Sunday, August 2, 2015

WTT: Washington Kastles 24 Austin Aces 18

Reason to celebrate: Finals MVP Leander Paes

I'd love to take credit for predicting a fifth straight WTT championship for the Washington Kastles; but let's be honest... Team Owner Mark Ein's "dynasty," (as per Commissioner Ilana Kloss, not me) was/is a team of destiny. How else do you explain six titles in seven years, the best fans in the league and a family of tennis professionals, who coexist in perfect harmony (year after year after year?) The Kastles dialed up an extra dose of intensity earlier today, en route to an exhilarating 24-18 win over the Austin Aces before a raucous crowd at Kastles Stadium. Let the celebrations begin!

Setting the record for most consecutive league titles in a row is great; but doing it in front of your home fans is even better. All that support isn't lost on Ein, head coach Murphy Jensen or the entire lineup of all-star players: Each Kastle made sure to thank the crowd first and foremost... resulting in even louder applause. The atmosphere at Smith Center was literally intoxicating.

Coach Murphy Jensen chats with Paes and Sam Querrey (r)

Ditto for the play, beginning with a dominant effort by Martina Hingis and team captain Leander Paes in Mixed Doubles. The Wimbledon champs broke Austin's Teymuraz Gabashvili and Alla Kudryavtseva twice on their way to a 5-2 first set victory. Hingis remained on the court, teaming with WTT Women's Co-MVP Anastasia Rodionova to top Kudryavtseva and Elina Svitolina in Women's Doubles 5-4 to give Washington a 10-6 lead. The set featured a mind-boggling six breaks of service.

Anastasia Rodionova slams home a winner

Set three brought more good cheer, as Paes and Sam Querrey teamed up for a 5-3 win over Gabashvili and Jarmere Jenkins in Men's Doubles. That gave Washington a comfortable 15-9 advantage, which grew to 20-13 after Querrey's 5-4 tiebreaker over a very busy Gabashvili. From there, only a miracle comeback by #20 ranked Svitolina could stop the Kastles from their aforementioned destiny. Svitolina gave it her all, but couldn't shut down Madison Brengle in Women's Singles. The 20-year-old Ukrainian won the fifth set (5-3) to force extended play, but lost 4-1 in the deciding game. Let's hear it for Maddy: She started the season as a fill-in for Hingis (and then Serena Williams) but wound up finishing the season as an integral part of the team.

Sam Querrey: Checking out the replay?

It will be interesting to see what the off-season has in store; but it's hard to imagine the Kastles not returning to the championship game to compete for a sixth straight title. Six-peat... Sounds good great to me.

Look who's back: 2011 WTT Finals MVP Arina Rodionova

Click here for today's box score.

Martina Hingis is all smiles

More smiles: A-Rod, Madison Brengle and Jensen (r)

Blowing kisses... Only when you win.

Austin's Elina Svitolina

Quick reflexes by Jarmere Jenkins