World TeamTennis is well underway at The Greenbrier in West Virginia where 9 teams are vying for the King Trophy over the coming weeks while confirmed coronavirus cases soar in America, with positive cases having doubled in the past month, including 3 deaths linked to a church near to the luxury resort.
I had to go into quarantine for two weeks before this. I’ve had three tests. I had one very early on [in February]. I’ve been tested last week. I’ve been tested today. Ken Skupski
Safety, therefore, is paramount, and strict measures are in place to ensure health and safety, with those not actually competing on the court instructed to wear a mask inside the stadium.
Spectators have their temperatures checked on entry, while staggered rows of seating are covered to allow for social distancing.
Only up to 500 spectators are being allowed at each of the outdoor matches in the 2,500-seat court, although on Monday there were far fewer than this watching the opening matches.
If rain forces play indoors, the maximum capacity will be reduced to 100 fans and 50 staffers.
Players are also subject to face masks, multiple COVID-19 tests, constant hand-sanitising and daily temperature checks.
Social distancing isn’t an issue at The Greenbrier, though, which is set on 11,000 acres and has 710 guest rooms, including many private cottages.
There are 9 restaurants, with outdoor seating and room service is available.
All team members are all staying at the resort, and their commute to work is just a short walk across the historic grounds, which also features a fully equipped medical clinic.
They exit and enter from the back of the hotel and can walk to the stadium.
For international players like Ken Skupski, one of 5 Britons competing, there was an extra pre-step.
“I had to go into quarantine for two weeks before this,” he told the Tennis Channel, having arrived early to the United States. “I’ve had 3 tests. I had one very early on [in February]. I’ve been tested last week. I’ve been tested today.”
Upon arrival at The Greenbrier, everyone reported to the Sports Performance Center for a second test.
Anyone still awaiting the results of that test were not allowed on court, so on Sunday, 4 were still waiting, including Skupski, Evan King and coaches John-Laffnie De Jager and John Lloyd.
There will be another test next weekend, which should help ensure that everyone continues to follow the guidelines.
On the court, the chair umpire is helped by electronic line calling instead of line judges, and there are no ball kids.
Players chase down loose balls and toss them to the server and once a match ends, they touched rackets — no high-fives or handshakes allowed.
“I think we can do this in a safe manner and have the respect and trust in our fellow players and people that are putting on the event to have our best interest in mind,” Orange County Breaker Steve Johnson said. “If we can all be smart, do the right things, not go out partying, it can be done.”
Washington Kastles’ Marcelo Arevalo made his debut played 3 sets and winning 2, helping his team rally past the New York Empire, 21-20.
“It’s tough to describe the [emotions] right now. I think the team is pretty excited,” Arevalo said. “It’s my first time playing in World TeamTennis and what a way to open the season for me and for the Kastles.”
Arevalo opened and closed the win for Washington, defeating Jack Sock 5-3 in men’s singles before teaming up with Nick Monroe to beat Sock & Neal Skupski, 5-4(3), in the men’s doubles.
The Salvadorian won both deciding points in the men’s singles and, at 2-2, broke Sock to take control.
Arevalo suffered a setback, though, as he and Arina Rodionova lost a thriller in the mixed doubles.
The teams traded breaks late to set up a 9-point tiebreak in which Skupski, playing alongside Kveta Peschke, held serve for New York, and mini-breaks gave the Empire the 5-4 win and a 13-11 lead at the halftime break.
Kim Clijsters’ comeback story started with a 5-2 win over Washington’s Bernarda Pera in women’s singles.
The Hall of Famer retired in 2012, but, at the age of 37, is eyeing a return to the tour.
She erased a pair of 0-40 deficits in the set and won 2 of 3 deciding points to get the win, an impressive victory for Clijsters since Pera is ranked No 60 in the world.
Washington took a big 5-3 decision in women’s doubles, fielding Pera & Rodionova to set up the thrilling finish with a 5-3 win over Clijsters & Kveta Peschke for the win, taking advantage of a double-fault on set point.
The Orlando Storm dropped 8 of the final 9 games against the Vegas Rollers on Monday en route to their first loss of the 2020 WTT season, 24-15.
The match was nip and tuck into women’s doubles, the fourth set of the day, and after Orlando’s Jessica Pegula & Darija Jurak held serve at love to gain a 3-2 lead in the set and close their overall deficit to 16-14, the Rollers’ Asia Muhammad & Kristie Ahn took control by winning the next 3 games and ultimately the set, 5-3.
“She makes it easy; she just rips,” Muhammad said about playing with Ahn. “… Kristie and I go way back.
