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It was a hot and windy opening weekend of World Team Tennis in the capital city of Sacramento with some of the biggest names in the tennis world making their way to the Sunrise Marketplace tennis stadium at the Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights. The Orange County Breakers took on the Sacramento Capitals in the 37th season of World Team Tennis.
Sacramento is the winningest franchise in World Team Tennis history, and their biggest rivals are the Orange County Breakers. The Capitals have won six Billie Jean King trophies, but they were not resting on their laurels. They brought in marquee player Mardy Fish, the American Davis Cup hero ranked No. 13 in the world, who played singles and doubles alongside World Team Tennis teammate Mark Knowles, a three-time World Team Tennis MVP.
The format for World Team Tennis is two men and two women, with both genders making equal contributions to the final result, playing men’s and women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Five sets of tennis are played, each of those sets lasting five games with a nine point tiebreaker at five games all.
(Image by: Barry Wisdom)
Fish was coming back from some serious medical problems, having had heart surgery in late May to correct arrhythmia. This was his first tennis since playing at Wimbledon. In Fish’s game, his backhand is key, along with his serve. Fish is a fast starter, which is very important in World Team Tennis. He is a wonderful first strike player playing alongside Knowles, who has similar talents. The pair is a formidable doubles team. Knowles has just taken over as Fish's personal coach. They practiced together at Fish’s home down in Dallas just before Wimbledon and had a good run there.
“This is my first time coaching, so it is new to me, and I am enjoying working with Mardy,” Knowles said before the match.
Going into the match, the Breakers were tied with Sacramento for first place in the Western conference and were looking pretty strong on the women's side with Lindsay Davenport as their marquee player at home. Davenport was not there against the Capitals at home in Citrus Height, however. Instead Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany played at one for the Breakers. Groenefeld is currently ranked No. 1 in World Team Tennis. She was formerly ranked No. 14 in the world in singles and is great in doubles and mixed doubles. She won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Mark Knowles back in 2009.
It was a big night of tennis in Sacramento, as Coach Wayne Bryan, three-time coach of the year, said before the match.
“Mardy is in Sacramento. What can be better than that? We've got Mark Knowles, one of the all-time great men's doubles players; a great young player, Asia Muhammad; Sacramento’s own Yasmin Schnack; Ryan Sweeting is with us; and the place is packed, what could be better? We are fired up here! We had a great win over James Blake and Philadelphia last night; we barely won 22-21. It was an unbelievable, spine-tingling match. The Breakers have always played us tough over the last decade. They are our rivals and we hate their guts. Mardy was seven in the world last year. He’s playing sensationally. He had a little heart problem, but he played at Wimbledon with no preparation and got to the fourth round, so he is playing unbelievably well.”
The Match was a lopsided victory at 24-14, with Sacramento winning every set except the women’s doubles that was dominated by Breakers’ number one, Groenefeld, 5-4. Knowles/Schnack won the mixed doubles 5-0, Fish/Knowles men’s doubles 5-3, Fish men’s singles 5-2, and Muhammad at women’s singles 5-4.
The Capitals have seven home matches with the last home match scheduled for July 28th.