Paes, Reynolds arekey vs. Sportimes
When Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein toured the team's D.C. waterfront stadium last month, he noticed a few things out of place, which didn't sit well considering the team's history-making undefeated season a year ago.
"When you have a season like last year, you want to change nothing," Ein said. "I came down here, and they had moved around the trailers for the team. I said, 'Put them back exactly like they were last year.'?"
Ein is the first to admit how difficult it will be to duplicate last year's 16-0 record, and Thursday's home opener was an example. But so far, the Kastles are on track, albeit a little shaky. With its 20-18 victory over the New York Sportimes, Washington improved to 3-0.
On a night when the team honored recently retired star Rennae Stubbs, the Kastles' remaining doubles standout, Leander Paes, was the star. In mixed doubles, he combined with newcomer Anastasia Rodionova for a 5-4 victory over Robert Kendrick and Martina Hingis, though the result might have been reversed had it not been for a disputed call on which Kendrick was ruled to have touched the net.
In men's doubles, Paes and Bobby Reynolds dominated Kendrick and Jesse Witten 5-0 to give Washington the lead for good. On the decisive point of both service break games, Paes intercepted shots at the net for winners that split his befuddled foes.
Without Stubbs, Washington has less capability to steam-roll its competition as it did in several matches last year. But the Kastles still have the 39-year-old Paes, who remains one of the world's best doubles players. In Kastles matches in which Paes has appeared, Washington has gone 5-1.
There were anxious moments for Washington on Thursday. When former world No. 1 Hingis beat Rodionova 5-2 in women's singles, New York (1-1) pulled to within 15-14.
But for the second time this year, Reynolds was clutch in closing out the match. His laborious 5-4 (5-1) win over Witten in a tiebreaker was an appropriate conclusion, symbolizing what kind of effort Washington will need to keep its 19-match streak alive.
"He's the best closer in the league," Paes said of Reynolds, this coming from perhaps the league's best doubles player.