Chicago Smash have already secured their slot in the World TeamTennis Playoffs but suffered just their 3rd loss of the season at the hands of the Orange County Breakers on Monday in Extended Play, 23-16.
I think we have really put it together as a team. Fortunate that we put it together at this point. We could have put it together hopefully a little sooner, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. We’re still not out of it yet, so we are going to do our best to win our last two and give ourselves a chance to get to the playoffs. Steve Johnson, Orange County Breakers
The win means the Breakers remain in playoff contention.
“I think we have really put it together as a team,” Steve Johnson said. “Fortunate that we put it together at this point.
“We could have put it together hopefully a little sooner, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
“We’re still not out of it yet, so we are going to do our best to win our last two and give ourselves a chance to get to the playoffs.”
Johnson and Jennifer Brady got the Breakers off to a good start by remaining aggressive throughout the opening mixed doubles, blasting away from the baseline to dictate play to defeat former Grand Slam champions Rajeev Ram & Sloane Stephens, 5-3, without facing a break point.
Brady & Gaby Dabrowski had a tough test next in the women’s doubles, with Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Genie Bouchard the most successful doubles combo of the 2020 WTT season, who levelled the match at 8 games apiece, beating the Orange County pair 5-3 by converting their lone break point opportunity.
Johnson continued his run by taking down 18-year old Brandon Nakashima, locking in early and looking to use his backhand as often as he could, closing out the set 5-1.
Holding a 13-9 lead after half-time, Brady had a cushion to work with against the 2017 US Open champion Stephens.
Controlling play from the baseline and jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead, Brady held the early advantage to take a 3-1 lead heading into the changeover which led Smash coach Kamau Murray to insert Bouchard in hopes of changing the tide.
The 2014 Wimbledon finalist was blitzed and wasn’t afforded the opportunity to find her way into the match, as Brady extended Orange County’s lead even further with another 5-1 win.
Evan King joined the action in the 5th set, teaming up Rajeev Ram to face Johnson & Austin Krajicek and it was Chicago who won the set in a tiebreaker and also won the first game of Extended Play, before Krajicek held to love for the 23-16 Breakers victory.
“You either apply the pressure or receive it,” Johnson said. “We were trying to apply today early and thank goodness we got off to a good start. I think Jenny really put us over the top today.
“It’s win or go home. We’ve got to bring the fire every single match.”
Orlando Storm defeat San Diego Aviators after trade-off
With 2 of the Playoff spots sorted, New York Empire were looking to make a final push ahead of Sunday night’s WTT trade deadline and acquired past Grand Slam doubles winners Coco Vandeweghe & Nicole Melichar from the San Diego Aviators who were traded for Kveta Peschke, Sabine Lisicki and financial considerations.
The Empire currently sit in 4th place in the league standings with a 6-5 record, just one game behind 3rd-place Orlando (7-4) and a game ahead of the Washington Kastles (5-6) for the final playoff spot.
“Adding two of the world’s best women’s doubles players like Coco Vandeweghe and Nicole Melichar will hopefully be what we need to hold our playoff spot, and possibly move up,” said Empire Coach Luke Jensen.
“A coach couldn’t ask for more than inserting two former Grand Slam winners into our lineup for the final week of what has been a historic season.
“Kveta and Sabine were great teammates and it was a tough decision to make. San Diego will benefit by adding these two players and we wish them the best heading into the final week of the season.”
The Freedoms and the Chicago Smash have already clinched playoffs spots heading into the final week of the season.
The switch strengthened San Diego’s line-up but it was Orlando Storm who moved closer to the Playoffs with a 19-15 Victory.
With Monday night’s victory, the Storm is now in third place in the WTT Standings with an 8-4 record and 2 regular season matches remaining.
The Storm got off to a fast start as Ken Skupski & Jessica Pegula began in the mixed doubles against San Diego’s Christina McHale & Jonny O’Mara.
