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