World TeamTennis: Washington Kastles defeat New York Empire on opening night
The New York Empire team lines up before the opening match of the season. From left to right: Coach Gigi Fernandez, Neal Skupski, Dennis Novikov, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Tatjana Maria and Steve Johnson/Photo: John Lupo/VAVEL UK

World TeamTennis: Washington Kastles defeat New York Empire on opening night

New York led by as many as six points, but Washington dominated the final three sets to close out the victory.

john-lupo
John Lupo

It was opening night of the 43rd season World TeamTennis with the Washington Kastles defeating the New York Empire 22-18. The set scores were 4-5 (4), 3-5, 5-3, 5-1, 5-4 (2).

Played on Court 17 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, Washington rallied from losing the first two sets to claim the victory.

What is World TeamTennis?

Founded in 1973 by legend Billie Jean King, each set features a different configuration - men's singles, men's doubles, women's singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles. Prior to each match, the coach of the home team decides the order in which the sets will be played.

Each player on a team usually plays in at least one of the five sets. Scoring is no-advantage; there is no requirement to win a game by two scores; at deuce (3–3, the equivalent of 40–40 in a conventional scoring system), whoever scores the next point wins the game.

The first team to reach five games wins each set. A nine-point tiebreaker is played if a set reaches four-all. One point is awarded for each game won. If necessary, overtime and a super-tiebreaker are played to determine the winner of the match.

If the trailing team wins the fifth set, overtime (or extended play) occurs and if the leading team wins a game, the match ends. If the score is tied, a super-tiebreaker then occurs.

On-court coaching and player substitutions in the event of an injury are allowed. Lets are in play and a new feature to the league this year is no linespeople as the replay system makes all calls. 

The league's season normally takes place in the summer months. This season is running from July 15th to August 2nd while players from the ATP and WTA take a break from their tour schedules to participate in World TeamTennis.

Maria plays a backhand during her World TeamTennis singles match in Flushing Meadows/Photo: John Lupo/VAVEL UK
Maria plays a backhand during her World TeamTennis singles match in Flushing Meadows/Photo: John Lupo/VAVEL UK

Empire get off to a strong start behind Maria

The coaches are Gigi Fernandez for the Empire and Murphy Jensen for the Kastles. The first match played was the women's doubles match featuring Tatjana Maria and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of New York squaring off with Madison Brengle and Christina McHale of Washington.

Maria and Martinez Sanchez got off to a fast start, taking a 4-1 lead before Brengle and McHale rallied to force a tiebreaker at 4-4.

In the tiebreaker, the key point was the ninth when Maria played a beautiful high forehand volley to clinch the set.

The women's singles was the next match with Maria facing Brengle. The German broke in the third game to take a 2-1 lead when the American dumped a forehand into the net.

Maria saved multiple break points on her own serve and at set point, she fired a backhand winner down the line to put the Empire up two sets to none.

Lindstedt (l.) and Ebden (r.) in action for Washington during their World TeamTennis match/Photo: John Lupo/VAVEL UK
Lindstedt (l.) and Ebden (r.) in action for Washington during their World TeamTennis match/Photo: John Lupo/VAVEL UK

Kastles rally for the victory behind Ebden, Lindstedt

Washington started to turn things around in the mixed doubles. Martinez Sanchez returned to the court to try and finish the match off, teaming with Neal Skupski to face McHale and Robert Lindstedt.

Lindstedt double-faulted to hand the initial break to Martinez Sanchez and Skupski to give the Empire a 2-0 lead. After the Spaniard held for 3-0, Washington rallied to take the final five games, capped when Martinez Sanchez floated a backhand long, Washington closing the gap to 13-12.

Ebden was in action for Washington in the men's singles against Steve Johnson, a late replacement for John Isner. The Aussie is in good form, having upset David Goffin at Wimbledon en route to the third round and he carried that into this match, routing the American with his serve-and-volley game.

With the Kastles now in front 17-14, Ebden and Lindstedt teamed up against Skupski and Johnson in the men's doubles.

The Brit double-faulted to hand Ebden and Lindstedt the early break.

New York broke back and the set remained close until Ebden and Lindstedt won the final two games to avoid extended play to seal the match for the six-time league champions.

The two teams will meet again on Monday in Washington, D.C. in the Kastles' home opener at the Smith Center. 

American rising star Frances Tiafoe is expected to feature for Washington.

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