The Orlando Storm won the first 8 games of Saturday’s World TeamTennis clash in West Virginia against the Philadelphia Freedoms en route to a 23-13 victory, taking them into 3rd place in the standings.
We needed it for the team. We lost a tough one last night and I felt like we needed to bring good positive energy out there today. We did that as a team today and I couldn’t be happier to get a win.” Steve Johnson
The Freedoms came into the encounter on the back of a 6-match winning streak and sat a full game clear of the Chicago Smash and 3 games clear of the Storm.
Tennys Sandgren & Ken Skupski came out on a mission in the men’s doubles and put up an essentially flawless, 5-0 performance against Philly’s Donald Young & Fabrice Martin.
“Right away with the men’s doubles, they just kind of set the tone for the whole day,” Orlando Storm’s Jessica Pegula said. “We honestly just played really solid the rest of the day, and we just took care of business.”
Pegula was up next in singles action against Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion and the highest-ranked women’s singles player in WTT this season at No 4 in the world.
She had won both of their previous meetings and took an early 3-0 lead.
The crucial moment came when Pegula was up 3-2 in the set, and holding a couple of break-point opportunities after 2 double faults from Kenin.
After Kenin saved one of them, she tried a drop shot that eked over the net, but Pegula pounced on it and fired a cross-court forehand to go up 4-2 and held serve in the next game to give Orlando a commanding 10-2 advantage.
“Sofia is tough for me to play because she loves directing pace,” Pegula said. “That’s what she does so well, and I like to hit the ball hard.
“Honestly, I thought I had to play a little defence and kind of mix it up, which isn’t really something I love to do, but I’ve been getting so much better at it in those situations. She started playing pretty well there for a couple of games and I had to kind of figure it out.”
Philadelphia’s only set win was a 5-3 triumph for Fabrice Martin & Taylor Townsend in mixed doubles, who got past Pegula & Skupski.
Pegula returned for her 3rd set and regained that lost ground in women’s doubles when she and Darija Jurak handled Townsend & Caroline Dolehide, 5-3.
The cherry on top was Sandgren beating Taylor Fritz, WTT’s highest-ranked men’s singles player at No 24, by a score of 5-3.
With this streak-snapping victory, it is now the Storm who are on a roll, having won their past 3 matches since the departure of Danielle Collins who flaunted COVID procedures.
Washington Kastles see of San Diego Aviators
The Washington Kastles, playing solid tennis from start to finish, evened their season record at 5-5 with a hard-fought 23-16 win over the San Diego Aviators at The Greenbrier on Saturday.
The Aviators, who have now dropped their last 4 matches in a row, fall to 3-7 this season, while San Diego has 4 matches remaining and could play the role of spoiler as they face the league-leading Philadelphia Freedoms twice and the second-place Chicago Smash once.
The Kastles got off to a strong start against the Aviators, winning the women’s and men’s singles to begin the contest.
After exchanging service breaks early in the women’s singles set, Bernarda Pera slammed a beautiful down the line forehand winner at 40-30 to hold serve for a 3-2 lead over Christina McHale of the Aviators and her aggressive play carried her a 5-2 win in 23 minutes.
Tommy Paul then took out Ryan Harrison in the tiebreak to win 5-4 in 36 minutes, the Kastles extended their lead over San Diego to 10-6.
The Aviators then looked to CoCo Vandeweghe & Nicole Melichar to ignite their comeback hopes in the women’s doubles against Washington’s Arina Rodionova & Venus Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion and former World No. 1.
In the third game of the set, Melichar put away a cross-court backhand volley on a 3-3 deciding point to break Rodionova for a 3-1 lead, and she later served out the set for a 5-3 win in 29 minutes for the Aviators when Williams hit a service return long at 40-15.
The Kastles led the Aviators 13-11 as Ryan Harrison teamed with Vandeweghe in the mixed against Pera & Marcelo Arevalo of the Kastles.
Harrison held serve in the first game of the set to cut the Kastles lead to one game and the Aviators were on the verge of tying the match in the following game when they had two break points against Arevalo.
The crafty 29-year-old from El Salvador, however, saved them both and the momentum shifted in the Kastles favour as Washington broke the match open, winning the next 4 games for a surprising 5-1 win in 30 minutes.
The Aviators trailed Washington 18-12 going into men’s doubles with Harrison & Jonny O’Mara playing Arevalo & Nick Monroe of the Kastles.
