Orlando Storm secured their place in the top 4 of the World TeamTennis Standings to qualify for the coming Playoffs, leaving New York Empire and Washington Kastles to battle it out for the last remaining spot.
I know I’m the player of the match, but that was totally a team effort. With a score that close, every single match counted. Every single game counted. My partner Darija played unbelievable. Jessica Pegula, Orlando Storm
The Storm scored a 23-21 triumph over the New York on Tuesday night, recording Orlando’s 6th consecutive victory and ensuring the franchise’s first trip to Playoffs as no worse than the No 3 seed.
All of the buzz coming into the match revolved around New York’s new-look women’s doubles team of Coco Vandeweghe & Nicole Melichar, who were acquired from the San Diego Aviators on Sunday night, right before the league’s trade deadline.
After Vandeweghe & Melichar broke the Storm to love to take a 4-3 lead against Jessica Pegula & Darija Jurak, it looked like the hired guns would give the Empire both the lead and momentum heading into the night’s final set.
The Storm, however, battled back in the next game to give itself 2 break points and although Vandeweghe saved the first with an overhead smash, Melichar’s double fault at 40-all meant the set rested on the tiebreak.
Jurak helped Orlando shoot out to a 3-0 advantage with a couple of winners and while New York took 3 of the next 4 points to draw closer, at 4-3 Jurak & Melichar clinched the set for Orlando.
“I know I’m the player of the match, but that was totally a team effort,” said Pegula, who won 2 of her 3 sets on the evening. “With a score that close, every single match counted. Every single game counted. My partner Darija played unbelievable.”
The women’s doubles victory gave Orlando an 18-16 edge with only the men’s doubles remaining.
It was a set that the Empire, with Jack Sock & Neal Skupski, had claimed easily against Orlando’s Tennys Sandgren & Ken Skupski 12 days earlier, plus, Sandgren had lost a tiebreaker to Sock in men’s singles, 5-4(0), about 40 minutes earlier.
The Storm trailed 2-1 and faced 2 break points, looking like the match might be slipping out of Orlando’s grasp, but after Sandgren’s winner at the net, Sock flubbed his return of Skupski’s serve, giving the game to Orlando and tying the set.
16 of the next 18 points were won by the serving side, leading to a set tiebreaker that New York would sweep, 5-0
The Empire needed to take just one game in Extended Play to continue matters in a Supertiebreaker, but Sandgren stepped up to win the first 2 points of the game with a couple of second-serve winners.
At 30-love, Sandgren chased down a second-serve return and somehow sent it back over to the far side of the court at a tight angle toward Skupski, whose forehand went into the net.
Finally, with 4 match points on his racket, Sandgren sent another forehand Skupski’s way, resulting in another errant return.
The Empire are now tied with the Washington Kastles at 6-6 for that 4th and final Playoff spot with 2 games remaining on their schedule.
Washington Kastles stay alive by eliminating Springfield Lasers
Things are getting tense at The Greenier, with a host of nail-biting moments in Washington Kastles 24-16 win over the Springfield Lasers on Tuesday.
Dominating performances in the men’s and mixed doubles blew open a close match and kept the Kastles’ Playoff hopes alive.
The loss eliminates Springfield from the Playoffs and ends their two-year run of World TeamTennis championships.
“I felt motivated because this was an important match for us,” Washington’s Bernarda Pera said. “We had a lot of motivation on our side.”
It was 14-13 for the Kastles at half-time before Pera & Venus Williams, playing together for the first time, beat Hayley Carter & Caty McNally, one of the top teams in WTT, 5-2.
At 2-all as the teams switched sides, Williams held serve to nose in front and a break of McNally blew the set wide open.
“I was really nervous to play with Venus for the first time, but [coach Robby Ginepri] did a good job preparing me for the match,” Pera said. “He told me to have fun on the court and enjoy the opportunity to play with one of the greatest players ever.”
The momentum from that win carried over into the mixed set in which Pera & Marcelo Arevalo broke Robert Lindstedt’s serve in the first game and never looked back.
A break of McNally pushed Washington in front 4-0 as the teams switched ends and after Lindstedt earned a hold, Arevalo closed out the dominating 5-1 win.
Washington improves to 6-6 with the win as they chase the New York Empire for the 4th and final Playoff spot, and have 2 more matches to play, while Springfield falls to 4-9 with one match left to play.
Earlier, Tommy Paul got the better of Mitchell Krueger in an entertaining men’s singles set, 5-4(3) to open the afternoon, while McNally, a WTT rookie, showed off her continued improvement in winning a thrilling women’s singles set 5-4(3) over Pera.
Men’s doubles followed the early pattern, going to the third 9-point tiebreaker of the day before Arevalo & Nick Monroe escaped with a 5-4(3) win.
Philadelphia Freedoms take out San Diego Aviators, 24-19
The Philadelphia Freedoms took a big step towards clinching the top spot in the upcoming WTT Playoffs after defeating the San Diego Aviators 24-19 in World TeamTennis action on Tuesday afternoon at The Greenbrier.
The first-place Freedoms, who won 5 of the 5 sets in their victory over San Diego, improve their season record to 10-2.
