January 2, 2013 - World TeamTennis (WTT) - Washington Kastles
After Washington completed the first perfect season in World TeamTennis history last year, it was hard to imagine how Kastles players could top that in 2012.
Then they did.
The Kastles increased their historic winning streak to 32 matches on Sept. 16, capping a second straight 16-0 season with their third WTT title since 2009.
When they weren't playing for the pride of Washington, Kastles players added a remarkable 32 titles on the professional tennis tour this year -- one for every victory during the team's unbeaten run.
Leading the way were Leander Paes and Venus and Serena Williams, who all added major titles to their lengthy resumes.
Paes completed a career Grand Slam by winning the Australian Open men's doubles title. The Williams sisters won a third Olympics and fifth Wimbledon in women's doubles. And Kastles' original Serena, who missed the 2012 WTT season with a back injury, stormed her way to Wimbledon, Olympics and US Open singles titles.
Other highlights were Bobby Reynolds tying a USTA Pro Circuit record, Arina Rodionova rallying back from a wrist injury, substitute Treat Huey winning his hometown Citi Open title and wild card Raquel Kops-Jones rising to a career-high ranking of No. 13.
As the calendar turned month to month, the Kastles' results continued to impress, making 2012 a season to remember.
Paes' road to the Australian Open men's doubles title was long and winding, right down to the very last point. Playing the tournament for a 17th time, Paes entered the event alongside Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, whom he'd never teamed with before at a Grand Slam.
By the end of the fortnight, the unseeded pair had played the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 seeds in succession. With Stepanek's sensational returns and Paes' presence at the net, the new duo defied the odds, knocking off top-ranked Bob and Mike Bryan in straight sets to cap their dream run and earn the Indian his 13th Grand Slam title. Paes also reached the mixed doubles final, falling in a match tiebreak alongside Elena Vesnina.
The leading ladies of the Kastles enjoyed a fantastic February, beginning with Venus Williams' first match following a five-month hiatus as she recovered from Sjogren's Syndrome. Though the Fed Cup tie between the U.S. and Belarus had already been decided, Venus' doubles win with Liezel Huber got her comeback season off to a perfect start.
Meanwhile, Arina Rodionova won a pair of ITF doubles titles to break into the doubles Top 100. Hot Rod's older sister Anastasia Rodionova teamed with Sania Mirza in Pattaya City to capture the fourth WTA doubles title of her career. Kastles fans didn't know it at the time, but Anastasia would be drafted by Washington one month later and play a pivotal role in the team's title defense during the summer.
Paes and Venus Williams share a birthday in June and they shared a terrific tournament in March. The Sony Open in Miami has historically been kind to both Kastles and it proved true again in 2012. Paes won the title for a third straight year with a third different partner. He and Stepanek backed up their run down under by beating the top-seeded Bryans in the semifinals and No. 2 seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor in the final.
Venus, a three-time tournament champion like Paes, was playing in her first singles event since returning from her illness. Ranked 134th in the world, she won four straight matches, defeating No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova and No. 15 seed Ana Ivanovic -- both former Grand Slam champions -- to reach the quarterfinals.
Charleston has become a second home for Washington players. So when the WTA came to town for the Family Circle Cup, the Kastles played like the King Trophy was at stake. Serena Williams won the title, Venus Williams reached the quarters and Anastasia Rodionova upset No. 10 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues.
The Kastles' closer Reynolds also enjoyed playing in the south. He and Carsten Ball captured the Savannah Challenger doubles title, marking Reynolds' 30th USTA Pro Circuit championship. One more and he will pass DC native Paul Goldstein as the all-time men's circuit title leader.
Rafael Nadal, one of the greatest clay-courters of all time, led a large charge of players who blasted the Madrid Open's blue clay. Slippery by the step and unpredictable by the bounce, Madrid's Stadium Court bore Nadal's first loss in 14 matches with countryman Fernando Verdasco.
If any player didn't get the blues from the blue, it was Serena Williams of the Kastles, who won the women's singles title with matching 6-1, 6-3 wins over Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. Serena's dominance over Sharapova and Azarenka would extend to the grass and hard courts for the remainder of the season.
A Williams sister played in a Wimbledon final each season from 2000 through 2010, winning the singles championship in nine of those 11 years. This summer, Serena and Venus made up in a big way for missing out in 2011, sweeping the women's singles and doubles titles on the very same day.
En route to the titles, Serena rallied from a set down once in singles and twice in doubles during the fortnight. Each sister has now won women's singles and women's doubles five times at Wimbledon, though Serena's 1998 mixed doubles title with Mirnyi gives her the family bragging rights. Her Kastles' teammate Paes reached this year's mixed doubles final, dropping a tight three-setter with Vesnina against Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond.
The Kastles completed an unprecedented second consecutive perfect regular season on July 28th. It was a season as sublime as it was surreal. Washington won five matches by at least nine games, highlighted by a 25-8 rout of the Kansas City Explorers at Kastles Stadium on July 22nd.
But four of Washington's 14 regular season wins came by two games or less, none more dramatic than their Supertiebreaker shocker against the New York Sportimes on July 21st. Venus Williams saved four match points to rally the Kastles from six games back in the final set. Following a seven-week hiatus, Coach of the Year Murphy Jensen and his team would reunite for the WTT Playoffs in September.