Orlando broke serve in the opening game when O’Mara double faulted on break point and later, with the Storm leading 4-2, Skupski blasted a brilliant down the line backhand service return past O’Mara to break McHale and wrap up the set 5-2 in 22 minutes.
In women’s singles, Pegula routed Lisicki 5-0 in 22 minutes as she broke the newly acquired Lisicki in the 2nd and 4th games of the set.
With the Storm taking a commanding 10-2 lead, Aviators Coach John Lloyd sent in Ryan Harrison for the men’s singles against Tennys Sandgren of the Storm.
Both held serve through the first 6 games of the set but, at 3-3, Harrison dropped serve when he punched a backhand volley wide on break point.
It was all Sandgren needed as the served out the 5-3 win in 21 minutes when Harrison netted a forehand on set point, extending the Storm’s lead to 15-5 at half-time.
Christina McHale and new teammate Kveta Peschke gave the Aviators a ray of hope in the next set as they cut Orlando’s lead to 16-10 with a convincing 5-1 victory in 34 minutes over Jessica Pegula & Darija Jurak in the women’s doubles, setting the stage for the final set of the evening.
Aviator’s Harrison & Jonny O’Mara took on Skupski & Sandgren of the Storm in men’s doubles and played one of their best sets of the season, combining for two service breaks and establishing a 4-2 lead before O’Mara served out the set for a 5-2 win in 26 minutes to force the match into Extended Play with Orlando leading 18-15.
Any hopes of a San Diego miracle comeback, however, were quickly extinguished in the first game of Extended Play when Skupski slammed an un-returnable overhead at 40-15 to close out the victory for Orlando.
“We knew today was a huge day. We managed to get a victory today. It was a tough match. In terms of the score line, it looked quite easy at the start, but every match was pretty close,” Skupski said after the match. “We have a few more days to keep building towards the playoffs.”
San Diego Aviator’s season record falls to 3-9 after losing their last 6 matches in a row and languish at the foot of the table.
Springfield Lasers hold off Vegas Rollers to Playoff hopes alive
The Springfield Lasers, 2-time champions, are hanging on to their Playoff hopes by a thread, which is why Lasers coach John-Laffnie de Jager said he drafted his team based on character, players with a never-give-up attitude that will compete to the end.
Sitting near last place heading into Monday’s match, the Lasers out-dueleld the Vegas Rollers, 24-19, to remain in the playoff hunt.
The Lasers moved within 1.5 games of the 4th-place New York Empire, while Springfield holds the tiebreak edge over the Empire and must win the rest of the way to have a chance.
“We always come out to win even though we stand where we do right now,” de Jager said. “Everybody is out there fighting, doing their best.
“We’ve got two matches left. We’re gonna play, we’re gonna try and win that. What’s important to me, what I tell the players, we always want to win.”
Vegas coach Tim Blenkiron generally uses Bob Bryan & Mike Bryan at the end of his home matches, but with the Rollers eliminated from playoff contention, he led the match off with the world’s greatest tandem against Springfield’s Robert Lindstedt & Jean-Julien Rojer.
The Rollers were able to get back on serve after falling behind 3-2 and win 3 of the last 4 games, including a tiebreak, to open the match with a 5-4 set-victory.
Springfield’s Catherine McNally was next on the court for the women’s singles and was tasked with facing fellow first-year WTT player Ajla Tomljanović, who has been a bright spot for the Rollers.
It was nip-and-tuck but McNally edged the win via an incredible deciding-point to break serve in the 7th game, when she sent Tomljanović wide, then positioned herself just inside the baseline for a forehand smash to the complete opposite side and painted the corner.
McNally then closed the set out by holding serve to win, 5-3, and put Springfield ahead in the match, 9-8.
“We’re kind of in last in the standings but as a team, we’re going to keep fighting, we’re gonna keep competing for every single point,” McNally said. “Today we kind of said Albert Einstein, we’re gonna mathematically get our way into the playoffs.”
