Friday, July 22, 2011

Lobsters Crush Sportimes Playoff Hopes in Their Claws

Serena Williams (USA) by Benjamin Snyder
The undefeated Washington Kastles (14-0) beat the NY Sportimes (7-7) by a score of 23-15 in front of a capacity crowd in the final game of the season at Sportime Stadium on Thursday night to place the Sportimes playoff hopes in the claws of the Boston Lobsters.

For the Sportimes to make the playoffs, the Lobsters would have had to lose one of their next two matches. Instead they won Wednesday night in Sacramento, and Thursday night in Newport to claim the remaining seed in the Eastern Conference, and end the 2010 Eastern Conference champion NY Sportimes season.

In 2005, Martina Hingis led the Sportimes to the WTT championship, yet even her great singles record this year (10-2), could not send the Sportimes down to Charlotte for a chance for another championship.

The Sportimes have made it to the Eastern Conference championship more than any other team in the last decade, so not qualifying is disappointing, but the Sportimes remained high spirited. “We had a great season. We had a great time, it was great having Martina back, we had a winning streak, we had close matches,” Sportimes Owner Claude Okin said, “We [are] disappointed, but we lost a lot of close matches.”

The Sportimes did experience success this season finishing with a .500 record, and Okin believes they are good enough to be competing down in Charlotte vying for a championship, yet they didn’t close things out. First year Sportimes coach Fritz Buehning agreed. “I think we should be about 10-4 right now, we lost a couple of a match we should have won but that’s World Team Tennis. We should have gotten to the playoffs, that was the number 1 goal," Buehning said.

For a coach, winning is the bottom line, but as an owner Claude Okin finds success in other facets of the game. There is of course more than winning to WTT. “The first thing about WTT is about bringing tennis to the fans. You saw tonight how many nontraditional tennis fans were here, they wanted to see Serena, that’s awesome for the community," Okin said.

Claude is most sad to see the season end because it will end the bond this team has created. “The team is close, they are having fun together, sometimes you don’t want to let it go, you want to keep it going, a few more dinners, a few more outings, but we put ourselves here,” Okin said.

The Sportimes recognized the consequence of losing Wednesday night, as they no longer decided there own fate. “We definitely would have preferred to have it in our own hands, and win that match. We had a few opportunities, I don’t like depending on other players, on another team,” Hingis said.

Hingis did what she could to help surge the Sportimes into the playoffs. She beat the Queen of the Washington Kastles Serena Williams 5-3 in the womens singles set. Yet, Serena took home both mixed and womens doubles.

Hingis and Williams share a similar background as the best women’s tennis players in the world, and have large aspirations for themselves heading forward.
Serena Williams (USA) by Benjamin Snyder

Being off for so long was not been easy for Serena, whom always has the urge to be doing something, so she has been forced to fill her time with things other than tennis. “I am always working, and always doing something. Either I am playing tennis or doing something else,” Williams said. “When I sit still for too long and do the same thing, I get really bored.”

Now though, back and healthy Serena, “God willing” will be ready for the US Open. She uses WTT to get in shape and get confident. “My goal is to make sure I am really fit, and that's just a start, I have been working on that. Confidence is another key, and that's why I love team tennis. I have been trying to play and gather a little more confidence,” Williams said.

Although Hingis has not played on the tour in four years, every time she plays Team Tennis she has the temptation to return to the tour like she did after the 2005 championship run. “You always have that temptation but it’s another story playing 3 weeks of tennis and having to go out there and play the tour and do this week in and week out,” Hingis said.

Instead, she has dedicated herself to a new venture, a clothing line. “It's another challenge. We are doing a yoga and fitness line, and a tennis line right now. It will come out next march, in the market." The first step is to meet with designers in Vancouver in the coming weeks.

Serena has been juggling on and off the court challenges for years, while Hingis is just starting a line after her tour days are over.

Both women are tremendous because they live by the advice they gave little Gabby from the John McEnroe Tennis Academy at halftime, after she wowed the crowd with her surprising performance. “Have desire, and enjoy yourself.”