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24:  Vitas Gerulaitis
 
(Pittsburgh Triangles 1974 - 1976, Indiana Loves 1977, New York Apples 1978)


 

Vitas Gerulaitis started his World TeamTennis career with the Pittsburgh Triangles, playing for the franchise for three consecutive seasons and finishing his maiden season with a winning men’s doubles record with partner Ken Rosewall. However, it was during Gerulaitis’ second season with the Triangles that his star began to rise. He gained numerous fans and became known for his sense of humor, outgoing, flamboyant personality and an audacious yellow Rolls Royce.  His fan club, The G-Men, turned out in full force for the 1975 WTT Championships, cheering wildly for their hero and heckling his opponents.
 
After the Triangles won the 1975 Championship, Gerulaitis was awarded the Playoff Most Valuable Player trophy, which he immediately dedicated to the G-Men. Gerulaitis was well-known for returning his fans’ affection; after one match, he invited a crowd of 10,858 to his 21st birthday party (a pajama party) at a nearby hotel.  Many showed up, only adding to Gerulaitis’ legend (and the hotel repair bills).

 

Gerulaitis played for the Indiana Loves in 1977, leading the team to a historic victory over The Soviets, the first foreign national team to play in an American sports league. It was also the same year that Gerulaitis won his only Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.  In 1978, he was WTT’s top-ranked men’s singles player as a member of the New York Apples. 

 

Although Gerulaitis passed away at age 40 in 1994, his legacy lives on as the inspiration for the “Ready, Set, Racquet!” program, which has distributed more than 150,000 junior tennis racquets at WTT matches and other events.

Check out the official WTT 35th Season Page