washington kastles

Washington Kastles Three-Peat as Mylan WTT Champions

Washington Kastles 2WASHINGTON, DC (July 28, 2013) The Washington Kastles carved another notch in the Mylan World Team Tennis elite ranks Sunday, winning their third consecutive World Team Tennis championship and fourth in the past five years with a 25-12 win over the Springfield Laster, the largest victory margin in any WTT championship match.

The Kastles also became the first WTT franchise to win all five sets in a championship match since the league switched to the current format in 1999. further stamping the team as the premier franchise in the league. The Kastles started the 2013 season by winning their first two matches for a 34-match winning streak, the longest winning streak is U.S professional sports history.

“This year we walked right into it.  We made that incredible streak, and have an amazing part in history. You can’t put a price tag on that We lost, then started winning again,” Kastles’ coach Murphy Jensen said.  “This is a masterpiece. This is the best. four out of five years, it is out of control. We absolutely sacrificed every day to play for the Kastles.”

Even a two-hour rain delay did not slow the Kastles.

The three-peat makes Washington only the second to win three titles in a row. The four championships make Washington one of only two franchises to win four or more WTT titles.

“It’d be great if we had eight teams like (the Kastles),” Springfield Laser player Andy Roddick, a part-owner of WTT, said after the loss. “They deserve the success they get. They put a lot into it, and it’s a great atmosphere.”

The Kastles were uncertain as to which of the sets Roddick would play so Jensen reshuffled the order of play to have Bib by Reynolds, the team’s traditional closer, open the match with men’s singles. That way if Roddick played, it would dilute the advantage the Lasers could have by having their star close the contest in the final set.

But Reynolds, who was named the MVP of the championship, opened strong, breaking the Lasers’ Rik De Voest three times in a 5-1 win.

“You go out and get ready thinking you are going to play Andy and I knew I had to be ready for anything,” Reynolds said.  “I guess I am the opener now (not the closer),  I knew I had to bring a lot of energy no matter when I was in the lineup.”

Springfield has never won a WTT title. They last played for the title in 2009, where they lost to Washington 23-20 when the Kastles held off three match points to win.

“Coming in here (at the start of the season), there was a lot of pressure, in those first matches. You don’t want to be the one to destroy them. Now at the end all of the effort paid off,” Kastles player Martina Hingis said.

“I am a first time Kastle. It’s a great team. I love everyone and I hope I can play here again next year.”

Hingis said she had hoped she was ready for Roddick’s serve. “I know his serve is spectacular. I tried not to think too much about it. At first he started with a kick serve. I just tried to get a racquet on it,” she said.

She and team captain Leander Paes defeated Roddick and Alisa Kleybanova, the 2013 WTT female rookie of the year, 5-4 after winning a five point tiebreaker for the game, set and championship.

“I started off pretty well in the (mixed doubles) then my energy level dropped a little bit,” said Hingis. “And that’s when (Paes) kind of lifted his game amazingly, and it is pretty cool to have five perfect sets.”

WASHINGTON KASTLES def. Springfield Lasers, 25-12
MEN’S SINGLES:  Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Rik de Voest (Lasers) 5-1
WOMEN’S DOUBLES:  Martina Hingis/Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova/Vania King (Lasers) 5-3
MEN’S DOUBLES:  Bobby Reynolds/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Jean-Julien Rojer/Andy Roddick (Lasers) 5-2
WOMEN’S SINGLES:  Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova (Lasers) 5-2
MIXED DOUBLES:  Martina Hingis/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova/Andy Roddick (Lasers) 5-4

Washington Kastles Continue Winning Ways with Martina Hingis

Washington KastlesWASHINGTON, D.C. (July 18, 2013) The shifting and the surprises seem to be over for the reigning Mylan World TeamTennis champs Washington Kastles. As the halfway point of the WTT passes, the Kastles are playing like a true team again.

Coach Murphy Jensen has altered the order of matches to play to his new strengths aimed at starting and finishing strong. Gone are those early matches of the season wondering who would be the newest Kastle-of-the-day. The team is finding matches tougher, yet still winnable.

