2020 @WorldTeamTennis Final Preview, Prediction
After a noble experiment in a bubble and 62 matches played over the course of three weeks in the Allegheny Mountains, we are left with the #3 seed Chicago Smash and the #4 seed New York Empire to battle it out on a gorgeous sunny day at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. There were probably a few naysayers who thought the WTT season wouldn’t last with so many players at the same site during a Coronavirus resurgence in North America.
Here we are, though: Zero positive COVID-19 test results and one match to go. The first year expansion franchise, the Smash, have surprised a lot of long-time followers of the league, but their success shouldn’t come as huge shock to anyone. With Sloane Stephens, Genie Bouchard, Rajeev Ram, Brandon Nakashima and Evan King, the Smash would have been competitive in 2020. The extra sauce on this squad comes from Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who was named the league’s female player of the campaign. She’s been off the charts in doubles, and doubles are every bit as important as singles in the world of World Team Tennis.
The New York Empire are riding high on emotion after knocking out the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms in the semifinals on Saturday. The immovable object may be Mattek-Sands, but the unstoppable force would be Coco Vandeweghe of the New York Empire. Like Mattek-Sands, she’s playing some of her best tennis in a long while and her leadership in doubles has given her confidence in singles as New York’s Kim Clijsters has been sidelined for the last week.
The Smash took out the Empire 21-16 a week ago, when Sloane Stephens was a 5-1 singles winner. When the Smash edged the Empire, 22-21, two weeks ago, it was Kim Clijsters dominating Stephens, 5-2 and Mattek-Sands/Bouchard defeating Clijsters/Lisicki 5-2. With Clijsters participation unlikely today, it’s hard to see a different result than the two previous meetings.
I give Sock a slight edge against Nakashima in men’s singles, and Sloane Stephens with the nod over Vandeweghe in singles. As usual, that means it’s all coming down to the dubs. I give the advantage to Mattek-Sands and Rajeev Ram against Vandeweghe and Sock in the mixed, which should just be enough for the Smash to win it all in the first year of the existence of the franchise.
Prediction: Chicago Smash 22-20
In terms of the restarting of pro sports in the United States, the World Team Tennis bubble has been a resounding success. The Greenbrier Resort was chosen by the Feds to house the legislative branch of government in a post-nuclear apocalypse at one time because of its remote location. Queens, or Disney World, for that matter, are hardly a White Sulphur Springs. With only a few thousand people, a few restaurants outside the resort and neither a strip club nor a nightclub for 60 miles, other pro sporting events should consider such a locale.
—S. Fogleman in Lewisburg, WV
Empire State of Mind in Mountain State as @NYEmpireTennis Advance to @WorldTeamTennis Final
The New York Empire advanced to the World Team Tennis final at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia with a 22-18 win over the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms this afternoon.
Jack Sock and Neal Skupski broke serve and started New York off with a 2 game lead after beating Fabrice Martin and Taylor Fritz, 5-3. They never relinquished that lead. Coco Vandeweghe played Sofia Kenin close in a 5-4 loss and frankly, did her job by minimizing the effectiveness of the Freedoms most potent weapon.
The big turning point of the affair came when Sock and Vandeweghe posted a 5-1 mixed doubles win over Taylor Townsend and Fabrice Martin/Taylor Fritz. Fritz was inserted into the match after the Freedoms were down 4-0. Vandeweghe teamed up with Nicole Melichar against Townsend and Caroline Dolehide. Philadelphia scrapped to a 5-3 win to keep hope alive. In the final set, Taylor Fritz needed a miracle comeback against Sock to turn the match for Philadelphia. Fritz challenged Sock all the way to the tiebreak, which Sock won 5-3 to seal the victory for his team.
—S. Fogleman in White Sulphur Springs, WV
2020 World TeamTennis Semifinal #2 Prediction
The late afternoon semifinal between the Orlando Storm and the expansion Chicago Smash should be a close match. Despite the teams sharing a 1-1 head to head record, the key to the Smash has been the monstrous doubles play of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and whatever partner with whom they team her up. Although the Storm beat the Smash, 21-16, on July 14, it was in large part due to Danielle Collins rolling over Sloane Stephens 5-0. In the loss, Mattek-Sands and Genie Bouchard managed a 5-1 victory against Pegula and Darija Jurak. When the Smash beat Orlando, 24-19 five days later, Mattek-Sands and Bouchard again beat Jessica Pegula, this time paired with Collins, by a 5-3 score.
