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Kastles Rout San Diego, 23-16, to Move into Playoff Spot

July 26, 2020 - World TeamTennis (WTT) - Washington Kastles News Release

Venus Williams in action for the Washington Kastles
Venus Williams in action for the Washington Kastles
(Washington Kastles, Credit: World TeamTennis)

In a critical match for the last playoff spots, the Kastles stepped up their game yesterday.

With the race to the WTT Finals rapidly tightening, the six-time WTT champion Washington Kastles gained crucial ground in the homestretch of the season. In their second and final encounter of 2020, the Kastles routed the 2016 champion San Diego Aviators, 23-16, winning 4 of 5 sets, to significantly enhance Washington's playoff hopes.

Only the top-4 teams will advance to the WTT playoffs on August 1, and with only four matches left of the season, Washington, New York & Orlando are locked in a three-way fight for the final two spots!

After their victory over San Diego, the Kastles are tied with the New York Empire - who they face today - for 4th-place in the WTT standings. The Kastles won their first encounter, so have the head-to-head advantage. The Philadelphia Freedoms (8-2) and Chicago Smash (8-2) are currently tied for 1st-place, with little chance of surrendering the top-2 positions at this stage of the season.

The Kastles face the New York Empire, led by Kim Clijsters & Jack Sock, TODAY in a clash for the playoffs! This match could prove to be the most important match of the season, with both teams fighting for the last playoff spots and with the head-to-head record as the key tiebreaker in case of ties. Watch LIVE on CBS Sports Network at 12 p.m. EST!

The Kastles got off to a strong start against San Diego, capturing both sets of singles to begin the match. After exchanging service breaks early in the opening set of women's singles, Bernarda Pera pulled ahead of Christina McHale. In the sixth game, Pera broke the Aviator to take a 4-2 advantage. Pera, who is now ranked 4th in the league in women's singles, (behind only Kim Clijsters, Sofia Kenin, and Jessica Pegula) then easily held serve to take the first set, 5-2, in just 23 minutes.

In the following set, Tommy Paul avenged his loss to Aviators star Ryan Harrison earlier this season. Strong service holds from both players led the set to be decided by a 9-point tiebreak, the same as their first encounter. But the second time around, Paul was sharper.

After losing the first point, he won the next three to take a 3-1 advantage. Harrison came back to tie the score at 3-3, fueled by a smoking, forehand winner and a forehand error from Paul. But in the next point, Harrison's forehand failed him, and up 4-3, Paul clinched the set, 5-4(3), to extend the Kastles' lead to 10-6 over San Diego.

The Aviators then looked to CoCo Vandeweghe and Nicole Melichar to ignite a comeback in women's doubles against Washington's Arina Rodionova and 23-time Grand Slam champion and former world #1 Venus Williams in the third set. The pair made headway in the fourth game, after Melichar hit a volley winner on the deciding point to break Rodionova for a 3-1 lead. Melichar later served out the set to score the Aviators sole set of the match, 5-3, and shrink the Kastles lead to just two games at half-time.

San Diego then came frighteningly close to tying the match in the fourth set. Trailing 11-13, Harrison and Vandeweghe held to open the set and earned two breakpoints in the next game against Pera and Marcelo Arevalo in mixed doubles. But Arevalo saved both of them to hold and even the set.

From that point forward, the momentum shifted in the Kastles' favor, as Washington reeled off the next four games to record a stunning 5-1 victory and reestablish the lead heading into the final set.

Trailing 12-18, it fell to Harrison and Jonny O'Mara to rescue San Diego from defeat in men's doubles. The pair pushed Arevalo and Nick Monroe to a tiebreak in the fifth, where they came within two points of sending the match to extended play.

The Aviators shot off to a 3-1 lead at the start of the tiebreak, but the Kastles rallied to tie the score at 3-3. Then, with the Aviators serving the last three points of the tiebreak, O'Mara threw in two double-faults to gift the Kastles the set, 5-4(3), and match, 23-16.

Up next, Washington takes on New York today in a clash for the playoffs. With just four matches remaining of the regular season, this match could decide which team advances to the WTT Playoffs on August 1. The Kastles lead the Empire, 1-0, in their head-to-head in 2020, after prevailing, 21-20, in a thrilling season opener, which gives the six-time WTT champs a significant edge. Head-to-head records are the key tiebreaker in the case of ties in WTT.

The Kastles squad, featuring Venus Williams, Tommy Paul, Marcelo Arevalo, Bernarda Pera, Nick Monroe, and Arina Rodionova, is expected to face a star-studded New York lineup headlined by Kim Clijsters, Jack Sock, Neal Skupski, Sabine Lisicki, Hailey Baptiste, and Kveta Peschke.

Watch LIVE on CBS Sports Network at 12 p.m. EST & Catch the Kastles' Final Three Matches in Their Hunt for the Playoffs ALL on Tennis Channel!

Tues. July 28 -- Washington vs. Springfield (3-7) at 11 a.m. EST

Wed. July 29 -- Washington vs. Vegas (4-7) at 6 p.m. EST

Thurs. July 30 -- Washington vs. Orlando (6-4) at 4 p.m. EST

The 2020 Playoffs and WTT Final will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network and CBS national TV!

Sat. Aug. 1 -- WTT Playoff Semifinals at 2 p.m. EST (CBS Sports Network)

Sun. Aug. 2 -- WTT Final at 12 p.m. (CBS)

Images from this story

Washington Kastle Tommy Paul
Washington Kastle Tommy Paul

(World TeamTennis)
Washington Kastles Marcelo Arevalo and Nick Monroe vs. the San Diego Aviators
Washington Kastles Marcelo Arevalo and Nick Monroe vs. the San Diego Aviators

(World TeamTennis)
Venus Williams in action for the Washington Kastles
Venus Williams in action for the Washington Kastles

(World TeamTennis)

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