An interview from 1985. Notice her first name here-"Bettyann".
Fond Memories By An Original Flamingo Kid
July 31, 1985|By Ira Winderman, Staff Writer
Ask Bettyann Dent to think back to her days in World Team Tennis and the words you`re most likely to hear are ``circus atmosphere, sexy players and Ion Tiriac.``
Dent, who played with the Florida Flamingos of the original team tennis league from 1974-75 under her maiden name of Bettyann Grubb and later her married name of Bettyann Grubb Stuart, is now living in Sydney, Australia, with husband Phil Dent, a former Australian pro.
Despite being away from the United States for two years, Dent, 35, expressed great pride when she learned the league had been reincarnated in the form of TeamTennis this season.
``That`s great,`` she said. ``I just heard that from a friend in California. Tennis has become too competitive lately. You look at the tournaments now and all you see are blood, sweat and tears. Tennis needs to be more like a circus.``
That`s certainly what it was like when Dent was playing women`s singles for the Flamingos.
``I look back upon that with a smile,`` she said, recalling obscene gestures made by Boston Lobsters coach Ion Tiriac. ``And I remember how Ilie Nastase ran around the court in Hawaii, refusing to let them put a lei around his neck.``
She also remembers being owed $13,000 by the Flamingos before the team became the Los Angeles Strings.
``But (Strings owner) Jerry Buss took care of us,`` she said. ``So the stories weren`t as bad as they sounded.``
Although her involvement in tennis has decreased since she moved to Australia -- ``you wouldn`t believe how backward the programs are here`` -- she plans to play a few over-35 events this year when she visits her parents in California. She is, though, still quick with an opinion on what it would take for TeamTennis to succeed in the `80s.
``Team tennis was supposed to be a show all along, a sideshow, just like pro wrestling,`` she said. ``People wanted to look at sexy people. Look at the interest Anne White created at Wimbledon. People want to look at a cute girl.``
And in some cases, a cute guy.
``When I was playing (on the Flamingos) with Cliff Drysdale, do you think I didn`t enjoy watching him build up a sweat?`` she said with a giggle.
``No one would complain about that.``
With TeamTennis changing from a star-studded league in the `70s -- with top names such as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Jimmy Connors -- to a series for promising players, Dent sees the concept as more of a training ground.
``A lot of players, including myself, never were involved in a team sports,`` she said. ``I won a lot of matches then that I would never have won if I was playing alone. It should help a lot of players by lending extra emotional support.``
Sometimes, Dent could use some of that same support as she and her husband try to develop their tennis academy in Sydney.
``I was really surprised when we moved down here that there wasn`t one decent tennis club in the whole country,`` she said. ``Tennis is just very different down here. There isn`t the money, or the interest.``
Currently, Dent`s husband has 24 players in training at his academy and is looking for sponsorship for several more.
``Even when Phil came back here he was surprised how little tennis there was,`` she said. ``Most of the players, as soon as they become good, will go play in the states.``
The Dents` goal is to one day build an academy that will have the same type of reputation as Nick Bollettieri`s in Bradenton.
``That`s our goal right now, to bring an American-style tennis club to Australia.``
And if that works, could Australian-style team tennis -- sexy players and all -- be far behind?
``That,`` Dent said, ``I don`t know about.``