Congratulations to the KC Explorers on winning their first WTT Team Championship! After 18 years of hard work and effort, it finally paid off. To Jeff & Mel Lanuis (team owners), we (the fans) expect this to be a regular theme now, so don’t take your “foot off the gas”, so to speak.
If you were lucky enough to attend the match I think you’ll agree that it was nothing short of spectacular. The weather was perfect, the crowd was rowdy (a special nod to Jeff and the Wichita crowd, you guys really led the charge!), and the tennis was phenomenal. Or as Frank Caliendo would say (in an impersonation of Jim Rome), “Feh-Nominal”.
Complete match stats are available HERE
If you weren’t lucky enough to attend the match, and if you’re not OCD1 about tennis (and thus missed the replay of the match on Tennis Channel), then it is both my duty and pleasure to give you a recap of the battle, as seen through this correspondents eyes:
Men’s Singles (Mello vs Whitten)
Note to self: Never, EVER play Jesse Whitten for money. The dude can flat out hit the ball. In fact, I can confidently state that in my limited exposure to tennis, I’ve never seen anybody strike the ball harder (in person), and as consistently as Jesse Whitten.
At 1-1 in the set, Mello is serving at 2-1, and double-faults. Score = 2-2. Whitten plays some *amazing* defense, winning the next point to get himself a break point. Score = 2-3. Mello hits a forehand deep to the deuce court to even things at 3-3, and eventually holds to take the lead at 2-1 in the set. Mello would only win one more game though, to Whitten’s 4. Whitten closes out the set with an ace to Mello’s backhand. KC = 3, NY = 5
Mixed Doubles (Peschke/Groth/Groth vs Kendrick/Spears)
The matchup started out as Kendrick & Spears (NY) vs Groth & Peschke (KC), but at 1-1 in the set, Mrs Groth (aka, “Jarka”) subbed in for Kveta, and it was Mr & Mrs Groth vs Kendrick & Spears. Jarka was serving bombs, and if the Accura serve-speed-indicator-thing is accurate, she actually posted a 129mph serve to Kendrick. Which, not surprisingly, he couldn’t handle. As far as I know, this is a new world’s record for the fastest serve by a woman.
In the end, the Groth’s proved too much for their opponents, and finished 5-games to 3. KC = 8, NY = 8
Men’s Doubles (Mello/Groth vs. Kendrick/Whitten)
There is only one word which comes to mind having witnessed Sam Groth’s serve: terrifying. Sam started the set serving, and at 1-1 game count, unleashed a 153mph bomb down the middle. I was at the match, and I question the Accura timing. It seems to me that if a serve is so fast that it cannot be detected by the human eye, it is necessarily traveling faster than the speed of light. 153mph seems too slow, and it’s unfortunate, because if he’d hit 155+, he’d have set a new world record for the fastest serve by a man (the current record held by – you guessed it – Andy Roddick at 155mph). The lines-people wouldn’t have been able to see it either, and probably tried to determine whether it was in or out by the sound that it made. Kendrick (understandably) couldn’t see the serve either and legitimately challenged to see whether it was in or out. Probably out of sheer curiosity. And…it was out! By a millimeter! But, karma was not to be denied, and Sam’s 2nd serve, though not an ace, still went into the stat-books as a “service winner”, which the last time I checked, is worth the same amount of points as an ace. Sam held serve with an ace out wide to go up 1-0 in the set.
Kendrick serves next and holds, followed by Mello, who also holds (with an ace out wide). KC was able to put a little pressure on Whitten’s serve, and earned themselves a break point: 2 serving 3. But Whitten jams Mello with a perfectly placed body serve, and evens it up. Whitten lines up a backhand down the line on the next point to hold. 2-games all.
Sam Groth is back at the plate, and at 0-0 delivers a soft 2nd serve that Kendrick has apparently been waiting his entire life for, and who subsequently RIPS it crosscourt with a textbook perfect backhand. NY takes the game-count lead 0-1. The next point Mello hits a volley “just” long, and now KC is in real danger: 0-2. NY plays “Feh-Nominal” defense on the next point, and now the break is all but ensured: 0-3. Break point #1, Whitten, apparently envious of Kendrick’s earlier backhand, RIPS his own backhand crosscourt, but barely misses: 1-3. Break point #2: Groth nails a smartly placed volley for a winner: 2-3. Whitten has another opportunity but misses: tie ball game at 3-3. And then…Groth double-faults on the decisive point to give NY the lead. KC = 2, NY = 3
Kendrick has a solid service game to go up 4-2. Mello responds with a solid service game of his own to make it KC = 3, NY = 4. Whitten finally avenges himself by holding serve to take the set 5-3. KC = 11, NY = 13
Women’s Singles (Groth vs Spears)
Spears starts out serving, and Jarka immediately breaks with a wicked – and I do mean nasty – backhand down the line. KC =1, NY = 0. But Spears breaks right back and evens the score at 1-1, then goes on to hold serve for a 2-1 lead. Jarka holds at love with a pinpoint, laser-beam, cross-court forehand winnder that landed *on* the corner. As in, on both lines. Tied at 2-games each.