With no service breaks, the final set was tied at 4-4 and went to a tiebreak where the Aviators took an early 3-1 lead, but the Kastles rallied to tie the score at 3-3 and with the Aviators serving the last 3 points of the breaker, O’Mara threw in 2 double faults to seal the 5-4 victory in men’s doubles for Washington.
Orange County Breakers keep slim hopes alive
Orange County Breakers kept their hopes alive with an Extended Play win against Springfield Lasers, 24-21, leaving them with a shot at making the World TeamTennis playoffs this season.
Steve Johnson well played in 3 sets to Orange County’s albeit slim playoff hopes alive.
“We needed it for the team. We lost a tough one last night and I felt like we needed to bring good positive energy out there today,” Johnson said. “We did that as a team today and I couldn’t be happier to get a win.”
Springfield’s Mitchell Krueger came up with the goods in the deciding points to steal a 5-4(4) win from Johnson in the opening men’s singles, including set point in the 9-point tiebreaker.
Jennifer Brady won a wild, roller coaster of a women’s singles set in another tiebreaker against Springfield’s Olga Govortosva and quickly built a 2-0 lead.
Lasers coach JL de Jager subbed in Caty McNally, who immediately reeled off 4 straight games to take a 4-2 lead but Brady fought back to win the next 2 games and force the breaker, but the twists and turns of that set were not done.
McNally, an 18-year-old WTT rookie, won the first 4 points of the tiebreak, and was headed for an easy win, but Brady saved 4 set points, then won the deciding point to get the 5-4(4) win and even the overall score at 9.
“I started off really strong,” Brady said. “[McNally] didn’t miss a ball and it was tough to play. We have completely different game styles.
“I played Caty last year, she beat me, so I was thinking she had a good game plan coming in.
“Once we got to the tiebreak, I think maybe she got a little nervous once I won one point and I was able to capitalise on that.”
An early break was all Johnson & Austin Krajicek needed to win men’s doubles over Jean-Julien Rojer & Robert Lindstedt, 5-3 win in the set and a 14-12 overall lead at half-time.
The women’s doubles also featured a substitution and the third 9-point tiebreaker in 4 sets.
Orange County coach Rick Leach subbed Brady in for Andreja Klepac early, and she helped teammate Gabriela Dabrowski push in front 4-2.
Springfield’s McNally & Hayley Carter won the next two to set up the breaker, but they couldn’t make it three games in a row. and the Breakers took it 5-4(3) and headed to the final set with a 19-16 lead.
Johnson teamed up with Brady to wrap up the win, despite a 5-4(3) loss in mixed doubles to McNally & Lindstedt, which forced Extended Play with Orange County leading 23-21.
Chicago Smash powers past New York Empire
Entering play with the chance to tie Philadelphia at the top of the World TeamTennis standings, Chicago Smash rallied past New York Empire on Saturday behind the solid play of Sloane Stephens.
Facing the Empire for the second time in 8 days, the Smash played another nip-tuck match against Coach Luke Jensen’s playoff-contenting squad.
“It’s a perfect training environment with all these amazing players and playing high-quality matches,” Stephens said. “It’s been great, and we’ve been gelling and having a great time as a team. It’s been awesome.”
Men’s doubles kicked off the evening’s play, with the Empire’s Jack Sock & Neal Skupski facing Rajeev Ram & Brandon Nakashima, with each player holding serve through to 4-4 and forcing a 9-point tiebreaker.
The Empire took a 2-1 lead in the breaker off an ace from Sock and outlasted the Smash for a 5-3 win and a 5-4 match victory.
In men’s singles, Nakashima knocked off Sock, 5-3, after splitting the first 2 games and taking 4 of the next 6 to give Chicago a 9-8 lead.
The mixed doubles featured substitutions on both sides of the net.
The Smash opted to lift Bethanie Mattek-Sands in favour of Genie Bouchard, while the Empire sent out Socks & Kim Clijsters instead of the scheduled Skupski & Kveta Peschke duo.
New York took control early, winning the first 2 games but Chicago managed to knot the score at 10 before the Empire took 3 of the final 4 games for a 13-11 lead as Bouchard double-faulted to end the set.
New York’s Hailey Baptiste was called on for the women’s singles match against Stephens.
Stephens dropped the first game before turning up the wick against the 18-year-old for a 16-14 Smash advantage.
