This year’s World TeamTennis, the month-long six team round robin challenge, is almost over, with eight matches in the books and six more remaining. There should be enough matches to assess which players have separated themselves from the norm. With the US Open qualifying rounds starting in less than a month, one ought to wonder which players can ride their positive momentum from the day-to-day frenzy that is WTT. The league also awards $7,500 to the most valuable men’s and women’s player, so check out the shortlist below for your consideration!
This year, Philadelphia stands to dethrone the defending champion Orange County Breakers. With the Breakers struggling with a new look in the mixed doubles rotation, The Freedoms are looking terrific with their solid team at a 7-1 record.
Women’s Doubles: Taylor Townsend and Raquel Atawo
The Philadelphia Freedoms have been blessed with the Atawo-Townsend partnership. They played in 56 games in women’s doubles set and won 57.14% of their matches. Last year’s US Open singles’ titleholder Sloane Stephens and Freedoms wildcard player Gabriela Dabrowski each played seven games this year in a exceptional supporting role, winning five of them. The teams’ 37 wins out of all 63 games should be attributed to their methodical play with a rather high 2nd service percentage (94.5%) and their paltry tally of 3 double faults.
Still in the discussion: Naomi Broady and Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
The San Diego Aviators primary duo of Naomi Broady and Anna-Lena Groenefeld (who played all of San Diego’s women’s doubles games) have averaged around 1.5 break points per match with 12 breaks for 29 chances. They have combined for 13 double faults, but if you can serve like Naomi Broady, its worth chancing it (she has 5)! Broady played 56 games and Coco Vandeweghe played the remaining eight, and the American won five game points in her only appearance on July 23rd.
Women’s Singles: Taylor Townsend
The hallmark on her stat line is her winning percentage: 35 games won out of 49, which works out to 71.43%. If her serves are on form (she has nine aces in singles with only four double faults) and she continues to be unbreakable, the coaches need to start viewing tapes and brainstorming what the answer is to stopping Townsend.
From WTT: “Taylor Townsend played three sets Sunday, July 22, and won them all. She accounted for 15 games in the Philadelphia Freedoms’ 24-19 win at the Springfield Lasers.”
Also In Discussion: Madison Brengle
Brengle has truly become a mainstay of the Washington Kastles. She guided them to their 2015 WTT King Cup Finals victory to continue the capital team’s dynastic reign and she has exclusively played for them since. She has been assigned to play 46 of 54 games in women’s singles. Earlier last week, she beat New York Empire’s ace dealer Tatjana Maria in singles twice: 5-2 in first matchup and 5-0 in other.
Men’s Singles: Marcus Willis
I’ve seen Willis play hard for the New York Empire over the last two seasons as a substitute. This player is exceptional in this format where players flourish by hitting the ground running and avoiding mistakes in execution. The big question is whether he can perform well in San Diego, a quite different setting, facing a longer WTT schedule. He has singlehandedly served 20 aces! To go along with his titanium arm, on Wednesday night (7/25), in his 6th singles appearance, the Englishman beat the Kastles’ Tennys Sandgren in their men’s singles set in Washington, 5-3.
Men’s Doubles: Willis and Marcin Matkowski
Willis has become the most effective player for the San Diego Aviators, as a day-to-day player. However you can certainly argue the entire men’s platoon of Willis, Marcin Matkowski and wildcard Taylor Fritz is a guarantee to hold against or break any opponent. Fritz took part in 13 games in singles slot and won eight points. He won ten game points in doubles of a possible 16 partnering with Marcin Matkowski, who is San Diego’s doubles specialist.
Also In Discussion: Fabrice Martin & Kevin King
Philadelphia will be much scarier if the male double’s combination of King and Martin become more effective on break points. They have certainly held their serves but forced over a dozen over the course of the month, and only have five to their name.
Mixed Doubles: Marcin Matkowski and Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Perhaps the toughest category to discern! Much credit is also deserved to be given to the newly developed partnership of Nicole Melichar and Robert Lindstedt of the Kastles. Their 5-3 win against Groenefeld and Matkowski set the table for a Washington win over the Breakers on Wednesday night. The couple of Freedoms wildcard Gabriela Dabrowski and Fabrice Martin also have notched up some wins for the Freedoms, including one on Wednesday against the Aviators at home.
Honorable Mention: Neal Skupski
You can't win the point that way, but he tried.
— World TeamTennis (@WorldTeamTennis) July 26, 2018
It doesn’t count for much, but for a man who can accurately head a tennis ball and get a laugh out of his teammates, fans, and opponents, he deserves a humorous honorable mention! Last year, he volleyed a shot at his brother Ken, who played for the Orange County Breakers. The ball bounced off Ken and Neal headed the ball to keep it on Ken’s side of the court. Savage is an understatement for that.
Watch how my convictions play out and whether or not I cursed the hilighted players; All the matches are live and free on wtt.tv. WTT’s Youtube page has full replays as well!
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