D.C.’s sports dynasty delivered again Sunday in Springfield as the Washington Kastles captured their fourth consecutive Mylan World TeamTennis Championship with a five-set sweep of the Springfield Lasers 25-13.
With five titles in the last six years — and only seven seasons as a franchise — the Kastles have dominated in a fashion unique not only to Mylan WTT, but all of pro sports. Since 2011, 18 different players have represented the Kastles, but coach Murphy Jensen has kept the team’s chemistry intact to post a 58-6 record during that span.
Washington, which first won the King Trophy in 2009, matched the 1997-2000 Sacramento Capitals for the longest title streak in WTT’s 39-year history. Should the Kastles capture their sixth championship in 2015, they would tie the Capitals for the most WTT titles overall.
Three of Washington’s five wins in the Mylan WTT Finals have come over the Lasers. Springfield held three championship points against Washington in 2009, but in both 2013 and 2014, talented Lasers teams never came close to dethroning the Kastles.
After winning all five sets in the 2013 Mylan WTT Finals, the Kastles were inspired Sunday by their closer Bobby Reynolds, who won the men’s singles and doubles set before retiring.
“The culture on this team is the reason that we’ve been able to accomplish what we have,” said Kastles owner Mark Ein during the trophy presentation. “Our team is not only comprised of the some of the greatest tennis players to ever play the game, but also some of the ultimate professionals and finest human beings to ever walk on the court.
“In particular, we want to dedicate this championship to Bobby Reynolds. He is the person who most exemplifies that culture, who has been the heart and soul of our team for the last five years, and played his last tennis match tonight because he wants to be home with his family.”
The Kastles came into the weekend committed to preparing, especially given the caliber of their opponents and a tricky stadium known for its fast surface and swirling wins. Even after 15 matches in 18 days, the Kastles practiced twice Saturday and twice early Sunday to give themselves the best chance to avenge a franchise-worst 24-10 loss in Springfield on July 18.
In a key first set, Reynolds rallied from a break down to defeat Michael Russell 5-4. Reynolds had lost twice earlier this season to Russell, so his win Sunday provided the Kastles with major momentum from the outset.
Springfield’s Olga Govortsova gave her team a 6-5 lead when she jumped ahead of Martina Hingis 2-0 in women’s singles. But Hingis ran off five straight games to seal the set and quiet the Springfield crowd, robbing the Lasers of their home court advantage.
Reynolds ended his career a winner in the third set, putting away a volley on set point to earn a 5-2 men’s doubles victory with Leander Paes. Reynolds retires as Washington’s Iron Man, having starred for the Kastles in all 78 of their matches since the team’s 2010 season opener.
After taking a 15-8 halftime lead, Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova won women’s doubles 5-1, then Hingis and Paes prevailed 5-4 in mixed to clinch the Kastles’ four-peat.
Hingis was named the WTT Finals MVP after winning 15 of the 22 games that she played. But she shared the spotlight with Reynolds, as Lasers and Kastles fans alike chanted, “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby,” following the match.
If the thought of retirement wasn’t enough for Reynolds to overcome in the opening set, his last singles action was coming against a longtime rival Russell.
The Lasers’ star defeated Reynolds 5-1 and 5-3 during their two regular-season meetings, and again started the stronger of the two players by breaking Reynolds for 2-1.
However, Reynolds rallied as he’s done so often in five years with the Kastles, breaking back for 2-2 on a 3-all deciding point when Russell netted a forehand.
Perhaps that point relieved some of the pressure on Reynolds. He found the range on his forehands and first serves to hold at love in each of his next two service games.
But Russell held twice too to force a tiebreaker at 4-4.
The Top 2 WTT men’s singles players split the first four points before Reynolds took control of the crucial tiebreaker. He hit a service winner for 3-2, then stepped into a down-the-line backhand that Russell couldn’t handle to earn three set points.
The Laser saved one set point, but not the second, misfiring on the 15th shot of an extended rally to send Reynolds home a winner in the final singles set of his career.
After only one deciding 3-all point was needed in Reynolds’ 5-4 win over Russell, five were required in the women’s singles set between Hingis and Govortsova.
The first went to Govortsova, who jumped ahead 2-0 in the set and gave the Lasers a 6-5 lead overall when Hingis double-faulted.
But as Russell did in the opening set, Govortsova failed to consolidate the break, double-faulting on a 3-all point of her own to gift Hingis the third game.