“We had a couple of in and out, in and out, with players,” Kastles player Bobby Reynolds said following Washington’s 21-15 win over the Springfield Lasers, in a battle of WTT conference leaders on Wednesday. “We are a solid team now. We are clicking on all cylinders.”

Last week the Lasers dealt Washington its first ever loss at its current home court, Kastles Stadium on the Wharf. It was the second straight loss for the Kastles after they set a new streak in U.S. major professional sports of 34 straight wins earlier in the week.

Those losses came without Martina Hingis in the lineup and, as Jensen noted, a combination of understandable fatigue, the law of bad breaks and the determination of other teams to knock off the Kastles.

“We were coming in to win two matches to make history and that took a lot out of us,” Jensen said after Wednesday’s match.”These other teams don’t play to win the championship, they play to beat the Kastles.”

Halfway through the season, the 6-2 Kastles are two up on their closest conference rival, the New York Sportimes. After Friday’s away match against the Texas Wild – the team that ended the winning streak – the Kastles play out the season against with five matches against Eastern Conference foes in a home-away rotation, starting with the Sportimes Saturday at home. The Kastles are 4-0 against conference teams.

The loss dropped Springfield to 5-3 and back into the tight mix in the Western Conference in which three teams are within one-half game of the lead, and the squad in last is only two games out of first.

The Kastles got back to their winning ways on the road last Saturday, in a convincing 23-14 road victory over the Sacramento Capitals, who they beat by one point to win the 2012 championship.

Anastasia Rodionova, in the number one women’s role, had her first singles victory of the season, a 5-2 decision over 17-year-old American Taylor Townsend. Perhaps equally as key, symbolically in the Kastles lineup was substitute Raquel Kops-Jones, who was 4-0 last season in
mixed doubles with the Kastles.

She only returned for that match but Jensen inserted her into the lineup to team with Kastle captain Leander Paes in the closing mixed doubles set that sealed the victory.

Now Jensen is closing matches with the mixed doubles team of Paes and Hingis, who are undefeated. Their play has been so inspired that Hingis said it was what helped prompt her to come out of retirement to play doubles.

The regular season ends July 24, with conference championships scheduled for July 25. The 2013 Mylan WTT championship match is set for Sunday, July 28, at the home court of the Eastern Conference Champion.

“Every night is an important night,” Hingis said Wednesday. “The others are going to go out to give it to you. We just have to play hard.”

Washington Kastles Fall to Andy Roddick-Led Springfield Lasers

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 11, 2013) The Mylan World TeamTennis champions Washington Kastles lost their first home match in more than two years Thursday, falling to the Springfield Lasers 22-15 in front of the third straight capacity crowd at Kastles Stadium at The Wharf.

Washington entered Thursday’s match 16-0 all-time since moving to their Southwest Waterfront venue in 2011, but as the Kastles have now started a new streak: losing. It was the second straight loss for the Kastles, who on Tuesday set a U.S. professional sports records with 34 straight wins.

For the second straight night, Washington won the first set, with Kevin Anderson beating former world number one Andy Roddick in a battle of big servers 5-2. But as was the case against the Texas Wild on Wednesday, Washington lost the final four sets to jetison the match. – including a nail-biting final set loss of 5-4 in men’s doubles.

Roddick, a part owner of the WTT, joked earlier in the week that he hoped Washington would be undefeated when the two teams met Thursday so Springfield could end the streak. He said before that match that he was “pissed” that had lost on Wednesday.

“The Kastles have been the ones creating the story lines for World TeamTennis the last couple of years,” Roddick said. “I was pissed the streak ended last night. There are few things I can get up for anymore, so that was disappointing.”

Kastles coach Murphy Jensen said that team has a target on them, with every opponent playing their very best to defeat them. He said the Kastles are still learning to integrate the new members of the team and that he expects the Kastles to resume winning very soon. And he reminded anyone who asked that the Kastles dropped their first four matches before winning thei first WTT championship in 2009.

