Sunday, August 2, 2020

New York nips Chicago in thriller for WTT title

Coco Vandeweghe reacts after slugging a forehand return-
of-serve passing shot on the deciding point in today's
WTT Final. Photo courtesy of World TeamTennis.
   The World TeamTennis championship didn't just come down to one point.
   It came down to about an inch.
   The New York Empire, the lowest seed of the four playoff teams, saved a championship point and edged the third-seeded Chicago Smash 21-20 in a Super Tiebreaker today at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V., to win the King Trophy.
   With the Super Tiebreaker tied 6-6 in the match televised by CBS, whichever women's doubles pair won the next point would win the championship for its team.
   Chicago's Sloane Stephens pounded her first serve to the forehand side of CoCo Vandeweghe, who slugged a deep passing shot down the line. The Smash challenged the call, but the replay showed that the ball caught the back of the baseline.
   "I've never been under that kind of pressure," Vandeweghe, who made her WTT debut for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals at 17 in 2009, said on wtt.com. "It was so much fun to control the situation. Luckily, I controlled it in the right way. It really accentuated what World TeamTennis is: the team vibe, team energy, people picking each other up when they're down. I had so much fun out there."
   Both Vandeweghe, 28, and Stephens, 27, are California products and U.S. Open champions with strong athletic pedigrees.
   Vandeweghe, who was born in New York but grew up and still lives in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe, won the 2018 U.S. Open doubles title with Ashleigh Barty. Vandeweghe's uncle, Kiki Vandeweghe, starred for the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA and later played for the New York Knicks. Her grandfather, Ernie Vandeweghe, also played for the Knicks.
   Stephens, who was born and lives in Florida but grew up in Fresno, took the singles crown in the 2017 U.S. Open. Her father, John Stephens, was a Pro Bowl running back for the New England Patriots who died in a car accident at age 43 in 2009. 
   New York, which stunned the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms in the semifinals, overcame Jack Sock's 5-0 loss to Brandon Nakashima, who will turn 19 on Monday. That gave Chicago an 11-10 lead at intermission. 
   Chicago, trying to join the 1981 Los Angeles Strings and 2001 Philadelphia Freedoms as the only expansion teams to win the WTT championship, increased its lead to 16-13 with Stephens' 5-3 victory over Vandeweghe entering the last set. 
   But Nicole Melichar and Vandeweghe, both of whom were acquired from the San Diego Aviators in a late-season trade, edged Bethanie Mattek-Sands, formerly ranked No. 1 in doubles, and Stephens 5-4. Melichar saved a championship point at 4-4 in the tiebreaker with a service winner.
   That cut Chicago's lead to 20-18 and sent the match to extended play because the team leading after four sets must win the final set or the match continues until that team wins one game or the score is tied, forcing a Super Tiebreaker. 
   Melichar and Vandeweghe won two consecutive games, tying the score 20-20 and setting up the dramatic Super Tiebreaker. New York split $500,000 for winning the title.
   The Empire's Kim Clijsters, a 37-year-old International Tennis Hall of Famer, sat out with an abdominal injury.
NEW YORK EMPIRE 21, CHICAGO SMASH 20 (STB)
   Men's doubles – Neal Skupski and Jack Sock (NY) def. Brandon Nakashima and Rajeev Ram 5-2.
   Mixed doubles – Sock and CoCo Vandeweghe (NY) def. Ram and Bethanie Mattek-Sands 5-4.
   Men's singles – Nakashima (Chi.) def. Sock 5-0.
   Women's singles – Stephens (Chi.) def. Vandeweghe 5-3. 
   Women's doubles – Nicole Melichar and Vandeweghe (NY) def. Mattek-Sands and Stephens 5-4.
   Extended play – Melichar and Vandeweghe (NY) def. Mattek-Sands and Stephens 2-0.

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