Taylor Fritz gave Philadelphia an early lead as the 22-year-old overpowered Ryan Harrison in a 5-3 victory in men’s singles, blasting 8 aces and never faced a break point in the opening set, which took 18 minutes.
The Aviators then sent out newly acquired Sabine Lisicki against current Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in women’s singles.
After Lisicki held serve to start the set, Kenin overcame 3 double faults and eventually held serve after Lisicki’s service return landed long on the deciding point.
Later, with Lisicki holding a 3-2 lead, Kenin fended off 3 break points and proceeded to hold serve when she hit a service winner on a deciding point.
With the score level at 3-3, each held to send the set to a tiebreak at 4-4, and here Kenin raised her game to win the first 3 points of the breaker.
Down 0-3, Lisicki fought back to win 3 of the next 4 points, but with a 4-3 lead, Kenin executed a perfect down the line backhand winner on set point to close out the tiebreaker and win the women’s singles set 5-4 in 37 minutes.
As San Diego trailed the Freedoms 10-7, Harrison & Kveta Peschke stepped in to face Fabrice Martin & Taylor Townsend in the mixed.
The set was tied when the Freedoms broke Peschke to take a 4-3 lead and, in the next game, Townsend fought off break points and slammed a service winner on deciding point to serve out the set for a 5-3 win.
Winning the first 3 sets of the match, the Freedoms led the Aviators 15-10 heading into half-time.
Christina McHale & Peschke put the Aviators in the win column as they took 39 minutes to defeat Townsend & Caroline Dolehide 5-4 in the women’s doubles, and cut the Freedoms lead to 19-15.
The entertaining women’s doubles set featured four service breaks and with the score tied at 4-4, it was decided in a tiebreaker.
Townsend & Dolehide took a 2-0 lead in the breaker, but McHale & Peschke roared back to win 5 straight points and win the set when Townsend’s lob service return went long on the first set point.
Trailing by just 4 games, San Diego’s comeback hopes rested on the shoulders of Harrison & Jonny O’Mara as they took on Fritz & Martin of the Freedoms in men’s doubles.
After Harrison held serve to start the set, Fritz hit 2 aces and easily held for 1-1 when the Freedoms substituted Donald Young for Fritz.
Each continued to hold serve and, for the 3rd time in the match, the set was decided by a tiebreaker.
The Aviator took a commanding 4-1 lead and the match looked to be headed to Extended Play, but the Freedoms rallied to even at 4-4 and, on the final point, Young put away a high backhand volley to seal the victory for Philadelphia.
Following the Freedom’s win, Fritz was asked about his overpowering serve which helped Philadelphia get past San Diego.
“As long as I’m feeling confident with my serve and holding serve, I can relax a bit and play the return game and add pressure against my opponent to hold serve. It just sets me up to play confidently,” Fritz said.
With Tuesday’s loss to Philadelphia, the Aviators season record falls to 3-10, having lost 7 straight matches.
Tuesday’s match against the Freedoms was played indoors due to the continuing inclement weather.
Washington Kastles 24, Springfield Lasers 16
- Men’s Singles – Tommy Paul (Kastles) def. Mitchell Krueger (Lasers), 5-4
- Women’s Singles – Caty McNally (Lasers) def. Bernarda Pera (Kastles), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Nick Monroe\Marcelo Arevalo (Kastles) def. Robert Lindstedt\Jean-Julien Rojer (Lasers), 5-4
- Women’s Doubles – Pera\Venus Williams (Kastles) def. McNally\Hayley Carter (Lasers), 5-2
- Mixed Doubles – Arevalo\Pera (Kastles) def. Lindstedt\McNally (Lasers), 5-1
Philadelphia Freedoms 24, San Diego Aviators 19
- Men’s Singles – Taylor Fritz (Freedoms) def. Ryan Harrison (Aviators), 5-3
- Women’s Singles – Sofia Kenin (Freedoms) def. Sabine Lisicki (Aviators), 5-4
- Mixed Doubles – Fabrice Martin\Taylor Townsend (Freedoms) def. Harrison\Kveta Peschke (Aviators), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – Peschke\Christina McHale (Aviators) def. Townsend\Caroline Dolehide (Freedoms), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Donald Young\Martin (Freedoms) def. Harrison\Jonny O’Mara (Aviators), 5-4
Orlando Storm 23, New York Empire 21 (EP)
- Mixed Doubles – Jack Sock\Coco Vandeweghe (Empire) def. Ken Skupski\Jessica Pegula (Storm), 5-4
- Women’s Singles – Pegula (Storm) def. Vandeweghe (Empire), 5-2
- Men’s Singles – Sock (Empire) def. Tennys Sandgren (Storm), 5-4
- Women’s Doubles – Pegula\Darija Jurak (Storm) def. Vandeweghe\Nicole Melichar (Empire), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Sock\Neal Skupski (Empire) def. K. Skupski\Sandgren (Storm), 5-4
- Extended Play – Men’s Doubles – K. Skupski\Sandgren (Storm) def. Sock\N. Skupski (Empire), 1-0
(EP) – Extended Play