Roddick said he had not played tennis for about nine months prior to hitting some before the WTT season started on Sunday. He praised his teammates for carrying the Lasers in their defeat of Washington.

“I was a little worried of how my shoulder would come around, I hadn’t served in nine months,” Roddick said in a pre-match news conference. “I’m still going so that’s good. We’ll see how tonight feels.”

He said he picked up a racket just three times this year and hit only lightly during the last 10 days.

Despite their loss, he praised the Kastles for helping push more attention to the league and for having one of the best, loudest and supportive venues.

Before the match, Roddick noted he has a special fondness for playing in Washington, D.C., where he won his first significant pro match at age 17 and found subsequent success in the city’s storied Legg Mason tournament.

He praised the WTT for its ability to quickly seize on needed improvements in the game.

Roddick also said that questions about fading U.S. tennis skills on the international level reflect how the U.S. had been spoiled in the past as well as a need for greater, broader support for tennis. He said he got most excited during Wimbledon watching the feeds of people all across Britain watching Andy Murray play in the final; that type of support is what would help U.S. tennis, he said.

He said he has no plans to be a spectator at the U.S. Open and only felt regret when watching Wimbledon when he realized he had a record of 2-13 against the men who survived the first rounds.

“I think its foolish to think that if you’ve done something for so long you can just kind of delete it from your memory bank or delete any emotion attached to it,” Roddick said. “I never expected that.”

The breakdown:

Springfield Lasers 22, Washington Kastles 15
Men’s Singles: Kevin Anderson (Kastles) def. Andy Roddick (Lasers) 5-2
Women’s Singles: Vania King (Lasers) def. Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) 5-3
Mixed Doubles: Jean-Julien Rojer/Alisa Kleybanova (Lasers) def. Leander Paes/Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) 5-3
Women’s Doubles: Vania King/Alisa Kleybanova (Lasers) def. Alla Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) 5-0
Men’s Doubles: Andy Roddick/Jean-Julien Rojer (Lasers) def. Leander Paes/Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) 5-4

Washington Kastles Win 33rd Straight; Continue March into Sports History


Washington Kastles
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 8, 2013) They used new players, a new strategy and then closed with longtime heroes, the same First Lady Michelle Obama cheering in the stands and the same result: the Mylan World TeamTennis’ champion Washington Kastles won their 33rd straight match today, earning the team a share of professional sports’ much vaunted unbeaten record and continuing their march into sports history.

Led by newly acquired Martina Hingis and Kevin Anderson, the Kastles opened their season at Kastles Stadium on the Wharf with a 23-15 victory over archrivals the New York Sportimes.  Hingis was the 2012 Mylan WTT Female MVP last year as a member of the Sportimes.

The 33-match Kastles unbeaten streak ties the mark set by the NBA 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. On Tuesday, the Kastles face the Boston Lobsters as they move to set an unprecedented 34 win undefeated streak sports mark; the Lobsters are the last team to defeat the Kastles on July 22, 2010, in the final match of the 2010 regular season.

“This is one of the most fantastic moments I can ever imagine,” team owner Mark Ein said. “We have always promised Washington exciting tennis and Washington has joined with us in refusing to lose. I am thrilled for this fantastic group of tennis players, for those who have supported us and for our contribution to Washington’s great sports history.”

Kastles coach Murphy Jensen changed his lineup and his traditional order of matches for home contest, starting with Anderson in men’s singles. Backed by three aces, Anderson defeated the  Sportimes Jesse Witten 5-2.

Hingis, in her Kastles’ debut, then defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld 5-1.

“I was nervous and it was weird at the beginning playing my old team. I shook it off,” Hingis said. “It was my first match. I was nervous. You get out there and then get going.”

Mixed doubles was next and, for the first time in his coaching the Kastles, Jensen took advantage of WTT rules permitting substitution. He started Anderson – and his big serve – with Hingis, against Robert Kendrick and Kveta Peschke.  He then substituted Kastles’s captain and double star Leander Paes after Anderson played the first game – the same strategy Sacramento used against the Kastles in last year’s 2012 championship match. Anderson played for Sacramento last season.

