Sunday, July 24, 2011

Analysis: Capitals make net gains

   Although the season still wasn't up to the Sacramento Capitals' lofty standards, they made progress in 2011.
   After suffering only the second and third losing seasons in their 26-year history, the Capitals went 8-6 in the regular season, returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and came within two games of reaching the WTT Finals.
   The Capitals lost to the St. Louis Aces 20-19 Saturday in the Western Conference finals in Charleston, S.C. The Washington Kastles (16-0)  beat St. Louis 23-19 in overtime in the WTT Finals on Sunday to become the first team in the league's 36-year history to complete an undefeated season.
   Sacramento owns WTT records of six league titles, 19 playoff appearances and seven consecutive playoff appearances. The Capitals went a combined 108-35 (.755) in the regular season with all six of their titles from 1997 through 2007. Since then, they are 28-28.
   Sacramento started this season 1-3, splitting two road matches and then losing at home to teams featuring future International Tennis Hall of Famers Martina Hingis and Serena Williams.
   But the Capitals won five of their next six matches to get back in the playoff race. Among the victories was a home contest against a Kansas City team featuring three reigning Wimbledon doubles champions (Bob and Mike Bryan and Kveta Peschke).
   Sacramento beat the Springfield (Mo.) Lasers in the regular-season finale for both teams to eke out a playoff berth.
   The Capitals were shut out of the WTT awards, but here are some unofficial team honors:
   MVP -- Vania King was the only regular to play three events for Sacramento, and she performed well in each. King, the WTT Female MVP in 2009 for Springfield Lasers, finished third (of nine players) in women's singles, third (of 19) in women's doubles and seventh (of 19) in mixed doubles. The two-time Grand Slam women's doubles champion missed the Capitals' first five matches while resting after Wimbledon. Sacramento native Christina Fusano replaced her in women's doubles, finishing 10th.
   Top newcomer -- OK, so Yasmin Schnack was the Capitals' only newcomer this season. Still, the rookie from the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove had remarkably little trouble adapting to WTT. Perhaps it was because of her experience playing for UCLA for four years (2006-10), which included the NCAA team title in 2008. Playing with her close friend King, Schnack finished fifth in women's doubles. She also filled in capably for King in singles and mixed doubles in the Capitals' first five matches. 
   Most disappointing -- Mark Knowles, a three-time WTT Male MVP (2001, 2005 and 2007), ranked 17th among 18 players in men's doubles. Knowles did better in mixed doubles, placing eighth. The four-time Grand Slam doubles champion, formerly ranked No. 1 in the world in men's doubles, will turn 40 in September.
   Most enigmatic -- Serbia's Dusan Vemic, who missed the Capitals' first two matches because of visa problems and was replaced by Nick Monroe,  finished third in men's singles and last in men's doubles. And he's a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist in men's doubles. Go figure.

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