Play at World TeamTennis on Monday was overshadowed by news that Danielle Collins has been ‘dismissed’ from the West Virginia competition for breaching COVID-19 protocols.
The protocols have been put in place and communicated numerous times to protect the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff which are of utmost importance to WTT. Carlos Silva, World TeamTennis CEO
“We have dismissed Danielle Collins (Orlando Storm) for the remainder of the 2020 World TeamTennis season after breaking our COVID-19 protocols and leaving The Greenbrier Resort and the state of West Virginia,” WTT CEO Carlos Silva said in a statement.
“The protocols have been put in place and communicated numerous times to protect the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff which are of utmost importance to WTT.”
One of only a few live sports events allowing fans in North America to attend amid the coronavirus pandemic, the entire 3-week regular season of the WTT is being held at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.
The organisers did not provide details about the travel undertaken by the 26-year-old American, who made the semi-finals of the 2019 Australian Open.
Collins, ranked No 51 in the world, last month criticised Novak Djokovic after the men’s World No 1 said it would be ‘impossible’ to play this year’s US Open under COVID-19 protocols proposed by organisers.
Safety measures taken by WTT to curb the potential spread of the virus include COVID-19 testing for participants and regular temperature checks, with organisers letting a maximum of 500 fans inside the 2,500-person stadium.
Frances Tiafoe, who reached the quarter-finals at the 2019 Australian Open, was forced to drop out of the WTT events after testing positive for COVID-19 while playing at the All-American Team Cup exhibition tournament in Atlanta.
Philadelphia lead the pack
Meanwhile, 3 ties continued on Monday between the Philadelphia Freedoms and Springfield Lasers, Chicago Smash and San Diego Aviators and New York Empire and Orange County Breakers.
Nine days in and the Philadelphia Freedoms are leading the pack as the 45th season of World TeamTennis heads into Week 2.
“We’ve got a lot of players on our team, so every day not everyone plays but we’ve been really good with just switching it around,” said Taylor Fritz, the highest-ranked male player on site at No 24 in the world. “And no one really has an ego about who should play, who shouldn’t play.”
The Freedoms are also fielding World No 4 Sofia Kenin as well as Taylor Townsend, Donald Young, Fabrice Martin and Caroline Dolehide.
With a 5-1 record, they are tied for first place with Chicago Smash, a team they will face for the first time on Tuesday, with Philadelphia’s only loss coming against New York last Wednesday when both Kenin and Fritz lost their singles sets.
On Monday they knocked off the Springfield Lasers Monday, 23-17, winning the first game in extended play to seal the victory.
“Everyone brings their own unique things for the game,” Kenin says. “We have two lefties, which is really good.
“Townsend is really good at the net, she’s got great hands with Dolehide. Fritz has a really big serve. Martin is a great doubles payer. We have a mixture of everything.”
Philadelphia team owner Billie Jean King personally reached out to Kenin to recruit her, and although King is not at The Greenbrier this month she keeps in constant touch with the team via FaceTime.
Virtual chats are something everyone is very used to after the four-month shutdown and, coming out of quarantine, Kenin and Fritz have emerged as two of the fittest and freshest.
“The last like two months I’ve just been training a lot and practicing a lot,” Fritz said. “The only thing I was really missing was playing matches and playing these pressure points.
“That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to come here and play WTT because I thought just being in these pressure situations would just get me ready for the main tour once it starts up again. I’m playing well.”
The 22-year-old has posted wins over Steve Johnson and twice each over Mitchel Kruger and Tommy Paul, with his only loss coming against Jack Sock when the match was moved indoors because of rain.
Like Fritz, Kenin put in the work during the shutdown and is eager for competition as the reopening of the tour looms in August.
“Of course, it’s tough with this virus but I just tried to keep myself motivated,” Kenin says. “I just practiced every day non-stop. I just did fitness and tried to keep myself in the best shape possible.”