“We’re really good friends, and that makes it easy because we’ve never played together, but we have chemistry off the court. I’m glad it’s on the court, too.”
With the Storm already having little margin for error, trailing 19-14, the Rollers brought in Mike Bryan & Bob Bryan to put on the finishing touches and the legendary duo made quick work of Tennys Sandgren & James Ward, dispatching them in just 20 minutes, 5-1.
Action continued with one of the smallest teams in the league, the Orange County Breakers, with a squad of just four – Steve Johnson, Jennifer Brady, Andreja Klepac and Luke Bambridge – against the Philadelphia Freedoms.
Brady came in with some matches under her belt after playing the Charleston exhibition, while Johnson competed in both Miami and Atlanta and has five WTT seasons and four years at the University of Southern California under his belt.
After two consecutive years of regular-season first-place finishes, however, the Freedoms kicked off their campaign by winning all five sets for a 25-16 win against the Breakers.
The experienced WTT duo of Fabrice Martin & Taylor Townsend started the evening’s affair with a dominant serving performance for the Freedoms, winning 16 of 18 service points for the 5-3 win against Klepac & Luke Bambridge.
2020 Australian Open singles champion Sofia Kenin then got off to a hot start in her league debut, quickly building a 4-0 lead over Brady, who chipped away at the lead and fought back to go but ultimately lost, 5-3.
Martin, the acting coach for this match while Craig Kardon awaits the results of his COVID-19 test as part of the league’s protocols, wisely took a GEICO timeout which helped the 21-year-old calm her nerves a bit to close out the set.
“I’m just super happy I started off really well. I felt like I played well overall and she of course picked up her game, but I was able to close it out,” Kenin said. “Billie Jean King reached out to me and asked me to play for her team, so I was super excited and honoured.”
In the men’s doubles, the lone set of the evening to not feature any breaks of serve, was decided in a tiebreak as Taylor Fritz & Martin saved 3 set points from 2-4 down.
Serving on the final 3 points to close out the breaker, World No 24 Fritz helped his team earn the tight 5-4(4) win over Bambridge & Johnson to give Philadelphia a 15-10 lead heading into halftime.
Caroline Dolehide then joined forces with Townsend and the duo converted all 3 of their break point chances to beat Klepac & Brady 5-3 in the 4th set of the match.
After losing to Johnson just 9 days ago at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atlanta, Fritz exacted his revenge with a 5-3 win to put an exclamation point on Philadelphia’s first match of the season.
Philadelphia Freedoms 25, Orange County Breakers 16
- Mixed Doubles: Taylor Townsend/Fabrice Martin (Freedoms) def. Andreja Klepac/Luke Bambridge (Breakers), 5-3
- Women’s Singles: Sofia Kenin (Freedoms) def. Jennifer Brady (Breakers), 5-3
- Men’s Doubles: Martin/Taylor Fritz (Freedoms) def. Stevie Johnson/Bambridge (Breakers), 5-4 (5-4 in tiebreaker)
- Women’s Doubles: Caroline Dolehide/Townsend (Freedoms) def. Klepac/Brady (Breakers), 5-3
- Men’s Singles: Fritz (Freedoms) def. Johnson (Breakers), 5-3
Washington Kastles 21, New York Empire 20
- Men’s Singles: Marcelo Arevalo (Kastles) def. Jack Sock (Empire) 5-3
- Women’s Singles: Kim Clijsters (Empire) def. Bernarda Pera (Kastles) 5-2
- Mixed Doubles: Neal Skupski\Kveta Peschke (Empire) def. Arina Rodionova\Arevalo (Kastles) 5-4
- Women’s Doubles: Pera\Rodionova (Kastles) def. Clijsters\Peschke (Empire) 5-3
- Men’s Doubles: Nick Monroe\Arevalo (Kastles) def. Skupski\Sock (Empire) 5-4
Vegas Rollers 25, Orlando Storm 15
- Men’s Singles: Tennys Sandgren (Storm) def. Sam Querrey (Rollers) 5-4
- Women’s Singles: Monica Puig (Rollers) def. Danielle Collins (Storm) 5-3
- Mixed Doubles: Asia Muhammad\Mike Bryan (Rollers) def. Darija Jurak\Sandgren (Storm) 5-3
- Women’s Doubles: Muhammad\Kristie Ahn (Rollers) def. Jurak\Jessica Pegula (Storm) 5-3
- Men’s Doubles: Mike Bryan\Bob Bryan (Rollers) def. Sandgren\James Ward (Storm) 5-1