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Posted July 11, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Keeler: Kastles are good summer option

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Tommy Keeler

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

There are plenty of things to do in the Washington D.C. area during the summer, but one happening that probably gets overlooked a lot involves D.C.'s most successful sport team.

Of course, I'm talking about the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis.

The Kastles have won two straight WTT titles, and three of the last four. That's what I call a dynasty.

Even if you're not a big fan of tennis, WTT may still be for you. The format is different from regular professional tennis.

A match consists of five sets, with each set being different. The sets consists of men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles. Each team consists of four or five players, at least two men and two women.

There's no-ad scoring in WTT, which means that instead of having to win by two when a game gets to deuce, you just play one point to decide the game. It makes things more exciting and there's a lot more pressure points in a match. One point can literally decide the outcome of an entire team match.

In professional tennis matches you're expected to be quiet, but not in WTT. They want the fans to make as much noise as possible.

All the players are professional, including some of the very best. The season starts right after Wimbledon and goes to the end of the month. They play 14 regular-season matches, playing almost every day for three weeks. Then the playoffs are held after that.

The Kastles have been on a remarkable run, but it came to an end Wednesday night with a 23-18 loss to the Texas Wild. Before that loss, the Kastles had won 34 straight matches.

All this week they have been promoting it as they broke the Los Angeles Lakers' record of 33 consecutive wins back in the 1971-72 season. Let's get this straight -- I'm not buying that at all. The Kastles' streak should not be compared to a regular pro team's streak. WTT is just an exhibition -- mostly for fun and to help promote the game of tennis.

The streak of the Kastles is impressive, though. A big reason for the streak is owner Mark Ein. He's like the George Steinbrenner of the league.

Ein likes to win and he's not afraid to go out and get the star players it takes to win. Both Venus and Serena Williams have played some for the Kastles over the last four years, that's a pretty good start to the team. Each team drafts a marquee player at the beginning of the season, who plays a limited amount of matches to help promote the game.

A few years ago, when the Kastles were struggling a little at the middle of the season, Ein went out and talked Victoria Azarenka (currently No. 3 in the world) into playing for the rest of the season.

The Kastles are coached by Murphy Jensen, a former doubles grand slam champion. Jensen's laid-back approach has worked well for the team, as he's able to keep them upbeat throughout the matches.

Ein also understands the importance of doubles in WTT. Doubles account for three-fifths of the outcome, so you need great doubles players on your team. A staple of the Kastles has been Leander Paes, a 13-time doubles grand slam champion.

Paes is a crowd favorite and really has become the face of the Kastles.

This season the Kastles have Bobby Reynolds back for another year. Kevin Anderson, No. 22 in the world, will also be playing some for the Kastles. Anastasia Rodionova is also back for another season. She's mostly a doubles player.

Venus Williams was supposed to be the marquee player this season, but due to an injury she will not be able to play. So Ein simply replaced her with Martina Hingis, a former five-time grand slam singles champion. Hingis was No. 1 in the world in singles for 209 weeks on the WTA Tour. She has also won 10 grand slam doubles titles in her career and she will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend.

With all that talent on the team, it's hard for me to imagine the Kastles will be dethroned this year. The winning streak may have come to an end, but I don't think the dynasty will be stopping anytime soon.

If you're a fan of watching greatness, like I am, and enjoying a relaxing evening in D.C., then taking in a Kastles match could be the perfect choice.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com


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