Washington won mixed doubles in a tiebreaker, 5-4.

Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova then lost to Groenefeld and Peschke  5-3 to put the Kastles at 18-12 going into men’s doubles to close the match. “They are the best doubles team in the world,” Hingis said. “We tried to have a big lead coming into that one.”

Paes and Kastles’ closer Bobby Reynolds spotted Kendrick and Witten a lead in the final set, then gutted out a 5-3 win to seal the 23-15 victory.

“If a team is going to beat us, they are going to have to work very hard,” Paes said. “We are putting in the hours of practice. when you look at our bench, it is a bench of champions.  Everyone is doing what we do best.”

As for being asked to seal the win, Paes said: “Very happy to close. We are all hungry to take the ball.”

Reynolds, the 2012 Mylan WTT Male MVP, said “Ever since last season finished I’ve been looking forward to getting back and finishing this. Every night is a new match and that’s how you have to approach it.”

The Kastles are a strong favorite to win their third consecutive Mylan WTT title and their fourth King Trophy in five years. Only two other WTT teams have won three or more championships: the Sacramento Capitals, with six, and the Los Angeles Strings, with three. The Kastles are the only WTT team to post a perfect season and the only major sports team in history to have consecutive perfect seasons.

New York has been one of the Kastles’ toughest foes over the last two seasons and Monday’s match was typical of the bruising court battles that have thrilled fans repeatedly.

“I reminded them of what we do as a team – that is how we win,” Jensen said. “Each point, each game, each set we have a team focus. That remains our way of playing.”

After Tuesday’s match with Boston, the Kastles will again be at home on July 11, and July 17, against the Springfield Lasers, featuring former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick; July 20 against the Sportimes; July 22 against the Philadelphia Freedom, and July 24 against the Lobsters. WTT conference championships are July 25 with the WTT championship set for July 28 on the home court of the Eastern Conference winner.

Said Hingis: “It was my first match. I was nervous. You get out there and then get going.” And about Boston?  “I’m warmed up now,” she said with a smile.

Caption This: Arina Rodionova and Bobby Reynolds star as rain delay Professional Squeegee-ers

By Romi Cvitkovic

Washington Kastles tennis players Arina Rodionova and Bobby Reynolds know how to have fun on court by winning 24 straight matches solidifying one of the longest winning streaks in sports’ history, but how about having fun during a rain delay? Well, according to the photos below, that’s no sweat either.

Let’s check out Arina and Bobby as they star in their new still movie: “Tennis Players Turned Professional Squeegee-ers!”

Arina Rodionova as The Novice

I’ve never done this before! I don’t know what I’m doing!

***

Oh. Is that how you do it? Just push the squeegee and look cute?

***

I can totally do that!!

***

Arina as The Expert, Bobby Reynolds as The Novice

Hey, Bobby. You wanna try? It’s sooo fun!

***

Bobby: So, you just push the squeegee down the court and people cheer you on? Sounds cool, show me.

***

Arina: See?! It’s so great. Hah, I’m beating you! Look at my water puddle splatter!

***

Bobby: Wait, so I have to get rid of all this water —

Arina: Are you ready to give it a try?!

***

Let’s go, Bobby, let’s go! Close it out for the Kastles!

***

Hmm. This isn’t so bad. Kind of relaxing …

***

HEY YOU MISSED A SPOT!!

***

After that intense lesson, I need to reward myself so I’m graduating to the air blower. I make this thing look damn good!

***

Venus Williams talks Olympics, eats a burger and wins in front of First Family

By Romi Cvitkovic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In front of an impressive crowd that included First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams debuted in a Washington Kastles 20-11 win over the Boston Lobsters in World TeamTennis on Monday night. (Full gallery of Williams and First Family below.)

The Kastles have now won 22 consecutive matches and are 6-0 on the season, continuing one of the greatest winning streaks in all of sports.

