NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 19, 2009 – The toughest games to win in tennis are typically the ones that close out a match or, in Sunday’s instance with respect to the Newport Beach Breakers, the games that clinch an Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League playoff berth. For Breakers coach Trevor Kronemann, there is no better money player and closer in World TeamTennis history than Ramon Delgado.
Thus, the Breakers’ WTT playoff-clinching celebration ensued in dramatic fashion as reigning WTT Male MVP Delgado rallied his team with a final-set victory in regulation and one-game overtime and Supertiebreaker wins that capped a 21-20 victory over the rival Sacramento Capitals at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club.
The Breakers (8-4) clinched the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with the four-match season sweep of Sacramento. The Breakers last made the playoffs in 2006, the last of three consecutive years in which the team reached the WTT Finals. The Breakers last won the King Trophy (WTT championship) in 2004.
“Once again, Ramon is just unbelievable in this format,” Kronemann said. “Amazing. Absolutely amazing. At some point, you’re a skeptic and you wonder how many times he can come back. Now I’m a believer. I’ve been around World TeamTennis for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s the greatest World TeamTennis player that’s ever played. He skipped the Davis Cup to play WTT this year. We recognize that and we want to do it for him, too.”
The Breakers will play at the Springfield Lasers (11-0), WTT’s only perfect team, in the WTT playoffs’ Western Conference final on July 24. The teams met in Springfield on July 6 as the Lasers pulled off the second-largest comeback in WTT history, rallying from a 20-12 deficit heading into the final set and emerging victorious, 22-21 in a Supertiebreaker. Springfield then topped the Breakers two days later at Breakers Stadium, 22-17 in overtime.
“We were up eight games. I don’t think we do anything different,” Kronemann said. “If they run the table and go 14-0, all the pressure is on them. We want to redeem ourselves. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.”
Down 16-14, the match was left on the racket of Delgado, the only holdover from the Breakers’ 2004 WTT title team who had already beaten Michael Chang, Sam Querrey and Andre Agassi over the past week. Facing Sacramento’s Sam Warburg, Delgado fended off two break points and won three consecutive points, capped by an ace, to win the first game of the set. Warburg fought off three set points-against to force a tiebreaker, which Delgado controlled and won, 5-1.
Delgado’s win forced overtime on Warburg’s serve, which was broken by Delgado at deuce (also Sacramento’s match point with no-ad scoring) with a running forehand down the line past the charging Warburg. Tied 20-20, the Breakers played their third Supertiebreaker of the season. Delgado again proved too good for Warburg and clinched the Breakers’ playoff berth with a 7-3 Supertiebreaker triumph.
“I am really stressed out there. Really nervous. Really anxious. At least it looks like I am in control out there,” Delgado said. “I think (the win over) Querrey was a real turning point for me. Querrey gave me the confidence, and when I am playing like this, I feel like I can compete with anybody in World TeamTennis. My priority is to beat Springfield and then go to (Washington) D.C. (for the WTT finals).”
Trailing 15-9 after Sacramento (5-7) won the first three sets of the match by 5-3 scores, the Breakers’ comeback attempt began with Julie Ditty and Marie-Eve Pelletier in women’s doubles. The tandem stormed through Sacramento’s Coco Vandeweghe and Angela Haynes to win 5-1 – the set highlighted by Ditty returning three consecutive reflex volleys, the last of which broke Sacramento to increase their set lead to 4-1.
“We knew we had to perform well tonight,” said Ditty, the first-year Breakers player. “We took it to them. You have to have positive energy out here.”
Knowing it had to win to keep its playoff hopes alive against a Breakers team that won 11 of the 15 sets through the teams’ first three meetings this season, Sacramento was all business from the start as Capitals coach Wayne Bryan (father of Mike and Bob Bryan, the world’s No. 1 men’s doubles team) led the cheers.
Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Mark Knowles and Irvine’s Angela Haynes broke the service of the Breakers’ Kaes Van’t Hof and Ditty at 3-3 – the Breakers double-faulted on game-point at deuce – and captured a close first set in mixed doubles, 5-3.
Then, 17-year-old Vandeweghe, the niece of ex-UCLA and NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe, avenged an earlier women’s singles loss this season to Pelletier and put together her best set of tennis of the team’s four season matchups in a 5-3 singles win. Again, the set was tied 3-3 before Vandeweghe broke Pelletier and closed out the set with a big first serve.
The Breakers dropped the match’s middle set, 5-3 in men’s doubles, a set typically owned by Delgado and Van’t Hof and typically dropped by Sacramento. Before Sunday, Sacramento sported the worst men’s doubles win percentage in WTT while the Breakers’ dynamic duo had won nine of their last 10 sets and was WTT’s top doubles team (53-of-89 games won, 60%).
Mixed Doubles – Mark Knowles/Angela Haynes (S) def. Kaes Van’t Hof/Julie Ditty (NB), 5-3
Women’s Singles – Coco Vandeweghe (S) def. Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB), 5-3
Men’s Doubles – Sam Warburg/Knowles (S) def. Ramon Delgado/Van’t Hof (NB), 5-3
Women’s Doubles – Ditty/Pelletier (NB) def. Haynes/Vandeweghe (S), 5-1
Men’s Singles – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 5-4 (5-1 tiebreak)
Overtime – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 1-0
Supertiebreaker – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 7-3
Final: Newport Beach Breakers 21, Sacramento Capitals 20 (STB)
Limited tickets are available for the Newport Beach Breakers Series Finale Presented by HOM Real Estate Group – Tuesday, July 21 against John McEnroe and the WTT Eastern Conference champion New York Sportimes (9-3) and Wednesday, July 22, in which Maria Sharapova will play for the Breakers against the Kansas City Explorers. Tickets are $60 for general admission or $45 for the top three rows, and can be purchased by calling 714/352-6301 or visiting www.newporteachbreakers.com.
The Breakers encourage the community to drop off old, unused cell phones at Breakers Stadium on July 21 and July 22 to support soldiers needing cell phones overseas through the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness, program funds and aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women. All used cell phones will be collected at the Wounded Warrior Project expo booth on-site. Each cell phone donated will grant one entry to win a trip to the 2009 Smash Hits on Dec. 8 in Baton Rouge, LA. The Smash Hits is Elton John and Billie Jean King’s annual event that raises money for the fight against HIV and AIDS.
The Breakers are in their third year of operation under the auspices of Hoag Hospital Foundation, which has been granted the rights to manage the Breakers through 2009 by WTT with profits from the team’s season operations benefiting Hoag Hospital. Breakers Stadium (capacity 2,000) is located at Newport Beach Country Club along Pacific Coast Highway, with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Breakers supporters can congregate online and expand the team’s fan base through the team’s official fan pages on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Newport-Beach-CA/Newport-Beach-Breakers/73887254402?ref=ts), MySpace (www.myspace.com/newportbeachbreakers) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/nbbreakers). Register to become a fan or follower of the Breakers at each fan page and use them to meet and chat with new friends and tennis fans and stay up to date on all team and player information related to the Breakers.
About Newport Beach Breakers
The Newport Beach Breakers are one of 10 nationwide teams that make up the World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League and are co-owned by WTT founder Billie Jean King. In July 2009, the Breakers will play seven home matches at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club, and will be managed by Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian through the 2009 WTT season. Profits from the team’s operations for the season will go towards Hoag Hospital Foundation, the Breakers’ primary beneficiary. Hoag Hospital’s expert involvement with professional sports also extends to its organization of the PGA Champions Tour’s Toshiba Classic held annually in March. For tickets, sponsorship and more information, visit www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or call 714/352-6301.