Kim Clijsters showed off her class on Friday as she stepped in as a substitute to pull New York Empire out of a hole at World TeamTennis in West Virginia, sparking a 25-17 victory over the Vegas Rollers.
She [Kim Clijsters] is constantly including everybody, she’s a glue person. You need someone who’s a uniter. She’s not bigger than the room. She’s truly an extraordinary human being that happens to be an extraordinary tennis player. Luke Jensen, New York Empire Coach
With his team clinging to 16-12 lead, and Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig rallying the Vegas Rollers, Luke Jensen said he had no choice but to turn to the star on his team.
He replaced Sabine Lisicki with the former No 1 singles and doubles player, who turned around a 4-1 deficit against Puig to sustain momentum with a 5-4 set-win.
“I can only coach for today,” Jensen said. “I can’t worry about tomorrow, I can’t worry about playoffs.
“I gotta see the situation and call every battle plan that we have and every resource and she’s the best we got.
“I got the best player in the world in my opinion, in the women’s tennis, just sitting on the sideline, ‘I need a game, I need you to come in.’ She’s in the Tennis Hall of Fame.”
Clijsters, who has become quite a storyline for New York this season, added another impressive chapter to her WTT campaign by going 3-0 against Vegas, also winning in women’s doubles and mixed.
Winning 3 straight games to tie the set at 4-all, Clijsters chipped away at Puig en route to a 5-3 tiebreak victory, while giving New York a 20-13 lead in the match.
“I had to get my mind and my body ready for it again,” said Clijsters, a 4-time Grand Slam singles champion who has won 41 singles titles and 11 doubles titles on the WTA Tour. “I think once you get put in that position you just go try to play point by point.
“Some easy mistakes in that first game, but I was able to work my way into that short set and grind it out for the team.”
“She’s constantly including everybody, she’s a glue person,” Jensen said. “You need someone who’s a uniter.
“She’s not bigger than the room. She’s truly an extraordinary human being that happens to be an extraordinary tennis player.”
Which she showed after New York’s Jack Sock was able to take advantage in men’s singles when he broke Sam Querrey’s serve in the 7th game on a deciding point, and went on to give New York a 5-3 lead in the match.
It didn’t take long for the veteran women’s doubles tandem of Clijsters & Kveta Peschke to establish their presence, as they broke Puig’s serve to love, and opened a 2-0 lead.
Puig & Ajla Tomljanović battled back to win the next 2 games, but that would be it for the Rollers pair, as Clijsters & Peschke dominated over the last 3 games, breaking serve in 2 of them and winning the set, 5-2.
Clijsters & Sock then outplayed Tomljanović & Mike Bryan after getting to sudden death of a 9-point tiebreak.
New York opened a 3-1 lead in the breaker, Vegas battling back to tie it at 3-all and then 4-all.
After a stellar rally, Clijsters hit a vicious shot that challenged Bryan down the line and was followed by a fist pump, as the Empire took the set and opened up a 15-9 lead in the match.
After each team held serve in men’s doubles, Sock & Neal Skupski and Vegas’ Mike & Bob Bryan went into the tiebreak, where the Empire team closed things out to seal the set and match.
“We have an awesome team,” said Clijsters, has been playing through an abdominal injury. “We have a lot of fun together, we work hard, we train together, there’s a good vibe within the team and I wouldn’t want to swap to be on another team.”
Jensen said he has been careful with Clijsters’ load management and doesn’t really want to use her in all 3 events, but the Hall of Famer says she has used the off days to rehab and recover her stomach muscle.
Townsend leads Philadelphia comeback against Orange County
The last time the Philadelphia Freedoms dropped the opening two sets they suffered their only loss of the season to the New York Empire and, on Friday, against the Orange County Breakers, the Freedoms were hoping history would not repeat itself.
Thanks to the efforts of Taylor Townsend in the women’s doubles and mixed, the Freedoms were able to post a thrilling come-from-behind 22-21 win and inch closer to clinching a spot in the 2020 World TeamTennis playoffs.
“Everyone supported each other today and that just shows our team chemistry,” said Townsend, who teamed with Caroline Dolehide in women’s doubles and Fabrice Martin in mixed doubles. “I think that was very important in our team getting the victory.”
Thanks to a 5-3 win by Dolehide & Townsend in the women’s doubles, the match was deadlocked at 17-17 heading into the final mixed doubles set, leading to the winner taking the match.
Martin & Townsend, along with Orange County’s Steve Johnson & Gaby Dabrowski, all held serve, and the match was decided by a 9-point tiebreaker.
Opening the breaker, Martin held when Townsend delivered an overhead winner, and struck a backhand give Philly the early 2-0 lead.
Johnson held serve with a pair of aces before Townsend returned the favour with a couple of winners of her own giving Philadelphia the 4-2 lead in the race to 5 points.
Orange County sliced the lead to 4-3 with a volley winner but Philadelphia’s Martin delivered another backhand that was returned into the net to seal the win.
“I thought the veteran leadership of Fabrice, Donald and Taylor was crucial especially down the stretch,” said Freedom coach Craig Kardon. “We have a quick turnaround [Philly plays at 9 AM Saturday against Orlando] so the fact we won today says a lot about the character of this team.”
The Breakers put all of the pressure on Philadelphia early with Steve Johnson knocking off Taylor Fritz 5-3 before Jennifer Brady surprised Sofia Kenin with a comeback 5-4 win after winning 5-0 in the tiebreak.
