go to ensure the success of the sporting start-up he launched in 2008.
“He’s actually the perfect owner,” said Billie Jean King, 69, former tennis champion and sports pioneer who co-founded the coed professional WTT league in 1974. “He loves tennis. He gives a lot back to the community. He’s involved in education, the arts and the fabric of the city. That’s what you want in an owner.
“More importantly, he never stops thinking about the team.”
‘Courting history’ (sort of)
Though the Kastles have yet to turn a profit, Ein, 48, said their bottom line is trending in the direction that any investor who takes a long-term view wants to see, with expenses shrinking and revenues on the rise.
On the court, the Kastles have proved a winning machine, claiming three WTT championships in five seasons and compiling back-to-back undefeated seasons.
That streak will be on the line when the squad opens its 2013 season Monday at Kastles Stadium on the Wharf against the New York Sportimes. With a victory and another Tuesday against the Boston Lobsters, the Kastles’ winning streak would reach 34 matches.
And that, as Ein has touted for months, would surpass the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ string of 33 consecutive victories, hailed as the longest winning streak in the history of professional sports.
An audacious comparison?
“Comparing a World TeamTennis winning streak with that of the Los Angeles Lakers of 1971-72 — or any other streak like that in major league sports — is rather ludicrous,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sports Corp consulting firm. “It’s a lovely way to bring attention to the team. But the streaks are simply not comparable in terms of the competitive level of the sports. What’s going on in World TeamTennis is fairly unknown to most people on the planet.”
World TeamTennis has done well to survive nearly four decades, given its lack of significant TV revenue. But it has yet to find a broad-based audience, and traditionalists view it as bordering on an exhibition rather than white-knuckled competition.