The mixed doubles match between Lindstedt & McNally against Vegas’ Mike Bryan & Monica Puig turned into a battle of key service breaks, as both teams stole points from one another early on.
Just like in women’s singles, the Rollers opened a 3-2 lead, but the Lasers turned it on at the end to win the final 3 games and open a 14-11 lead in the match.
Then it was McNally teaming with Hayley Carter and Olga Govortsova to defeat Tomljanović & Puig, extending the Lasers’ lead to 19-14 thanks to a 5-3 set win.
With her 3-0 day, McNally said she felt it was her best performance of the season.
“It’s very new for me, I’m so used to being out there by myself,” said McNally. “It’s a great experience to have teammates.
“I’m so lucky that I have such great teammates, a great coach out here. I’m learning so much about doubles, singles. The format is definitely different, I’m just getting used to it.
“I’m just happy I could pull through for our team and I think we all did a great job today.”
Springfield’s Mitchell Krueger and Vegas’ Sam Querrey went to a 9-point tiebreak, where the Rollers’ hard-hitting ace specialist forced extended play with a 5-4 win that cut the Lasers’ lead to 23-19.
Krueger opened extended play by holding serve to give Springfield the win.
“The last few matches we would have played the same, if we’re in contention or not,” de Jager said. “We were lucky this year because we had a good mix of young players and veteran players.
“We have 6 players that’s world-class on this team, and everybody can learn from each other. We’ve become very close and it’s awesome to have all of them on the team.”
Orange County Breakers 23, Chicago Smash 16 (EP)
- Mixed Doubles – Steve Johnson\Jennifer Brady (Breakers) def. Rajeev Ram\Sloane Stephens (Smash), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – Bethanie Mattek-Sands\Eugenie Bouchard (Smash) def. Gabriela Dabrowski\Brady (Breakers), 5-3
- Men’s Singles – Johnson (Breakers) def. Brandon Nakashima (Smash), 5-1
- Women’s Singles – Brady (Breakers) def. Bouchard (Smash), 5-1
- Men’s Doubles – Ram\Evan King (Smash) def. Johnson\Austin Krajicek (Breakers), 5-4
- Extended Play – Men’s Doubles – Johnson\Krajicek (Breakers) tied Ram\King (Smash), 1-1
Springfield Lasers 24, Vegas Rollers 19 (EP)
- Men’s Doubles – Bob Bryan\Mike Bryan (Rollers) def. Robert Lindstedt\Jean-Julien Rojer (Lasers), 5-4
- Women’s Singles – Caty McNally (Lasers) def. Ajla Tomljanovic (Rollers), 5-3
- Mixed Doubles – Lindstedt\McNally (Lasers) def. M. Bryan\Monica Puig (Rollers), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – McNally\Olga Govortsova (Lasers) def. Tomljanovic\Puig (Rollers), 5-3
- Men’s Singles – Sam Querrey (Rollers) def. Mitchell Krueger (Lasers), 5-4
- Extended Play – Men’s Singles – Krueger (Lasers) def. Querrey (Rollers), 1-0
Orlando Storm 19, San Diego Aviators 15 (EP)
- Mixed Doubles – Jessica Pegula\Ken Skupski (Storm) def. Jonny O’Mara\Christina McHale (Aviators), 5-2
- Women’s Singles – Pegula (Storm) def. Sabine Lisicki (Aviators), 5-0
- Men’s Singles – Tennys Sandgren (Storm) def. Ryan Harrison (Aviators), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – McHale\Kveta Peschke (Aviators) def. Pegula\Darija Jurak (Storm), 5-1
- Men’s Doubles – O’Mara\Harrison (Aviators) def. Skupski\Sandgren (Storm), 5-2
- Extended Play – Men’s Doubles – Skupski\Sandgren (Storm) def. O’Mara\Harrison (Aviators), 1-0
(EP) – Extended Play