Riding their momentum from the WTT regular season, Kastles players put the rest of the tennis tour on notice in August. Huey, a DC native and UVA alum, picked up his first ATP-level doubles title at the Citi Open. Paes reached his fourth Grand Slam final of 2012, but he and Stepanek were undone at the US Open by the Bryan brothers.
Before that, the Indian played at a tennis-record sixth Olympics. Back on the Wimbledon grass, Serena Williams won gold in singles and teamed with Venus for gold in doubles. Serena capped her sensational summer by beating Azarenka for her fourth US Open singles title and 30th Grand Slam championship overall.
The Kastles rewrote the record books yet again during WTT Championship Weekend in Charleston, becoming three-time WTT champions by winning their 31st and 32nd consecutive matches. Playing in front of a nationwide TV audience on NBC Sports Network and hundreds of Kastles fans who made the trip, Washington defeated New York and Sacramento in a 24-hour span.
The Eastern Conference Championship and WTT Finals followed similar scripts: The teams were tied going into the final set of women's singles. Making her WTT Playoffs debut, Venus Williams defeated Ashley Harkleroad of the Sportimes 5-1 and CoCo Vandeweghe of the Capitals 5-4, clinching the Kastles' title by rallying from 0-2 down in a thrilling, winner-take-all tiebreaker.
Five different Kastles captured titles in October, showing no signs of fatigue following a long year and emotional run to the WTT championship. In Luxembourg, Venus Williams won her first WTA singles tournament since February 2010, while in Shanghai, Paes picked up his 13th ATP Masters 1000 title.
Osaka was the site of Kops-Jones' third WTA doubles championship in four weeks, raising her ranking to a career-high No. 13 in the world. Arina Rodionova picked up her fifth and sixth ITF doubles titles of the season in Troy, Ala., and Traralgon, Australia, respectively. And at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Serena ended her season in style, winning the year-end championships by improving to 11-1 against Azarenka and 10-2 against Sharapova.
Arina Rodionova continued her comeback from a left wrist fracture with the singles title and an appearance in the doubles final at an ITF event in Bendigo, Australia. Hot Rod needed just three months back on tour to soar 100 spots in the singles rankings and 50 places in doubles.
Rodionova wasn't the only Kastle moving up the charts to end the year. Reynolds, the WTT Male MVP, jumped 13 spots in a single week after he reached the final of the Knoxville Challenger by avenging his US Open loss to Tim Smyczek.
And by winning three matches at the ATP World Tour Finals, Reynolds' Washington partner Paes became the new World No. 3, his highest mark since 2000. Only the Bryan brothers ended 2012 looking down at Paes in the rankings.
Wimbledon began in June and ended in July. The Olympics began in July and ended in August. The US Open began in August and ended in September. No ATP and WTA tournaments were played in December.
Full List of the Kastles' 32 Titles on Tour in 2012
Kastle Tour S/D Tournament Month
Leander Paes ATP D Chennai January
Leander Paes ATP D Australian Open January
Leander Paes ATP D Miami March
Leander Paes ATP D Shanghai October
Bobby Reynolds ATP-CH D Savannah April
Anastasia Rodionova WTA D Pattaya City February
Anastasia Rodionova ITF-50 D Las Vegas September
Arina Rodionova ITF-25 D Burnie February
Arina Rodionova ITF-25 D Sydney February
Arina Rodionova ITF-25 D Moscow August
Arina Rodionova ITF-50 D Las Vegas September
Arina Rodionova ITF-25 D Troy October
Arina Rodionova ITF-25 D Traralgon October
Arina Rodionova ITF-25 S Bendigo November
Venus Williams WTA D Wimbledon July
Venus Williams WTA D Olympics August
Venus Williams WTA S Luxembourg October
Treat Huey ATP-CH D Nottingham June
Treat Huey ATP D Washington August
Raquel Kops-Jones WTA D Carlsbad July
Raquel Kops-Jones WTA D Seoul September
Raquel Kops-Jones WTA D Tokyo September
Raquel Kops-Jones WTA D Osaka October
Serena Williams WTA S Charleston April
Serena Williams WTA S Madrid May
Serena Williams WTA S Wimbledon July
Serena Williams WTA D Wimbledon July
Serena Williams WTA S Stanford July
Serena Williams WTA S Olympics August
Serena Williams WTA D Olympics August
Serena Williams WTA S US Open September
Serena Williams WTA S WTA Championships October
Date Match Result
7/09 @ OCB Win 22-18
7/11 @ SPR Win 20-18
7/12 v NYS Win 20-18
7/13 @ BOS Win 24-19
7/15 v PHL Win 22-13
7/16 v BOS Win 20-11
7/18 v SAC Win 21-19
7/20 v OCB Win 24-13
7/21 @ NYS Win 21-20
7/22 v KCE Win 25-8
7/24 v PHL Win 21-16
7/25 @ NYS Win 21-16
7/27 @ KCE Win 22-17
7/28 @ SPR Win 25-14
9/15 v NYS Win 19-15
9/16 v SAC Win 20-19