On the next game, with Spears serving at 1-1, there’s a bit of controversy. Groth hits a forehand which Spears thinks is long, and Spears stops play. The call (Remember, the ball was essentially “called” good by the linespeople. Or rather, it wasn’t called out) was challenged by NY, and shot-spot revealed that the linespeople were correct; the forehand was good. KC wins the point: 1-2. Spears tries to pull Groth off the court with a wide serve to the deuce side, but remember, Groth is armed with the “Fearhand”, and so the serve comes to her fearhand side: she absolutely crushes it for a winner. Groth now has a couple break points at 1-3. Spears, no doubt feeling the pressure, double-faults to give KC the lead at 3-games to 2.
Jarka, serving at 3-2 (points) hits a 2nd serve kicker to (and over) Spears backhand, which Spears can’t handle, getting a 4-2 (games) lead.
Spears serves next, and Jarka jumps out to an early 0-1 lead with yet another evil backhand passing shot. She eventually earns herself a break point, and celebrates by hitting a forehand that Spears can’t deal with to take the set 5-games to 2. KC = 16, NY = 15.
Women’s Doubles (Groth/Peschke vs Spears/Harkleroad)
The decisive last match of the night. Groth starts things off by holding serve. She’s playing rock solid tonight. Spears opening salvo misses. Her 2nd serve is called good, but it challenged, and upon review is out. Double Fault. Spears has just lost her last two service games, and I thought she might crumble under the pressure, but she was able to keep it togehter and hold. Set score: 1-1
Peschke serves next and takes a commanding 3-0 lead, but loses the next 3 points in a row. Spears takes the serve, but eventually nets a backhand, and Peschke holds.
Harkleroad serves next. Groth – you just can’t say enough about her performance tonight – plays some incredible defense; does that Sharapova thing where she switches hands and hits a left-handed forehand. This shakes up the Spears/Harkleroad duo, and they make an unforced (or was it?) error. But Groth (she’s only human, after all) sails a forehand long on the next point, tying up the game score. Harkleroad goes on to hold serve. Set score: 2-2
Groth serves next and holds, thanks to some *amazing* net play by Peschke. Spears serves, and immediately goes down 0-1. Double faults the next point to go down 0-2. Harkleroad steps up and plays some clutch tennis, but she and Spears are still down break point at 2-3. Spears hits a 2nd serve to Peschke who, channeling her inner Del Potro, literally destroys a forehand winner, right smack-dab through the middle of the court. Set score: KC = 4, NY = 2
Peschke serves at 4-2. Harkleroad/Spears play some incredible “D” to earn themselves a break point, and Harkleroad crushes a return to create an error. Set score: NY = 3, KC = 4
Harkleroad (on serve) serving to stay in the match. She plays solid, and goes up 2-0. Peschke nails a volley for a winner. 2-1. Jarka sticks a “stab volley” for a winner down the middle. 2-2. Groth goes for a forehand down the line and misses. 3-2. Peschke smokes a return and creates the error. 3-3.
Championship point: Peschke takes the serve, returns well, and trades some solid forehands with Harkleroad. But it’s Peschke (and KC) who comes out on top when Harkleroad’s shot hits the tape. KC wins doubles 5-3, and wins the match, 21-18!
As you probably already knew, Billie Jean King was in attendance for the culmination of the 35th season of WTT, and I had a chance to speak with her2.
Me: So Billie Jean, what are your thoughts about the Bracket of Death?
BJK: The what?
Me: Thank you.
Additionally, my buddy Allen (whom you might remember from the WeNeedGold.com TV ad) and I were able to obtain privileged, on-court access after the match. The sort of access obtainable only to somebody with sort of street-cred that comes with a WeNeedGold.com TV ad in their portfolio.
It’s all about who you know.
The players were gracious enough to pose for a few pictures with yours truly, and I feel obliged to share them with ya’ll. (<— that means “you”, for all ya’ll not from the Midwest)
- OCD does NOT stand for “Only Cares about Doubles”
- This of course was Billie Jean’s imagined response to a hypothetical interview. If she knew about the BOD she’d be a fan of course, because it’s all about the tennis!
- Jesse, my apologies. The picture I took of you4 didn’t turn out.
- Additionally, my apologies for simply taking a picture “of” you, and not with you. In retrospect, that was kinda weird. Next time, deal?
New York Sportimes Roster
- Robert Kendrick
- Ashley Harkleroad
- Jesse Witten
- John McEnroe
- Kim Clijsters
- Abigail Spears
- Varvara Lepchenko
- Chuck Adams – Coach
Kansas City Explorers Roster
- Bob Bryan
- Mike Bryan
- Jarmila Groth (now Jarmila Gajdosova)
- Kveta Peschke
- Ricardo Mello
- Samuel Groth
- Brent Haygarth – Coach