No one expects Stephens to put in a poor performance against Jessica Pegula today and the men’s singles between Tennys Sandgren and Brandon Nakashima looks to be a draw. Pegula and Ken Skupski will have their hands full with Team Bethanie as well, with Mattek-Sands and Rajeev Ram on the other side of the net for the mixed doubles match.
Prediction: Chicago Smash d. Orlando Storm, 22-18
2020 @WorldTeamTennis Semifinal #1 Predictions
The Philly Freedoms are the top seed entering this weekend’s playoffs, but the New York Empire have had their number before. Despite the 7-7 record, the Empire handed the Freedoms their first loss of the season, 25-17, a little over two weeks ago and have thwarted the Freedoms chances at a championship title in years past. In that match, Kim Clijsters held off Sonia Kenin, 5-3 and Jack Sock was victorious over Taylor Fritz, 5-3. Today, Clijsters is not scheduled to play and Coco Vandegwhe will need to step up and handle Kenin, the 2020 women’s Australian Open single champion. Sock and Neal Skupski will battle Philadelphia’s Fabrice Martin and Taylor Townsend in mixed doubles. Townsend will pair with Caroline Dolehide against Vandegwhe and Nicole Melichar in women’s doubles.
I’ll predict .an Empire win based on the doubles strength added by the Empire late last week in Vandegwhe and Melichar. It was a great addition to the team not just to hel the Empire to make the playoffs, but to pay dividends in the playoffs as well .Let’s face it: Doubles is even more important than singles in World Team Tennis. The play of Sock and Neal Skupski has been outstanding and Vandegwhe and Melichar are clearly vibing together. Vandegwhe and Sock may have the hardest time defeating their singles rivals, but Taylor Fritz is a known commodity to Jack Sock and I predict he wins the men’s singles set as well.
Prediction: Empire d. Freedoms 22-18
|Defending Champions Keys, Medvedev Lead 2020 Western & Southern Open Singles Fields|
CINCINNATI (JULY 29, 2020) – Ten former champions headline the players on the initial singles entry lists for the 2020 Western & Southern Open that will be held Aug. 20-28 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
The initial entries include both defending champions: Daniil Medvedev for the ATP Tour and Madison Keys for the WTA.
Former men’s champions who have entered the ATP Masters 1000 also include the top two players in the ATP Rankings – No. 1 Novak Djokovic (2018 winner) and No. 2 Rafael Nadal (2011) – along with Grigor Dimitrov (2017) and Marin Cilic (2016).
Two-time champion Serena Williams (2014-15) will join Keys, Kiki Bertens (2018), Garbiñe Muguruza (2017) and Karolina Pliskova (2016) as past WTA champions in the Premier 5 field.
The women’s field includes five Major champions in Williams, Muguruza, Sofia Kenin, Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2019 W&S Open runner-up. Three men’s entrants – Cilic, Djokovic and Nadal – are past Major winners.
The women’s field, which features 39 of the top 53 players in the WTA Rankings, includes seven players aged 21-or-under. Sixteen-year-old Coco Gauff will make her Western & Southern Open debut and will be joined by fellow teens Amanda Anisimova (18) and Iga Swiatek (19) to join a youth movement that also includes 20-year-old Dayana Yastremska. Kenin, a 2019 Western & Southern Open semifinalist who won the 2020 Australian Open, leads a group of 21-year-olds that includes Elena Rybakina and Marketa Vondrousova.
Forty of the top 43 ranked ATP players have entered on the men’s side. One teenager, 19-year-old Felix Auger Aliassime, leads five men aged 21-or-under in the field. Four of the entrants from the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings are under the age of 25: No. 5 Medvedev (24), No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas (21), No. 7 Alexander Zverev (23) and No. 8 Matteo Berrettini (24). The top eight seeds in both draws will receive first round byes. Twelve players will be added to each field through a two-round qualifying event that will be held Aug. 20-21. The deadline for players to enter the qualifying event is Aug. 3. Four men and five women will be awarded wild card entries into the main draw singles fields.
|Main draw play for the Western & Southern Open will begin on Aug. 22. Both singles finals will be held on Friday, Aug. 28, with the WTA final taking place at 2 p.m., and the ATP Tour’s at 4 p.m.|
Further details for the 2020 tournament will be announced in the coming weeks, and all aspects of the event are subject to change.
In a Battle of Struggling Teams, @BreakersTennis Edges Past @SGFLasers
Today’s World Team Tennis offering at noon at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia featured the last place Orange County Breakers taking on the 8th place Springfield Lasers. If the 2019 WTT defending champion Lasers were going to make the playoffs to contest their title defense, they had to win today.
Mitchell Krueger got things started for the Lasers with a 5-4 win over Steve Johnson in men’s singles.