Before stepping on court to battle, the Kastles’ team and owner Mark Ein met with the First lady for candid conversation and a team photo. The Obamas were in attendance when sister Serena Williams won here last year, so it was due time for Venus to play in front of the First Family as well. (I heard that President Obama was at the USA vs. Brazil basketball game at the Verizon Center, so it was no surprise that the Obama ladies jetted there via helicopter after the Kastles’ sealed the win as well!)

An excited and radiant Williams laughed her way through a press conference with reporters and talked about her health, comeback and the upcoming London Olympics.

After being diagnosed last year with Sjogren’s Syndrome, working intensively with doctors, and adjusting her diet to all vegan, Williams returned to play on the WTA Tour last March after a six-month break and commented on her improvement.

“For me, health-wise, it’s definitely a journey. I’ve come a long way since this time last year. I’m still tweaking things, working with my doctors and trying to figure things out exactly … I feel like if I can cover this last [summer] stretch that would be amazing for me. At this point, I’m very grateful that I can still play tennis; that I’m still able to live my dreams out here. But, of course, I want more.”

And more is what Williams will try to attain as she makes her way to her fourth Olympics after earlier speculation that her ranking wouldn’t be low enough to allow her direct entry.

“This Olympics is more exciting for me. All the other ones, I didn’t have to worry whether or not I would make it. I was on top of the rankings. I didn’t have any problems. It was, for a lack of a better word, for granted. But this time, I had to fight so hard for it, just to get in contention and come back from so much. For me, this is the ultimate achievement.”

Williams indeed has much to be grateful for, including her sister Serena, with whom she won the Wimbledon women’s doubles title for the fifth time earlier this month.

“It’s extra motivation to win the doubles – it takes my Slam count higher. People say my name with the Slam count going up and it’s exciting. It means a lot to me to play doubles with Serena. Earlier, when I first started [back on the Tour in March], I couldn’t play singles and doubles in the same tournament, it was a lot for me.”

With a rejuvenated outlook and the same killer instinct that took her to the top of the rankings, Williams took on the task of playing a grueling three-of-five events, including women’s singles, and mixed and women’s doubles. It would be a true test of her health in the oppressive D.C. humidity and heat that soared into the mid-90s.

First up, Williams partnered with Leander Paes for mixed doubles, and while her serve showed signs of rust, the team was efficient in their 5-1 win over the Lobsters’ Carly Gullickson-Eagle and Eric Butorac.

After a brief rest, Williams was back on court with Anastasia Rodionova in women’s doubles, taking on Gullickson-Eagle and Irina Falconi. With her expert hands at net and long reach, Venus capped off another 5-1 win over the Lobsters.

Men’s doubles gave Williams the break she needed and time on the bench to laugh with the Rodionova sisters and even devour a burger (sure hope it was vegan!). Meanwhile, Kastles’ players Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds dealt another heavy blow to the Lobsters, winning 5-0 — already solidifying a team win for the night.

Although, the Kastles had the win in the bag, the most anticipated match of the night pitted Williams against world No. 85 Irina Falconi in the women’s singles event — but luck was not on Williams’ side. As the veteran hit double fault after double fault, Falconi was on mark, hitting a final deep down-the-line  forehand to clinch the win, 5-0.

Quick to dispel any concern about her possibly-aching joints due to her autoimmune disease, Williams commented on her dwindling energy during the course of the evening.

“I think I just cooled down, and I couldn’t quite get started back up again. In team tennis, you really have to keep your energy up. You have to manage the stop and go. I didn’t manage it that well.”

Despite Williams’ letdown at the end of the WTT match, her outlook to the Olympics quickly put goals in perspective for the three-time Gold Medalist. Healthier, happier and re-energized, Williams hopes to build on her past success there.

“I’ve been training to bring home medals for the U.S. and I would love if the medal was gold-colored.”