Following the opening set of men’s singles, the skies opened up forcing the action to be moved inside.
Kenin opened the women’s singles set breaking Brady and then consolidated to take an early 2-0 lead.
Leading 4-2, it appeared that Kenin was on her way to another victory, but Brady unleashed an un-returnable over-the- shoulder topspin forehand, and it was all Brady from there on as she came from behind to win the set giving Orange County a 10-7 lead.
Donald Young & Martin earned a hard-fought 5-4 win in the men’s doubles, slicing the deficit to 14-12 in the overall score heading into half-time.
Philadelphia eventually levelled the match at 15-15 on a Townsend hold in the women’s doubles event.
Feeling the tide beginning to turn, coach Rick Leach used a substitution taking out Andreja Klepac and inserting Brady with his team trailing 4-1.
Brady provided the spark, cutting the lead to 4-3 before Townsend fought back from 0-30 to hold serve and level the match setting up the dramatic conclusion.
Chicago Smash holds off Washington Kastles
Chicago’s Brandon Nakashima had a coming-out party at Center Court at Creekside at The Greenbrier as the Smash dropped Washington, 21-15.
Veteran Venus Williams, however, almost stole the show, winning her singles match and sparking the Kastles’ women’s doubles team into extra play.
The 18-year-old Nakashima helped the Smash set the pace early, bringing out its A-game into the men’s doubles match against Washington’s Nick Monroe & Marcelo Arevalo to go ahead 3-0 behind Rajeev Ram’s surgical precision on return volleys.
Chicago wrapped up the win after falling behind 0-30 in the 5th set before Nakashima capped the rally with back-to-back aces for the 5-0 decision.
“[Ram] has been leading the whole team,” Nakashima said. “All of us are doing really well, having a lot of fun out there.
“It’s really nice to play doubles with him and get a feel for his personality and how he is on the court.”
Nakashima, the ATP’s 220th-ranked player, remained on the court to face the Kastle’s Tommy Paul in the men’s singles match, pushing the Smash advantage to 7-0 before Paul, ranked 57th by the ATP, broke through for Washington’s first point.
Washington looked to narrow the gap in mixed doubles but the Chicago duo of Ram & Bethanie Mattek-Sands took the set, before the Kastles’ Arevalo & Bernarda Pera won 3 consecutive points to pull within 11-4.
The Smash won 3 of the final 4 games, including a 5-0 run during the 9-point tiebreak, for the 5-4 win and a 15-5 advantage.
The women’s singles pairing was a rematch of the 2017 US Open semi-final, with Sloane Stephens on the cusp of putting away 40-year-old Venus Williams, but a double fault during the 9-point breaker left the door open.
After a seesaw match that saw the two former Open champions split the first four games, Stephens won two of the next 3 before Williams, excelling in her 15th WTT season, took a 4-3 lead in the tiebreaker, capitalising on set point to give Washington its first match win to pull within 19-10.
Chicago looked to close out the match with its women’s double team of Mattek-Sands & Genie Bouchard against Williams & Arina Rodionova.
Buoyed by her singles victory, Williams spurred the Kastles duo to a 4-0 lead to pull within 19-14.
Chicago avoided being blanked by winning the 5th game before Washington pulled within 20-15 to force extra play and the Smash tandem took the opening match to seal the 21-15 victory.
New York Empire 25, Vegas Rollers 17
- Men’s Singles – Jack Sock (Empire) def. Sam Querrey (Rollers), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – Kim Clijsters\Kveta Peschke (Empire) def. Monica Puig\Ajla Tomljanovic (Rollers), 5-2
- Mixed Doubles – Sock\Clijsters (Empire) def. Mike Bryan\Tomljanovic (Rollers), 5-4
- Women’s Singles – Clijsters (Empire) def. Puig (Rollers), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Sock\Neal Skupski (Empire) def. Bob Bryan\M. Bryan (Rollers), 5-4
Philadelphia Freedoms 22, Orange County Breakers 21
- Men’s Singles – Steve Johnson (Breakers) def. Taylor Fritz (Freedoms), 5-3
- Women’s Singles – Jennifer Brady (Breakers) def. Sofia Kenin (Freedoms), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Fabrice Martin\Donald Young (Freedoms) def. Johnson\Austin Krajicek (Breakers), 5-4
- Women’s Doubles – Taylor Townsend\Caroline Dolehide (Freedoms) def. Andreja Klepac\Gabriela Dabrowski (Breakers), 5-3
- Mixed Doubles – Martin\Townsend (Freedoms) def. Johnson\Dabrowski (Breakers), 5-4
Chicago Smash 21, Washington Kastles 15 (EP)
- Men’s Doubles – Rajeev Ram\Brandon Nakashima (Smash) def. Nick Monroe\Marcelo Arevalo (Kastles), 5-0
- Men’s Singles – Nakashima (Smash) def. Tommy Paul (Kastles), 5-1
- Mixed Doubles – Bethanie Mattek-Sands\Ram (Smash) def. Bernarda Pera\Arevalo (Kastles), 5-4
- Women’s Singles – Venus Williams (Kastles) def. Sloane Stephens (Smash), 5-4
- Women’s Doubles – Williams\Arina Rodionova (Kastles) def. Mattek-Sands\Genie Bouchard (Smash), 5-1
- Extended Play – Women’s Doubles – Mattek-Sands\Bouchard (Smash) def. Williams\Rodionova (Kastles), 1-0
(EP) – Extended Play