The streak still lives.
Venus Williams came alive to win five straight games after Washington surrendered the lead for the first time in World Team Tennis’ Eastern Conference final Saturday night as the defending champion Kastles prevailed, 19-15, over the New York Sportimes before a crowd of 1,973 at Family Circle Stadium.
The victory pushed the Kastles’ incredible winning streak to 31 matches heading into today’s 3:30 p.m. WTT final against the Western Conference champion Sacramento Capitals. The match will be televised by NBC Sports Network.
“It was all on me at the end,” Williams said about her 5-1 conquest of Ashley Harkleroad that kept the streak alive. “I’ve been playing World Team Tennis the last 12 years, but this is my first final.”
With the last set starting with the two teams tied at 14, Harkleroad broke Williams in the first game when the seven-time Grand Slam singles winner double-faulted twice and made two unforced errors. Those four points were the only ones Harkleroad needed to give the Sportimes their first lead.
“I was expecting Venus to go for her shots and making errors, but then she started playing consistent, so I started going for it,” said Harkleroad, who teamed with 2011 Wimbledon women’s doubles champion Kveta Peschke for a 5-2 win over Williams and Anastasia Rodionova to deadlock the score at 14 going into women’s singles.
Venus just wanted to win the match. She didn’t care about blowing her opponent off the court with big shots. “In team tennis, games are so important. I wasn’t trying to go for heroics … I just put the ball in play,” Williams said.
John McEnroe was hoping to help the Sportimes snap the Kastles’ streak, which is now three wins shy of the breaking Los Angeles Lakers’ major sports franchise record for consecutive wins.
“Venus played well at the end,” McEnroe said in an understatement.
With Williams finally coming through in women’s singles after suffering 5-2 losses in mixed doubles with Leander Paes and in women’s doubles, the Kastles’ men carried the load early with Paes and WTT men’s MVP Bobby Reynolds winning 5-2 over McEnroe and Robert Kendrick, and Reynolds dealing big-hitting — but erratic — Jesse Witten a 5-2 loss in singles.
“I think we can win it (the final),” said Paes, a 13-time Grand Slam doubles champion. “But it’s going to be tough. Tomorrow is going to be the highlight of the season.”
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.
WHAT: WTT Final
WHO: Washington Kastles vs. Sacramento Kings
WHEN: Today, 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Family Circle Tennis Center