Though she struggled at the start, Hingis righted the set quickly for the Kastles, holding for 2-2 with an ace, two service winners and a crisp cross-court backhand.
In the next game, Govortsova found herself serving again on a 3-all deciding point. She framed a crosscourt forehand wide to put Hingis in the lead at 3-2.
Hingis’ following service game ended with what else? A 3-all deciding point.
This time, Govortsova played well, approaching the net off a knifing backhand volley. But as good as Govortsova was in the rally, Hingis was even better, opening up a 4-2 lead with a sensational forehand lob over the Laser’s head for a winner.
Once trailing 2-0, Hingis swept the final five games of the set when Govortsova missed a first-ball forehand on yet another 3-all point.
The roll that Hingis started kept on going for the Kastles in men’s doubles.
Reynolds and Paes made it eight straight games for Washington after Reynolds held for 1-0 behind an ace and a service winner, Ross Hutchins was broken following four Lasers errors, and Paes held with three unreturnable serves.
Springfield’s home crowd, which started vocally, had been silenced with Washington ahead 3-0 in the set and 13-6 overall.
Lasers fans finally had something to cheer about when Russell held for 1-3 after a tremendous rally. Reynolds kept the Kastles alive with a sky-high lob, then Paes landed a reflex volley off of a Russell overhead. But Hutchins capitalized on a high volley that he brushed aside for a winner.
Reynolds responded with a love hold for 4-1 in what would go down as his last service game ever.
The Kastles had four chances to end the set in the next game when they put Hutchins in an 0-3 hole. But the Brit dug out with three unreturnable serves and a Russell backhand volley winner, forcing Paes to serve the set out.
Washington’s captain Paes appeared poised to do just that with a 3-1 advantage at 4-2. The Lasers, however, forced a 3-all deciding point that could have swung the set — and the match — back in their favor.
Instead, Paes finished a strong serving set with a delivery into Russell’s body. The Laser popped his return up and Reynolds knocked it back down for the final winner of his professional career.
With Washington now ahead 15-8 overall, Hingis and Rodionova improved to 16-2 in their last 18 women’s doubles sets with a superb performance against Govortsova and Liga Dekmeijere.
Hingis hit back-to-back winners to break Dekmeijere for 2-1, then held serve for 3-1 when Rodionova backtracked for a tricky overhead before belting two backhand volleys into Govortsova’s body.
The Kastles continued returning remarkably, breaking Govortsova and opening up a 4-1 lead when Hingis’ return hit off the edge of Dekmeijere’s frame.
Rodionova wrapped the impressive set up on her serve 5-1 by blasting a backhand off of her back foot that nipped the net and jumped over Govortsova for a winner.
Leading 20-9, the only thing separating the Kastles from a historic four-peat was mixed doubles.
For the third time in the match, Springfield broke first in the set, claiming Hingis’ serve to take a 2-1 lead.
Again, the Kastles clawed back immediately, breaking Govortsova thanks to a terrific passing shot by Hingis.
The set stayed on serve until a tiebreaker as Springfield tried to salvage one win out of five in the Mylan WTT Finals.
But the Kastles saved their best for last, clinching the final four points of the tiebreaker thanks to two Hingis winners and two Paes put-aways.
With the outcome never in doubt, the Kastles enjoyed a subdued celebration before “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” chants poured onto the court from both sides of the stands.
Reynolds was rewarded by fans for the dedication he’s shown to the Kastles since he was picked No. 1 overall in the 2010 WTT Draft.
Without missing a match in his Kastles entire career, he gave maximum effort in all 78 of his appearances for Washington. The Kastles went 66-12 with Reynolds, who helped Washington go from a tennis team to a sports dynasty.
The Kastles will be challenged in the off-season to find a replacement for Reynolds as they seek to extend one of the most remarkable runs in the history of pro sports. Keep posted to WashingtonKastles.com for all team-related news.
Washington Kastles 25, Springfield Lasers 13
Men’s Singles – Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Michael Russell (Lasers) 5-4
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Olga Govortsova (Lasers) 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Leander Paes/Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Ross Hutchins/Michael Russell (Lasers) 5-2
Women’s Doubles – Martina Hingis/Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) def. Liga Dekmeijere/Olga Govortsova (Lasers) 5-1
Mixed Doubles – Leander Paes/Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Ross Hutchins/Olga Govortsova (Lasers) 5-4