Reigning Champion Springfield Lasers, Playoff Newcomer New York Empire Advance to WTT Final
August 3, 2019 - World TeamTennis (WTT) News Release
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The World TeamTennis Final will feature current WTT royalty against its Cinderella. The Springfield Lasers, World TeamTennis' reigning champion, grinded out a 21-19 semifinal victory over the San Diego Aviators in the first semifinal on Friday at Orleans Arena and will attempt to retain the King Trophy on Saturday against the upstart New York Empire, who upset the WTT regular season champion Philadelphia Freedoms, 24-18, in its first playoff match in its four-year history.
Saturday's WTT Final between Springfield (10-5) and New York (9-6) 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.
The Empire and Freedoms (11-4) played each other for the third consecutive time this week. New York beat Philadelphia in Wednesday's regular season finale to clinch WTT's final playoff spot. The Empire defeated Springfield on Monday to kickstart its charge to the playoffs.
"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."
The Lasers' elimination of San Diego (9-6) put a halt to the Aviators' five-match win streak. In the 2018 WTT Final, Springfield rallied from a three-game match deficit in the final set to edge then-regular season champion Philadelphia, 19-18, and claim its first King Trophy in the franchise's 23-year history. The Lasers had finished runner-up on five prior occasions.
"For Springfield, it's amazing," said Abigail Spears, the only member of the current Lasers team who played on last year's title team, on the team's opportunity to defend its WTT championship. "We have really loyal supporters and they follow us. It's really special to play there."
Springfield's Olga Govortsova fended off a match point while down 3-4 (and the overall match tied, 19-19) to San Diego's Arina Rodionova in women's singles. Govortsova broke Rodionova's serve at deuce point (no-ad scoring in World TeamTennis) to send the set into a nine-point tiebreaker, and eventually won the tiebreaker, 5-3, and the match when Rodionova mishit a forehand long.
"I was just, like, 'fight, fight, fight,' and when I realized the match was over and I won, it was a great relief," Govortsova said.
Govortsova and Robert Lindstedt made their season debuts for the Lasers on July 28 and played in the team's final four regular season matches. Las Vegas native Evan Song joined Springfield about 24 hours prior to the semifinal after the Lasers learned Enrique Lopez Perez, its regular singles specialist who led WTT in men's singles games won this season, sustained a hand injury on Thursday and would miss the WTT Playoffs.
After San Diego's women's doubles duo of Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Rodionova evened the match with a 5-3 win over the Lasers' Spears and Govortsova, the Lasers responded with a pivotal 5-2 third-set victory in mixed doubles through Robert Lindstedt, a 2014 Australian Open champion and three-time Wimbledon finalist (2010-12) in men's doubles, and Spears, a 2017 Australian Open champion and 2013 and 2014 U.S. Open finalist in mixed doubles.
Lindstedt also teamed with Las Vegas native Evan Song to win the match's opening men's doubles set, 5-3, over the Aviators' James Ward and Jonny O'Mara.
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.
Below are the results from Friday's WTT semifinals:
Springfield Lasers def. San Diego Aviators 21-19
Men's Doubles - Robert LindstedtEvan Song (Lasers) def. Jonny O'MaraJames Ward (Aviators) 5-3
Women's Doubles - Anna-Lena GroenefeldArina Rodionova (Aviators) def. Abigail Spears/Olga Govortsova (Lasers) 5-3
Mixed Doubles - Robert LindstedtAbigail Spears (Lasers) def. Jonny O'MaraAnna-Lena Groenefeld (Aviators) 5-2
Men's Singles - James Ward (Aviators) def. Evan Song (Lasers) 5-3
Women's Singles - Olga Govortsova (Lasers) def. Arina Rodionova (Aviators) 5-4
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
Below is a breakdown of Saturday's World TeamTennis Final matchup:
WTT Final - Saturday, Aug. 3 at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas - 7 p.m. PDT (CBS Sports Network)
Springfield Lasers vs. New York Empire
Records: Springfield (10-5; No. 2 seed); New York (9-6; No. 4 seed)
2019 Head-to-Head: July 17 (at Springfield) - Springfield def. New York, 25-13
July 29 (at New York) - New York def. Springfield, 22-19
Franchise history in the WTT Final:
Springfield won the King Trophy in 2018 and finished runner-up in 1999, 2001, 2009, 2013 and 2014.
New York is making its first WTT Playoffs appearance in franchise history.
Springfield roster: PLAYER COUNTRY/NATIONALITY WTT SEASONS PLAYED
Anna Blinkova Russia 1
Olga Govortsova Belarus 3
Robert Lindstedt Sweden 2
Evan Song USA 1
Abigail Spears USA 9
Coach: John-Laffnie de Jager (South Africa)
New York roster: PLAYER COUNTRY/NATIONALITY WTT SEASONS PLAYED
Ulises Blanch USA 1
Mardy Fish USA 9
Kirsten Flipkens Belgium 2
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez Spain 2
Neal Skupski England 5
Coach: Luke Jensen (USA)
Springfield 2019 WTT season stats - http://livestats.wtt.com/livestats/pages/team.asp?id=7
New York 2019 WTT season stats - http://livestats.wtt.com/livestats/pages/team.asp?id=19
For the first time, the WTT Playoffs are taking place in Las Vegas and featuring semifinals among the top four teams from its regular season, which concluded Wednesday, July 31. Each of WTT's eight teams played 14 regular season matches in 2019 - seven home matches and seven away matches - for a league-wide total of 59 regular season matches.
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.
WTT introduced professional team tennis to the world in 1974, with Billie Jean King famously serving as its co-founder. WTT is one of five active U.S. pro sports leagues which has been in operation for over 40 years, along with the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. For more information on World TeamTennis, please visit www.wtt.com.
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World TeamTennis Stories from August 3, 2019
- New York Empire Advance to World Teamtennis Final with 24-18 Win over Philadelphia Freedoms - New York Empire
- Reigning Champion Springfield Lasers, Playoff Newcomer New York Empire Advance to WTT Final - WTT
- New York Empire Upset Top-Seeded Philadelphia Freedoms, Advance to Championship - New York Empire
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