Both Kenin and Fritz will look to continue to pick up more matches—and wins—as Philadelphia seeks its first King Trophy since 2006 after falling short in the final last year.
As the temperature hit 90 degrees, Fritz topped 140 on the radar gun and to pick up wins in both the men’s singles and men’s doubles.
He player fought off a spirited challenge from Springfield’s Mitchell Krueger in the opening set, 5-3, and Philadelphia got some breathing room at the half-time break thanks to an impressive 5-1 men’s doubles win with Fabrice Martin.
The pair broke Robert Lindstedt’s serve to open the set and never looked back and a hold by Jean-Julien Rojer was all the Lasers could muster as the Freedoms took a 14-9 halftime lead.
Dolehide, Kenin and Townsend are solid interchangeable parts in the women’s doubles but Springfield pulled off a thrilling upset due to inspired play by Haley Carter & Caty McNally, who built a 3-1 lead.
They had to rally back when Kenin & Townsend changed the tenor of the set with a break of McNally to even things at 3-all but a mini break of Kenin in the 9-point tiebreaker helped Springfield win the set 5-4(3).
Kenin pulled off an incredible comeback in women’s singles to win 5-3 over Springfield’s Olga Govortosva, who took a 3-0 lead, but she couldn’t win another game.
The Lasers duo of McNally & Rojer defeated Martin & Townsend 5-3 in the mixed doubles to send the match to extended play, but Townsend got the winner at the net in the first game to provide the final score.
Chicago Smash joint leaders
Joint leaders Chicago Smash continued their winning ways on Monday, beating the San Diego Aviators in a back-and-forth matchup, 20-16.
After four sets in the inaugural meeting between the teams, Chicago held a narrow 15-13 lead heading into the final set of the day when the men’s singles set between 28-year-old Ryan Harrison and 18-year-old Brandon Nakashima decided the winner.
Nakashima, a San Diego resident, scored an early service break and that was all the talented teenager needed as he continued to hold serve throughout the 32-minute set.
At 2-4 to stay in the set, Harrison served and took a 40-0 lead, only to see Nakashima roar back to tie the game, but he held serve on the deciding 3-3 point as Nakashima sent a cross court forehand long.
Nakashima served for the set at 4-3 and Harrison forced another deciding point, but this time Nakashima tracked down the drop shot and hit an un-returnable backhand to clinch the 5-3 win iand secure Chicago’s 5th win of the season.
The match began with mixed doubles in the first set and although Aviators coach John Lloyd initially penciled in Harrison to team with CoCo Vandeweghe, shortly before play got underway, O’Mara received the nod to step in to face Rajeev Ram & Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the Smash.
The Smash pair pressured the Aviators, breaking O’Mara for a 4-1 advantage as Vandeweghe’s backhand volley on break point landed long.
Ram, the 2020 Australian Open men’s doubles champion, easily held serve in the sixth game to give the Smash a 5-1 mixed doubles victory in 22 minutes.
The Smash were looking to extend their lead in the women’s singles as Sloane Stephens met Christina McHale, who combined for a total of six service breaks in a set that was decided in the tiebreak.
McHale jumped out to a 3-0 lead but Stephens closed the gap to 3-2, and on the 6th point of the breaker her cross court backhand fell into the net to give McHale a 4-2 lead and she wrapped it up for the Aviators, 5-4 in 40 minutes.
Chicago extended their lead to 14-8 as Ram & Evan King powered their way past O’Mara & Harrison in Men’s Doubles 5-2 in 27 minutes.
Vandeweghe & Nicole Melichar of the Aviators then cut Chicago’s lead to 15-13 with an impressive 5-1 victory over Mattek-Sands & Eugenie Bouchard in the women’s doubles.
Orange County Breakers find themselves in a 4-way tie
In the last tie of the day, the Orange County Breakers got themselves back on track after a loss on Sunday and earned their 3rd win in their last 4 matches by defeating the New York Empire, 24-15.
