WTT Finals Weekend comes after long break
Now for the to-be-continued portion of the World TeamTennis season.
When the Washington Kastles reconvened Tuesday for practice in preparation for WTT Finals Weekend, they greeted each other for the first time since late July. After high-fives, smiles, jokes and hugs, coach Murphy Jensen needled Leander Paes.
Speaking to reporters, Jensen turned toward Paes and amplified his voice, suggesting he was considering replacing last year's WTT MVP.
|Kastles vs. Sportimes|
|Eastern Conference final|
|When » Saturday, 6:30 p.m.|
|Where » Family Circle Stadium,|
"I was actually thinking about Treat Huey for the playoffs," Jensen said. "But Leander called me and said, 'Please, please, please, don't put Treat in front of me.' I said, 'I'll give you a shot if you play good at the U.S. Open.' And he did."
With that, it was obvious the Kastles' chemistry was intact despite a long break. When the Kastles (14-0) face the New York Sportimes (9-5) on Saturday night in Charleston, S.C., it will be their first match together in seven weeks.
Last year, when Washington became the first team in league history to go undefeated on its way to the championship, the Kastles jumped right from the regular season to the postseason. But this year the Olympics intervened. Kastles players Paes (India), Venus Williams (United States) and Anastasia Rodionova (Australia) departed for London before the regular season was over.
"What's so crazily unique about this team is that we're all such different individuals, but we just come together," Paes said. "It's one big crazy family."
Since they were last together, many of the Kastles have had success. At the U.S. Open, Paes reached his 29th Grand Slam doubles final, teaming with Radek Stepanek. Williams combined with sister Serena to win Olympic gold in women's doubles. Rodionova won five matches at the U.S. Open, reaching the round of 64. WTT 2012 MVP Bobby Reynolds won four matches in New York.
Because his players have been active, Jensen doesn't think the Kastles' long break will disrupt their momentum.
"Everybody who's part of this franchise has been playing great tennis," Jensen said. "I think it helps us a little bit because the other teams haven't been as successful on the tour since the regular season ended."
Returning this weekend will be Arina Rodionova, who missed the Kastles' last seven matches with a wrist injury. As she wrapped her wrist Tuesday, she proclaimed herself fit and the team ready despite the layoff.
"I don't think it's tough getting our chemistry back," Arina Rodionova said. "It's just a bit different."
In the Eastern Conference final on Saturday, New York will bring the legendary duo of John McEnroe and Martina Hingis. In July, the Sportimes gave the Kastles their toughest match in two years, leading 19-13 before Williams led an inspired comeback. After trouncing Hingis 5-1 in singles, Williams won both games of overtime and then captured the super-tiebreaker 7-0 for a 21-20 Kastles victory.
If the Kastles win Saturday, they advance to the WTT finals Sunday afternoon against the Orange County Breakers or the Sacramento Capitals.