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Special K ready for Newport

Former British No. 1 Keothavong, now at Wimbledon, will play for Breakers this season.

June 21, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
  • [Anne Keothavong, formerly Great Brittain's No. 1-ranked woman, will be playing her first season of World Team Tennis this year for the Newport Beach Breakers.] *** []
[Anne Keothavong, formerly Great Brittain's No.… (Fred Mullane, unknown )

She didn't need one, but Anne Keothavong got a sales pitch earlier this year from tennis legend Billie Jean King.

The World Team Tennis co-founder sought out Keothavong at a tournament in Indian Wells. King wanted Keothavong, the former longtimeBritish No. 1 women's tennis player, to play World Team Tennis this summer for the first time.

Keothavong said she was told that though the league schedule can be grueling, a number of players go on to have a successful summer tournament season.

"I took her word for it," Keothavong said, laughing, in a phone interview from London.

Keothavong made herself available and the Newport Beach Breakers reacted, taking her with the No. 1 overall pick in the WTT Draft. They'll get her services after she finishes a more pressing matter.

Keothavong, 27, is playing in her home tournament of Wimbledon this week. She defeated her countrywoman, Naomi Broady, 6-2, 6-4, in the first round Tuesday. Keothavong plays No. 8-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in a second-round match Wednesday.

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Keothavong, ranked No. 111 in the world, has never advanced past the second round at Wimbledon. Her best Grand Slam showing was advancing to the third round of the U.S. Open in 2008. A win Wednesday would be a breakthrough, and the player some call "Special K" knows it.

"For all of usBritish players it's one place that you'd love to perform your best and show everyone how well you can play, despite all the pressure and expectations," she said.

There's less pressure in World Team Tennis, maybe more pressure to catch your flight as the Breakers will play 14 matches across the country in 18 nights. Their season begins July 5 at home against former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport and the St. Louis Aces.

Breakers Coach Trevor Kronemann said when Keothavong was drafted that he was looking forward to coaching her, as well as holdover Marie-Eve Pelletier. The fifth-year coach has stressed, over the years, the importance of having top-notch women's players in this format. It's something the Breakers have maybe missed out on over the years. Despite having men's singles stalwarts such as former WTT MVP Ramon Delgado and, more recently, Lester Cook, they've made the playoffs just once in his four previous years as coach.

King's talk may have made Keothavong's commitment more firm, but she said World Team Tennis was always something she wanted to try.

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