Empire captures WTT title
Aug 12, 2020 | 9599 views | 0 0 comments | 1042 1042 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Coco Vandeweghe falls to her knees after scoring the final point of the match.
Coco Vandeweghe falls to her knees after scoring the final point of the match.
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The New York Empire team celebrates.
The New York Empire team celebrates.
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The season finale of World TeamTennis came down to a dramatic finish, as one point decided the entire season with the New York Empire capturing the King Trophy over the Chicago Smash, 21-20, on Sunday at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

With the match in Extended Play at 20-20 and at 6-all in the Super Tiebreaker (best of 13), the Empire’s Coco Vandeweghe ripped a Sloane Stephens serve with a forehand down the line that nicked the baseline, which was reviewed by Hawk-Eye and signaled in.

Vandeweghe embraced her partner Nicole Melichar as the rest of the Empire players and head coach Luke Jensen joined into the celebration.

“I’ve never been under that kind of pressure, ever,” Vandeweghe, who was named the Finals Female Most Valuable Player, said. “It was so much fun to be on my racquet to control the situation. It really accentuated what World TeamTennis is, the team vibe, team energy, people picking each other up when they’re down.”

World TeamTennis titles are nothing new for New York franchises, as the New York Buzz won the King Trophy in 2008 and the New York Sportimes did the same in 2005.

“It’s just so amazing that it came down to one point,” Jensen said after accepting the King Trophy and the $500,000 winning check his team will split. “That Coco didn’t hesitate to take that shot is amazing, and for New York specifically. Her grandfather played for the Knicks [Ernie Vandeweghe], and her uncle played for the Knicks [Kiki].”

The Smash held a championship point in regulation at 4-all in the tiebreaker (best of nine), as Melichar hit a service winner that Genie Bouchard was unable to handle, giving the set to the Empire and sending the match into Extended Play, 20-18.

Vandeweghe won her serve for 20-19, and the Empire pair then broke Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ serve to knot the score at 20-20.

In Women’s Singles, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens extended the Smash’s lead with a 5-3 win over Vandeweghe to make the score 16-13.

The Empire jumped out to a quick start thanks to the play of WTT Male Most Valuable Player Jack Sock, as he recorded wins in Mixed Doubles with Vandeweghe and in Men’s Doubles with Neal Skupski.

He then ran into a buzz-saw in the way of 18-year-old Smash rookie Brandon Nakashima, who reeled off a 5-0 win to swing the match in favor of Chicago.

“I think I would chalk that up as my worst set of the three weeks, and unfortunately it came on the most important day,” Sock said. “I just kept my head up. I was able to put 10 points on the board with Neal and Coco, and you can’t ask more than that.”

WTT CEO Carlos Silva still had goosebumps talking about the match an hour after the memorable conclusion.

“A flip-flop in the middle of the match with Nakashima coming back to win 5-0 and swing the match, you couldn’t ask for any more than that,” Silva said. “And Coco’s winning forehand was like a walk-off home run, a buzzer-beater.”

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