Thursday, July 14, 2011

Capitals midseason analysis

   Against all odds, the Sacramento Capitals sit atop the Western Conference midway through their World TeamTennis season.
   The Capitals (4-3) should not get too giddy, though. They came within a Supertiebreaker on Wednesday of being 3-4 and trailing by 1 1/2 matches in the conference.
   After losing three of its first four matches, Sacramento has won three in a row.
   The Capitals opened the season with two road matches, then faced future International Tennis Hall of Famers Martina Hingis and Serena Williams in consecutive matches. Also, half of Sacramento's full-time roster joined the team late.
   Vania King, a two-time Grand Slam women's doubles champion and the 2009 WTT Female MVP for the Springfield (Mo.) Lasers, sat out the Capitals' first five matches to rest after Wimbledon. Dusan Vemic, who plays men's singles and doubles for Sacramento, missed the first two matches because of visa problems in Serbia.
   With a full roster for the first time, the Capitals routed the WTT defending champion Kansas City Explorers 23-12 in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights on Tueday night. Kansas City's roster featured three reigning Wimbledon doubles champions (Bob and Mike Bryan and Kveta Peschke).
   Less than 24 hours later, Sacramento met the Aces in St. Louis with first place on the line. The Capitals prevailed in a thriller, 20-19 (7-2 Supertiebreaker).
   Fortunately for Sacramento, St. Louis' Lindsay Davenport, the reigning WTT Female MVP and a former Capitals star, announced on the day of the Aces' opener that she's pregnant with her third child and under doctor's orders to skip the season.
   Meanwhile, WTT rookie Yasmin Schnack and substitutes Christina Fusano and Nick Monroe filled in capably for King and Vemic. Schnack, in her first full year as a professional after an All-America career at UCLA, and Fusano, a 30-year-old doubles specialist, are from the Sacramento area and part-time doubles partners on the women's circuit.
   Schnack, who now plays women's doubles only for the Capitals, ranks fourth among 10 WTT players in women's singles and ninth among 17 in mixed doubles.
   Overall, the Capitals rank second in the nine-team league in women's singles, third in women's doubles, third in mixed doubles, sixth in men's singles and a surprisingly low eighth in men's doubles.
   The latter figured to be one of Sacramento's strongest events with Mark Knowles and Vemic. Although Knowles will turn 40 in September, he is a three Grand Slam men's doubles champion (most recently in 2007) and former world No. 1 in men's doubles. Vemic, 35, has reached two Grand Slam semifinals in the event (most recently in January 2010).
   Knowles and Vemic ended a four-set losing streak with a 5-1 victory against St. Louis on Wednesday.
   It doesn't get any easier for Sacramento. Four of the Capitals' next five matches are on the road, beginning tonight against the Bryan brothers in Kansas City and including Monday's contest at 7-0 Washington. Sacramento ends the regular season with two home matches.
   The top two teams in each conference advance to the WTT playoffs, July 22-24 in Charleston, S.C.
   Sacramento figures to lose to Kansas City and Washington, so the Capitals probably must win four of their other five remaining matches to have a chance of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The winners of a record six WTT titles will face Newport Beach (3-5) twice, Springfield (2-5) twice and Boston (4-4) once.
   The Capitals conceivably could reach the WTT Finals, but they would be heavy underdogs to Washington or New York (6-2).

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