“I’ve practiced with [Hailey] a lot since we’ve been here,” Stephens noted. “It was a nice matchup, and I was happy to pull through in the end.
“When it got close, playing fourth is always a little tough,” said Stephens.. “I haven’t played well at fourth, so I was really glad to get the win.
“Obviously, I’ve been playing better and better as the weeks have gone by [but] I was just really happy to get the win, 5-1, and help the team get a two-game lead going into the final set.”
With the match on the line, Chicago pacesetters Mattek-Sands & Bouchard looked to push the Smash into a first-place tie with Philly.
Baptiste, playing with 45-year-old former top-ranked doubles player Peschke, held serve in the first game to breathe life into the Empire’s upset hopes, but Bouchard served to pick up a game before Chicago broke Peschke’s serve to lurch ahead 18-15.
Down the stretch, Mattek-Sands held serve to push the Smash ahead 19-15 and, after dropping 3 consecutive games, Clijsters was subbed in to replace Peschke, and the Empire picked up a point to draw within 19-16.
Bouchard responded with a love-serve and when, in the final game, Clijsters double-faulted to end the match, 5-2, the Smash claimed the 21-16 victory and a spot on top of the standings.
“They’re our anchor for a reason because we know they’re just really solid at the end,” Sloane said of the women’s doubles duo. “They play great together, and it’s nice to have two people that have really kind of connected.
“Obviously, they haven’t played much together in the past, but it’s nice they’ve been able to jump into it, connect and support each other.”
Orlando Storm 23, Philadelphia Freedoms 13
- Men’s Doubles – Tennys Sandgren\Ken Skupski (Storm) def. Fabrice Martin\Donald Young (Freedoms), 5-0
- Women’s Singles – Jessica Pegula (Storm) def. Sofia Kenin (Freedoms), 5-2
- Mixed Doubles – Martin\Taylor Townsend (Freedoms) def. Skupski\Pegula (Storm), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – Pegula\Darija Jurak (Storm) def. Townsend\Caroline Dolehide (Freedoms), 5-3
- Men’s Singles – Sandgren (Storm) def. Taylor Fritz (Freedoms), 5-3
Orange County Breakers 24, Springfield Lasers 21 (EP)
- Men’s Singles – Mitchell Krueger (Lasers) def. Steve Johnson (Breakers), 5-4
- Women’s Singles – Jennifer Brady (Breakers) def. Caty McNally (Lasers), 5-4
- Men’s Doubles – Johnson\Austin Krajicek (Breakers) def. Jean-Julien Rojer\Robert Lindstedt (Lasers), 5-3
- Women’s Doubles – Gabriela Dabrowski\Brady (Breakers) def. McNally\Hayley Carter (Lasers), 5-4
- Mixed Doubles – McNally\Lindstedt (Lasers) def. Brady\Johnson (Breakers), 5-4
- Extended Play – Mixed Doubles – Brady\Johnson (Breakers) def. McNally\Lindstedt (Lasers), 1-0
Washington Kastles 23, San Diego Aviators 16
- Women’s Singles – Bernarda Pera (Kastles) def. Christina McHale (Aviators), 5-2
- Men’s Singles – Tommy Paul (Kastles) def. Ryan Harrison (Aviators), 5-4
- Women’s Doubles – Nicole Melichar\Coco Vandeweghe (Aviators) def. Arina Rodionova\Venus Williams (Kastles), 5-3
- Mixed Doubles – Marcelo Arevalo\Pera (Kastles) def. Harrison\Vandeweghe (Aviators), 5-1
- Men’s Doubles – Arevalo\Nick Monroe (Kastles) def. Harrison\Jonny O’Mara (Aviators), 5-4
Chicago Smash 21, New York Empire 16
- Men’s Doubles – Jack Sock\Neal Skupski (Empire) def. Rajeev Ram\Brandon Nakashima (Smash), 5-4
- Men’s Singles – Nakashima (Smash) def. Sock (Empire), 5-3
- Mixed Doubles – Sock\Kim Clijsters (Empire) def. Eugenie Bouchard\Ram (Smash), 5-2
- Women’s Singles – Sloane Stephens (Smash) def. Hayley Baptiste (Empire), 5-1
- Women’s Doubles – Bethanie Mattek-Sands\Bouchard (Smash), def. Clijsters\Baptiste (Empire), 5-2
(EP) – Extended Play