After crowding 14 matches in 20 hectic days on the World TeamTennis schedule, the Washington Kastles have to wait seven weeks to resume their chase for their second straight championship. For a team that has won 30 consecutive matches, the Eastern Conference Championship on Sept. 15 can’t come soon enough.
“Yeah, we’d like to get out there immediately,” Washington coach Murphy Jensen said. “But I think we’ll be fine whenever we play. This team always is willing to do what it takes to get that edge.”
Washington (14-0) will play the New York Sportimes (9-5) for the Eastern Conference crown. To the winner goes a berth in the championship match on Sept. 17 against the Orange County Breakers (8-6) or Sacramento Capitals (7-7). All the matches will be played in Charleston, S.C. Last year, the semifinals and finals were played in July, immediately after the regular season was complete.
Last week, the Kastles closed with perhaps their most impressive work of the year. Despite using three new players, they won their final three matches in a span of four days, all by decisive margins. In mixed doubles last week, Treat Huey and Raquel Kops-Jones went 4-0, with Huey winning 20 of 33 games and serving eight aces. Their finest moment came in a 5-3 victory Wednesday night over John McEnroe and Martina Hingis of the Sportimes.
“I told Treat, ‘You just toyed with John McEnroe,” Jensen said. “He was like, ‘I did? I did. Yeah.’”
Jensen said he was shocked by the ability of Huey, 26, and predicts big things in his doubles career.
“He probably has the best serve in tennis right now. He’s got one of the deadliest kick serves I’ve ever seen,” Jensen said. “He’s this super raw, raw talent that in my opinion, if he works with some good coaching and has some time to work with Leander [Paes], he could be No. 1 in the world in doubles.”
Edina Gallovits-Hall was a find as well. She came to the Kastles with WTT experience seven years ago. But nothing about her ranks – 143 (singles) and 137 (doubles) – suggested she could be more than an adequate fill-in for Anastasia Rodionova, ranked 138 (singles) and 26 (doubles). But Gallovits-Hall went 3-1 in singles, winning 16 of 29 games, and 3-2 in women’s doubles.
Ranked No. 19 in the world in doubles Kops-Jones was a known force. Over the last 12 months, she and Abigail Spears had reached the finals of five WTA Tour doubles events, winning twice including July 22 in San Diego, two days before playing her first match for Washington.
According to Jensen, player ranking were secondary to player connections. Huey had played doubles in the past with Washington mainstay Bobby Reynolds. He also partnered up with Kops-Jones this year at Wimbledon.
“We were really lucky to have players who had been together,” Jensen said. “It was a perfect storm – a deadly combination of consistency and chaos, with great doubles that just drove our opponents nuts.”
Jensen plans to have plenty of options when the Kastles reconvene in Charleston in September. He said he expects most of the roster to be available.