Kastles Down Defending WTT Champ Lasers, 23-20
Nick Kyrgios of the Washington Kastles clinched the victory over Lopez-Perez in extended play
(Washington Kastles, Credit: Willis Bretz)
The Washington Kastles found their champion form on Saturday in their last home match of the 2019 season.
The six-time WTT champs downed the defending WTT champion and 2nd place Springfield Lasers to cap a historic season in DC. In front of a sold-out crowd at Kastles Stadium on Union Market that included news stars Wolf Blitzer and Jonathan Karl, DC City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, tennis legend Donald Dell, and Kastles legend and 18-time Grand Slam doubles champion Leander Paes, Kastles superstar Nick Kyrgios clinched the victory, 23-20, with an underhand serve in extended play.
"This was truly one of the best nights we have ever had," said Kastles head coach Murphy Jensen afterwards. "Nick Kyrgios winning the match with an underhand serve. I've never seen it before. He's a legend. And to finish like this, at this awesome new stadium, is really special. The fans and whole atmosphere made this a really memorable experience."
Despite the margin of victory and Kyrgios in the lineup, the win was far from certain for Washington. In the first set, Lasers stars Abigail Spears and Jean-Julien Rojer scored a consequential win over Kastles doubles stars Nicole Melichar and Bruno Soares. After back-to-back breaks off Soares and Melichar, the Lasers leaped off to a 3-0 lead.
The Kastles got a foothold in the set with a break in the fourth game on Spears's serve and a clutch hold from Melichar in the seventh game, in which the Kastles saved four breakpoints, but Spears ultimately served out the set with an ace, 5-3, to give the defending league champs the early lead.
Nicole Melichar and Jennifer Brady earned six break chances in women's doubles. (Photo: Willis Bretz)
The Kastles also squandered a chance to run away with the second set in women's doubles. After taking the first two games off Spears and Lasers rising star Anna Blinkova, Melichar and new Kastles' sub Jennifer Brady tied the overall score and had chances to shut out their opponents, but failed to convert six break opportunities in total on Spears and Blinkova's serves, which preserved the Lasers's lead. The set ultimately hinged on a tiebreak, which Washington won on Melichar's serve, 5-4(3), to shrink the Lasers lead to a game, 9-8, but did little to calm the nerves of Kastles fans, who were itching for a big win in the home season finale.
The next set featured the return of Kyrgios to the lineup for his second season with Washington, and should have been no contest, but once again the Kastles found themselves in a tight spot. The former world #13 and reigning Mexican Open champ teamed up with Soares in men's doubles against Rojer and Lasers rising star Enrique Lopez-Perez. Booming serves and volleys from both teams that sent balls in every direction into the stands kept the score even most of the set, but up 3-2, the Kastles got a feel for Lopez-Perez's serve.
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