While Orange County acquiesced the first set, they won the next 4 to move into a 4-way tie for 4th place in the league standings.
Steve Johnson and Jack Sock each faced just one break point in the set, with the server in both situations able to hold serve and win the 2 deciding points, and it was Sock who won the battle of kick serves and heavy forehands to earn a 5-1 win in the tiebreaker.
Jennifer Brady, coming off a dominant win in her last match over Christina McHale, took on 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki in women’s singles as New York sidelined former World No 1 Kim Clijsters on the bench.
Brady took advantage of Lisicki’s tentativeness and remained aggressive throughout the set, winning all 8 points on her first serve to earn a 2nd consecutive 5-0 win in singles.
“I was playing each game as a fresh start, playing every point the same and committing to my shots and playing my game,” Brady said. “When you’re able to get a 5-0 or 5-1 win, it puts a little more pressure on the other team.”
Men’s doubles featured Johnson & Sock against Austin Krajicek & Neal Skupski and, with neither team earned a break of serve, the turning point came at 2-1 in the tiebreaker where Johnson struck a two-handed backhand return winner up the line off Sock’s second serve to grab the crucial mini-break.
Entering half-time Orange County turned to Gaby Dabrowski & Krajicek to extend the lead in the mixed, saving 3 break points on Krajicek’s serve at 0-1 before earning the only break of the set the following game via a deciding point.
A double substitution was then made by Empire coach Luke Jensen, with Kveta Peschke & Skupski replaced by Sock & Lisicki in attempt to salvage the set but Krajicek and Dabrowski used the break they had already earned to win 5-3.
Andreja Klepac & Dabrowski then rebounded from their loss the previous day to defeat Peschke & Liscki in women’s doubles, earning another 5-3 win for the Breakers.
Orange County Breakers 24, New York Empire, 15
- Men’s Singles – Jack Sock (Empire) def. Steve Johnson (Breakers), 5-4
- Women’s Singles – Jenn Brady (Breakers) def. Sabine Lisicki (Empire), 5-0
- Men’s Doubles – Johnson/Austin Krajicek (Breakers) def. Neal Skupski/Sock (Empire), 5-4
- Mixed Doubles – Krajicek/Gaby Dabrowski (Breakers) def. *Sock/Lisicki (Empire), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – Andreja Klepac/Dabrowski (Breakers) def. Lisicki/Peschke (Empire), 5-3
*Lisicki was substituted for Kveta Peschke and Sock for Neal Skupski at 1-2 in the Mixed Doubles set
Chicago Smash 20, San Diego Aviators 16
- Mixed Doubles – Rajeev Ram/Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Smash) def. Jonny O’Mara/Coco Vandeweghe (Aviators), 5-1
- Women’s Singles – Christina McHale (Aviators) def. Sloane Stephens (Smash), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Ram/Evan King (Smash) def. Ryan Harrison/O’Mara (Aviators), 5-2
- Women’s Doubles – Vandeweghe/Nicole Melichar (Aviators) def. Mattek-Sands/Genie Bouchard (Smash), 5-1
- Men’s Singles – Brandon Nakashima (Smash) def. Harrison (Aviators), 5-3
Philadelphia Freedoms 23, Springfield Lasers 17 (EP)
- Men’s Singles – Taylor Fritz (Freedoms) def. Mitchell Krueger (Lasers), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – Caty McNally/Hayley Carter (Lasers) def. Taylor Townsend/Sofia Kenin (Freedoms), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Fabrice Martin/Fritz (Freedoms) def. Jean-Julien Rojer/Krueger (Lasers), 5-1
- Women’s Singles – Kenin (Freedoms) def. Olga Govortsova (Lasers), 5-3
- Mixed Doubles – McNally/Rojer (Lasers) def. Martin/Townsend (Freedoms), 5-3
Extended Play – Martin/Townsend (Freedoms) def. McNally/Rojer (Lasers), 1-0
(EP) – Extended Play