WTT: Opening Day And Battle For King Trophy Is On

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The 45th season of World TeamTennis started with a bang Sunday at The Greenbrier, a luxury resort nestled in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. With three matches scheduled for Opening Day of the compact three-week 2020 season, the Orlando Storm began festivities with an upset the WTT defending champion Springfield Lasers 21-18. The Storm won during extended play in back of mixed doubles duo Jessica Pegula and Tennys Sandgren.

Orlando started strong by winning sets in both men’s and women’s singles and men’s doubles, then lost sets in women’s and mixed doubles before being rescued by Pegula and Sandgren.

“It was fun to get out there and play tennis today,” Sandgren said, as quoted by the WTT website. Sandgren has stayed busy during the past two weeks by playing exhibitions in Miami and Peachtree Corners, Ga., near Atlanta.

The beginning of the World TeamTennis season marked a return to competitive play for pro tours in the wake of the global pandemic. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, it made good sense to bring all of the teams together to play the entire three-week schedule in one locale rather than at various sites around the country. Of note, there were no high-fives or chest bumps among the players. Also, players chased after their own balls and lines were called electronically with just a chair umpire to oversee each match. At the conclusion of each match, players tapped racquets instead of shaking hands.

“It was awesome to have some people out there to get behind the tennis,” said Sandgren, who beat Mitchell Kruger in singles and teamed with James Ward to win his doubles set. “It made hitting good shots a little more fun.”

In other matches, the Chicago Smash defeated the Las Vegas Rollers 24-18, scoring the deciding points in men’s doubles by Brandon Nakashima and Rajeev Ram against the Bryan Brothers. Nakashima also scored a set win in men’s singles over Sam Querrey and Sloane Stephens contributed a set win in women’s singles by defeating Monica Puig.

“I just tried to stay solid on my side of the court and just tried to have fun out there and get a feel for the situation and environment,” said Nakashima, a former junior prodigy, as quoted by the WTT website. “Once I got the first couple of games under my belt I kind of loosened up a little bit.”

The San Diego Aviators defeated the Orange County Breakers 23-16 in the last match of the day.

Up to 500 fans were allowed at each match, but there were far fewer in the stands of the 2,500-seat stadium at The Greenbrier for the opening match. Fans, who had their temperatures taken before entering and wore masks at all times, were socially distanced thanks to staggered rows.

The World TeamTennis season continues through August 2 with the King Trophy, named in honor of  WTT founder Billie Jean King, presented to the league champion.

The Williams Sisters: Decades of dominance

Although neither Serena or Venus Williams has won a Wimbledon title of any kind since 2016, going back to 1998, they’ve won a combined 19 Wimbledon titles across singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

A tale of three GOATS … 

… Who’s the GOAT? Wrong question.

When it comes to GOAT talk – Greatest of All Time – count Tennis.com writer and historian Joel Drucker among the conscientious objectors. “To me it’s not even the right question,” he said.

Arthur Ashe: A legacy of activism

Arthur Ashe’s real legacy was his activism, not his tennis. That’s the belief of author Raymond Arsenault, who wrote a biography of the late great tennis Hall of Famer, Arthur Ashe: A Life, that was published in 2018.

While we remember Ashe for his inspiring talent – he became the first Black male to win Wimbledon 45 years ago – he’s also being remembered for his social conscience which, looking back, was way ahead of its time.

As Arsenault wrote in an essay for The Guardian of London in September 2018:

Putting oneself at risk for a good cause, he assured one reporter, “does wonders for your outlook … Marching in a protest is a liberating experience. It’s cathartic. It’s one of the great moments you can have in your life.”

Aresenault’s essay is a good read and, as everyone awaits the return of the pro tennis tours next month, Arthur Ashe: A Life  is a good summer book to spend time reading.

Djokovic: No Wimbledon grass to chew this year 

Tennis United: Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg share memories

Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg shared some epic Grand Slam battles through the years. On the latest episode of Tennis United that dropped over the weekend, the two Hall of Famer relieved their favorite Wimbledon memories.

What they’re podcasting

• On the latest Match Point Canada podcast, host Mike McIntyre catches up with Lucie Safarova.

• On the latest Tennis Now/Tennis Channel podcast, Chris Oddo talks with Quentin Moutet about his passion for music.

What they’re sharing on social media 

Kristina Mladenovic / So happy to be back on court!

Orange County Breakers / First of many selfies …

Todd Woodbridge / Memories of 2019 Wimbledon