Team Peace wrapped up victory over Team Kindness on Sunday at the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston when captain Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Sofia Kenin defeated Amanda Anisimova & Victoria Azarenka in the 3rd of 5 matches, 6-3 6-4, to build an insurmountable lead in overall points.
I was trusting them to do their thing. Everyone came here ready to win. I think everyone missed being competitive. Even though this was a team event and it's not something we're used to, I think we had a lot of fun. Bethanie Mattek-Sands
With each match win worth 3 points, Team Peace needed just 2 wins to seal the deal, having entered the day with a 20-13 lead in the standings.
Sunday’s slate of matches was meant to consist of doubles matches only, but the day began with a singles in which Shelby Rogers beat Mattek-Sands, 7-5 7-5, in a match that was held over from Saturday night due to heavy rain.
As doubles play began, Team Peace was quick off the mark, with Eugenie Bouchard & Jennifer Brady sweeping aside Team Kindness captain Madison Keys & Alison Riske in straight sets, 6-3 6-2.
That set the stage for Kenin & Mattek-Sands, who already had the experience of clinching a victory in 2020 when they teamed to win the deciding doubles rubber for Team USA against Latvia in Fed Cup in February, and they did not disappoint.
“I was trusting them to do their thing. Everyone came here ready to win. I think everyone missed being competitive,” Mattek-Sands said after her final doubles match.
“Even though this was a team event and it’s not something we’re used to, I think we had a lot of fun.”
Mattek-Sands began the Credit One Bank Invitational with the first pick for Team Peace, and finished it off with the last shot.
The 5-time Grand Slam doubles champion struck a routine put-away volley after a weak return had been set up by a wide serve from her first selection in the draft, Kenin, to give Team Peace the overall win.
“Team Peace really pulled through. Jen Brady, winning all her matches, I think we have to give her MVP,” Mattek-Sands continued.
“Everyone pulled their weight, everyone was playing amazing… but I’m proud of my whole team. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully, I’ll get to do this again.”
Kenin went 2-0 in doubles alongside Mattek-Sands, as well as beating Riske in singles but she fell to Keys in a match tiebreak over the course of the week.
“I’m really happy to have been on Beth’s team and I just tried to… just focus on what I need to do,” Kenin added. “I was super happy to be on this team and wanted to play some matches.
“I feel like all of us really missed playing matches, and all of us missed competition. We’ve played [together] a few times, and we’re just really good together.”
After Team Peace clinched the overall victory, Team Kindness’ Rogers & Sloane Stephens beat Caroline Dolehide & Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5 6-2, before Monica Puig & Leylah Fernandez wrapped up the weekend by saving 2 match points to beat Navarro & Danielle Collins, 6-2 4-6 [11-9], to narrow the gap to 26-22 points for the week.
On paper, Peace had looked the weaker team to Kindness, captained by Madison Keys and including Sloane Stephens, Alison Riske, Victoria Azarenka, Amanda Anisimova and Leylah Fernandez, rounded out with Monica Puig, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, and Shelby Rogers, a Charleston native.
Under these extraordinary circumstances, however, familiarity and comfort proved important and Mattek-Sands looked for players who were able to do two things: play well in both singles and doubles, and complement one another as a tandem.
“Today’s idea was actually to put strong net players with strong baseline players,” said Mattek-Sands, seated to the right of Kenin, one of the strongest base-liners in tennis.
“I split up Caroline Dolehide and Jen Brady; they’ve done well, they were almost my number two team, but I paired them up with baseline players.
“I don’t know if I’m a little biased, because I’ve played with a lot of good base-liners, and I like that dynamic, because you can have a strong returner, strong person at the back, and then someone who puts it away at net.
“That was kind of my thought, so I guess it worked this time. I’m proud of my whole team.”
The unsanctioned Credit One Bank Invitational brought 16 WTA stars to Charleston for 6 days of intense match play and raised upwards of $150,000 to support frontline healthcare workers at the Medical University of South Carolina, which assisted in creating the strict social distancing protocols for the event
In addition, the players combined to serve 90 aces over the 6 days, adding $9,000 to the total.
“All these girls can play, they can all ball,” said Mattek-Sands.
The camaraderie of both Team Peace and Team Kindness, together with the format of the Credit One Bank Invitational, raises a question about the possibility of this type of event becoming a permanent fixture on the women’s tennis calendar.
Given what has happened to the Fed Cup, which, like the Davis Cup, bears little resemblance to the competition it once was, is there a will for a ‘women’s Laver Cup’?
“It was super fun,” said Kenin with a laugh. “I’m really happy I was able to bring the feisty out there for Team Peace!”
“For me it was a lot of fun,” said Mattek-Sands. “It was a fun group of girls, so hopefully I’ll get to do this again.”