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New York Empire Advance to World Teamtennis Final with 24-18 Win over Philadelphia Freedoms

August 3, 2019 - World TeamTennis (WTT) - New York Empire News Release

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The four-year-old New York Empire presented by Citi advanced to its first World TeamTennis Final in its first playoff appearance by dispatching the WTT regular season champion Philadelphia Freedoms, 24-18, in Friday's second semifinal at Orleans Arena.

The Empire (9-6), which played the Freedoms (11-4) for the third consecutive time this week, beat Philadelphia in Wednesday's regular season finale to clinch WTT's final playoff spot. Their momentum carried over into the WTT semifinals as New York won the first three sets to race to a 15-10 lead and did not look back with an eye towards Saturday's WTT Final.

New York will match-up with reigning WTT champion Springfield Lasers (10-5), which edged the San Diego Aviators, 21-19, in Friday's first semifinal. The Empire and Lasers split their two regular season meetings. The battle for the King Trophy will air live and exclusively on CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. PDT. Jason Knapp (play-by-play) and analyst Sam Groth will call the WTT Playoffs action, with Olivia Dekker and Nick Gismondi serving as sideline reporters, with guest analyst Katrina Adams and lifestyle reporter Shaun T also contributing to the telecasts.

"Worst to first," Empire coach Luke Jensen said in explaining his team's mission. "Now we're in a position to do something very special against the defending champs. I've been telling this team we're going to lead the league in fun and we're going to be powered by awesome.

"We're ready. Last time we played Springfield, we won. We were in playoff mode against Springfield, against everyone."

New York had the services of its Franchise player, Mardy Fish, for all of two games of the match's second set, in men's singles. Fish, who played the final three matches of the regular season and helped ignite the Empire towards the league's final playoff spot, "snapped his (right) hamstring", according to Jensen, and had to be helped off the court while up 2-0, 15-15 against Philadelphia's Mitchell Krueger.

Fish did not return and will not be available for Saturday's WTT Final but, as the Empire faced a crucial crossroads in the match, substitute Ulises Blanch provided a positive response. Krueger rallied to force a tiebreaker but Blanch held on for a 5-4 win (5-1 in the tiebreaker).

New York won the first three sets to race to a 15-10 lead, after Blanch teamed with Neal Skupski for a 5-4 men's doubles win (5-4 in the tiebreaker) and did not look back.

2018 WTT Female MVP Taylor Townsend, the leading women's singles player among WTT's roster players in 2019, earned Philadelphia its first set win and kept the Freedoms within striking distance after saving two set points-against and edging Kirsten Flipkens, 5-4 (5-4 in the tiebreaker).

Townsend and Atawo - WTT's winningest women's doubles team over the 2019 season - then took the court in the final set in an attempt to make up the 19-15 deficit, but New York's Flipkens and Martinez Sanchez won the first three games and ended the Freedoms' season with a 5-3 triumph.

New York Empire def. Philadelphia Freedoms 24-18

Mixed Doubles - Neal SkupskiMaria Jose Martinez Sanchez (Empire) def. Fabrice MartinRaquel Atawo (Freedoms) 5-2

Men's Singles - Mardy Fish-Ulises Blanch (Empire) def. Mitchell Kruger (Freedoms) 5-4

Men's Doubles - Ulises BlanchNeal Skupski (Empire) def. Fabrice MartinMitchell Kruger (Freedoms) 5-4

Women's Singles - Taylor Townsend (Freedoms) def. Kirsten Flipkens (Empire) 5-4

Women's Doubles - Kirsten FlipkensMaria Jose Martinez Sanchez (Empire) def. Raquel AtawoTaylor Townsend (Freedoms) 5-3

World TeamTennis' year-end awards were announced on Saturday. New York's Neal Skupski and Philadelphia's Raquel Atawo were named WTT's Male and Female Most Valuable Players presented by Forevermark, and each received a one-carat diamond from Forevermark. San Diego's James Ward (who was acquired on July 28 from the Orange County Breakers) and the Orlando Storm's Whitney Osuigwe earned WTT's Male and Female Rookie of the Year honors. Philadelphia's Craig Kardon won WTT's Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season in guiding the Freedoms to a second consecutive regular season title.

For more information on the New York Empire, visit www.NYEmpireTennis.com or call the team office at (844) 5-EMPIRE (844-536-7473). For more information on World TeamTennis, visit www.WTT.com.

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