The Philadelphia Freedoms dominated the field in the World TeamTennis’ annual round-robin challenge. The Billie Jean King-owned team is assured a first place finish with 10 wins out of 11 matches. They can now claim $2,500 in prize money for placing atop the regular season standings. That money will be paid out to each of the four mainstay Freedoms players: Raquel Atawo, Taylor Townsend, Kevin King and Fabrice Martin. The King Cup Final will take place in Philadelphia’s home court on Saint Joseph’s University campus on August 5 at 2pm. That championship match will be televised on ESPN2 and on WTT’s official Youtube, Twitter, Facebook pages and specialized livestreaming site wtt.tv
Provided they continue to win, Atawo and Townsend stand to earn additional prize money given out by WTT: a split of $9,000 between the duo’s high winning percentage in women’s doubles, and in Townsend’s case, a $7,500 haul for her exceptional performance in singles. WTT will also reward the second and third best mixed doubles team with a $7,000 and $4,000 split bonus, respectively , and the runners up of best eligible singles players of league also receive $6,000 and $4,000. Male and female Rookie of the Year honorees receive a $2,500 prize and the Male and Female MVP (factoring exceptional play in both doubles and singles matches) receive a Forevermark package of diamonds and $7,500. To see the frontrunners for these rewards, check out the previous WTT article.
First place in WTT may be decided, but there is an intensely stewing battle for the second-place berth between four teams. The Defending Champion Orange County Breakers are 5-6 but the San Diego Aviators, Washington Kastles and Springfield Lasers are all 6-5, and the race for second is surely going to be decided in the remaining matches, all being played within the next 3 days. The 1-11 New York Empire are out of contention for qualifying into the final.
Results from July 30th: San Diego Aviators loses to the previously winless New York Empire, 21-17.
First-time player/coach and selfie master @nealskupski with his @nyempiretennis teammates @DennisNovikov, @tayylorjohhnson & @mariajo_martine after NY gets into the #WTT43 win column. (? Skupski) #wttfamily pic.twitter.com/3NMsXwxAlc
— World TeamTennis (@WorldTeamTennis) July 31, 2018
Neal Skupski and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez played in their best form, putting NY up 5-2 in the first set of mixed doubles. They took down the Aviators’ solid pairing of Marcin Matkowski and Anna-Lena Groenefeld. The hilight of the evening was the women’s singles showdown between both teams’ two ace-dealers: San Diego’s Naomi Broady and the Empire’s Taylor Johnson. The 17-year-old prodigy and incoming UCLA freshman didn’t win either of her sets but she hit 6 aces and added 6 crucial game points to help the Empire put pressure the Aviators’ lead.
Johnson played in place of Tatjana Maria and Coach Gigi Fernandez was taking a day of rest to rest up from a minor illness. Neal Skupski was the acting player-coach on a modified New York side. The game score was tied after four sets, meaning the men’s singles event would decide the winner of the evening. Marcus Willis of the Aviators, perhaps the best men’s singles player this season, faded in the final set to a surging Dennis Novikov. Novikov used his strong backhand play to win in 6 games, earning the Empire a quite rare and unlikely win on the road.
Coach John Lloyd and the Aviators’ losing effort may not have helped them, but they did beat Coach Rick Leach’s Orange County Breakers this past Saturday, giving OC their 6th loss of the year.
Springfield Lasers defeat the Washington Kastles 22-21.
Every set in the Lasers-Kastles game led up to a set tiebreaker, except for the final set of women’s doubles. In the second set, Springfield’s Coach John-Laffnie De Jager made a bold decision to substitute Daniel Nestor out of the Mixed Doubles set to bring in rising talent Miomir Kecmanovic. Kecmanovic had beaten Kastles’ men’s singles star Tennys Sandgren in the first set, and was brought in with the team down 4-1. The pairing of Kecmanovic and Abigail Spears rallied back to force a tiebreaker that they eventually lost.
In the last set, the Lasers went up one break point, giving their duo of Vania King and Abigail Spears a victory over the Kastles’ Madison Brengle and Nicole Melichar, 5-2. It was all square with regard to break point conversions; Vania King and Madison Brengle converted 3 break points apiece during their women’s singles showdown.
The Lasers have now won four matches in a row; the Kastles have lost four straight including their match against the Freedoms last Saturday. Both teams travel west to face the two WTT teams from California.
Coach Murphy Jensen and the Washington Kastles are still a team to watch, despite their losing form. The Kastles have a strong mixed doubles unit in Melichar and Robert Lindstedt, and the team’s mainstay women’s singles player Madison Brengle has been tough to beat.
It didn’t earn her team the win, but Madison Brengle still pulled off the shot of the night against Vania King.
"That's the shot of the night right there." Another day, another hot shot from Madison Brengle. @WashKastles star comes from 4-2 down in the women's singles to win in a tiebreak. #WTTSummer pic.twitter.com/CVS8WL3Wct
— World TeamTennis (@WorldTeamTennis) July 31, 2018