As Caty McNally stood below the banner celebrating the Lasers 2019 title, things started to go awry for Springfield. McNally dropped five chances to close the women’s singles set out as Jen Brady snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Orange County. McNally was not amused and the match wal tied at 9-all.
Steve Johnson and Austin Krajicek gave the Breakers their first lead of the match with a 5-3 win over Jean-Julien Rojer and Robert Lindstedt.
Brady took another win over McNally, this time in women’s doubles paired with Gaby Dabrowski, 5-4. McNally and Robert Lindstedt were able to force a single game of extended play before the Breakers closed out the match with a 24-21 win.
After the match, Brady said she believed that the World Team Tennis experience will result in improved tournament play next month for the participants.
“It’s great practice once the tour starts back up,” she said. “I think everybody here is going to have a big advantage going into the first couple of tournaments because they’ve been in match and I think everybody can build on that.”
—S. Fogleman in Greenbrier County, Almost Heaven
The @OrlandoStormWTT End @PhillyFreedoms Win Streak in Early @WorldTeamTennis Saturday Action
The Philadelphia Freedoms rode a six match win streak into Saturday morning, and with 2020 Australian Open women’s singles champion Sofia Kenin on the roster, there was little reason to the think that the streak would not extend further. The Orlando Storm found themselves in a tight race to remain in the World Team Tennis top tier, as the top four teams in the league will contest the semifinals and final next weekend.
What followed was a blowout by WTT standards. So many sets in this competition end with a tiebreak that it was surprising to not see a 5-4 result on the scorecard today, where the Storm dominated the Freedom, 23-13.
Tennys Sandgren and Ken Skupski bageled Donald Young and Fabrice Martin to take a big 5-0 lead in men’s doubles. Jessica Pegula stepped up to the plate in route to a breezy 5-2 victory over Kenin and you had the feeling that it was going to be a good day for the Storm. Pegula followed up her singles win with a doubles victory with Darija Jurak. The pair beat Taylor Townsend and Caroline Dolehide, 5-3. Sandgren finished off the Freedoms with a 5-3 victory over Taylor Fritz and the rout was over. Pegula was selected as the “Chosen” Player of the Match for her efforts, although Sandgren must have been a close second for the nod.
The Storm badly needed to win today and their record now improves to 6-4. With the victory, the Storm maintain a one-half match lead over the Vegas Rollers and one full match lead on the Washington Kastles, who are currently outside of the playoff bubble.
Orlando will open tomorrow’s WTT action as well, taking on the 2019 league champion Springfield Lasers in a must-win match for Springfield.
—S. Fogleman in West Virginia
Ready, Play! 2020 @CitiOpen Set for August 13-21, Will Become First ATP Tour Tournament After Longest Drought in Open Era
The Citi Open continues to reimagine tennis on a whole new scale.
Three months after the pro tours suspended their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ATP and tournament officials announced today that the professional tennis tour will return to the world stage with the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. from August 13-21.
“After what will be a five-month shutdown, we are thrilled that pro tennis will resume in Washington, DC at the 2020 Citi Open.” said tournament chairman and CEO of MDE Tennis Mark Ein. “Our team has completed an exhaustive effort to explore, design, and refine the health and safety protocols necessary to host the event. After this extensive collaboration with a full range of our stakeholders, it is an extraordinary and unexpected honor to host the comeback of our great sport right here in our backyard.”
The Citi Open will be the ATP Tour’s first sanctioned event since February and will mark the end to the longest hiatus in the Open Era. Conversations with the WTA Tour about returning in DC the same week this summer are on-going.
Founded in 1969, the Citi Open is the fourth longest-running pro tournament in the United States. This summer marks the 52nd consecutive year the Citi Open will be played in its original home of Rock Creek Park.
“This has been a very tough year for so many people in our community and our nation, and we hope the return of a great Washington summer tradition will give people something to look forward to,” said Ein. “Building on the event’s long charitable history, we are planning to use the tournament to help some of those people most impacted and shine a light on some of our many local heroes.”
The tournament is working closely with local officials on the health and safety plan in order to secure all the necessary permits and approvals for the event. The current plan is for the Citi Open to host this year’s tournament without fans in attendance, but officials remain optimistic that as the region continues its phased reopening, and conditions improve, they may be granted permission to allow limited fans onsite.
If a limited number of fans are allowed at this year’s event, the significant number of series ticketholders that have already paid their deposits will get the top priority and be assured some tickets, followed by those that pay deposits prior to any ticket allocation. It is not anticipated that tickets would be available beyond that.