(All other photos and gallery credit to author)

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Summer heats up in D.C. with the Washington Kastles tennis team: a win in photos

By Romi Cvitkovic

From a grandmother doing “The Dougie,” to 2011 Washington Kastles’ tennis players receiving commemorative championship rings, to familiar D.C. faces in the crowd like Kastles’ owner Mark Ein, former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and current Tennis Channel commentator Brett Haber, there is something in store for every tennis fan during the Washington Kastles’ season at The Wharf in downtown D.C.

Thursday night’s home opener against the New York Sportimes marked the Kastles’ 19th straight win that stretched from last year’s perfect 16-0 season. Returning players Leander Paes,  Bobby Reynolds and Arina Rodionova, along with newcomer Anastasia Rodionova, entertained the crowd with five tight matches and energetic play, that culminated in a 20-18 win.

The evening festivities began with mixed doubles as Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes took on the duo of Martina Hingis and Robert Kendrick. Paes, a thirteen time men’s and mixed doubles Slam champion, carried his partner with his deft hands at net to even the score at 4-4. Tennis wouldn’t be tennis without a disputed call, and after a brief discussion with the official by the Sportimes coach, play continued — but the Sportimes had lost their momentum. Paes quickly knocked off four clean winners, including a backhand volley to seal the set, 5-4(1).

Next up was women’s doubles featuring the Rodionova sisters (the “Hot Rods”) taking on Martina Hingis and Ashley Harkleroad (the “Models”). With Hingis, a former World No. 1, and Harkleroad, a former World No. 39, the Rodionova sisters had an uphill battle. But with competitive rallies, good looks, and giggling players, it was difficult not to get energized. Arina’s serve was broken at love with a couple of unforced errors and the “Hot Rods” quickly went down 1-3. They re-grouped and broke back on Hingis’ serve but two games later, the “Hot Rods” were again broken by the “Models”, losing 3-5.

With the Sportimes leading with a score of 9-8, the men’s doubles team of Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds kicked it into high gear over the tandem of Robert Kendrick and Jesse Witten. Reynolds, a former World No. 46 in doubles, blasted serves while Paes fed off his lead to put away easy volleys. In the blink of an eye, the Kastles’ were up 4-0 on a Sportimes team that was struggling to find their balance. Reynolds, nicknamed “The Closer” for his ability to seal the team win on the final men’s singles matches, did much the same as he served out a 5-0 win in doubles, giving the Kastles’ a 13-9 edge.

Halftime was full of spectator giveaways, quickstart tennis with Paes and Coach Murphy Jensen with two lucky young fans, as well a ring presentation for Rennae Stubbs, who was part of the 2011 Washington Kastles Championship team. The short ceremony had Coach Jensen and Paes praising Stubbs, Paes receiving a kiss from both Stubbs and Jensen(!), and Stubbs commenting on her love of the city of Washington D.C.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Iuvk0jNRQc&hd=1&w=585

After crowd applause and appreciation, the tennis action was quickly underway as Anastasia Rodionova took on Martina Hingis in the women’s singles. As Hingis hit deep into the court, Rodionova responded with wicked backhand winners to even the set out at 2-2. After failing to convert on three break points, Rodionova self-destructed hitting error after error, giving Hingis the set, 5-2.

With the score tightly standing at 15-14 for the Kastles, the concluding men’s singles match between Bobby Reynolds and Jesse Witten had a whole season riding on the outcome. Always the most intense match of the night, it didn’t disappoint as it went the distance with a tiebreaker at 4-4 and a Reynolds fistpump to the crowd. Witten, although deceptively agile and hard-hitting, couldn’t do much to hold back an energized Reynolds who reeled off three winners to go up 3-0 in the tiebreaker. After a Witten error and an unreturnable serve by Reynolds,  the Kastles “Closer” sealed the win, 20-18.

After celebratory handshakes, and exchanges of of hugs and laughs, the Kastles team huddled together on court as any team proud of winning and keeping the steak alive would.

Catch the Washington Kastles this month as they battle for another perfect season! Full schedule and for tickets, click here.

Full gallery below; credit to author.

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