Photo Credit: The Kastles squad poses with the King Trophy for a truly historic occasion. (Photo Credit: Rich Kessler)

Top 10 Moments In Kastles History: #4


#4: July 24, 2011: Kastles Complete First Perfect Season (16-0) in 36 Years of WTT History & Win 2nd WTT Title Over St. Louis Aces

The Kastles squad poses with the King Trophy for a truly historic occasion. (Photo Credit: Rich Kessler)

To commemorate the Kastles 10th-anniversary season, we've reviewed the team's most memorable events, episodes, incidents, and milestones over the years, and selected the 10 Greatest Moments in Kastles History. We hope this vibrant look back inspires you to look forward to another historic season!

On Sunday, July 24, 2011 at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, South Carolina, the Kastles took on the St. Louis Aces in search of their second World TeamTennis title, with the potential of recording the first perfect season in league history. With an unprecedented 15-0 win-loss record for the season, the Kastles went into the match as the clear favorites. They advanced to the final, after beating the Boston Lobsters, 23-15, to win the Eastern Conference Championship, while the Aces (who had a mixed 9-6 record) lost three of five sets to the Sacramento Capitals en route to their 20-19 win at the Western Conference Championship. But a combination of events upended this equation, including the injury substation of top singles player Tamira Paczek who had just made the Wimbledon quarterfinals to the St. Louis roster, from the very first set!

Coach of Year Murphy Jensen had the privilege of selecting the match order at the final and elected to open with mixed doubles, which featured the top-two teams in the league: WTT Male MVP Leander Paes and Rennae Stubbs vs. Male Rookie of the Year Jean-Julien Rojer and WTT Female MVP Liezel Huber. Paes and Stubbs entered the match with an eight set mixed doubles winning streak, but Rojer and Huber quickly threatened to snap the streak, as they surged to a 3-1 lead, when a rain storm came in and halted play for 90 minutes.

The Kastles huddle before the championship and making history. (Photo: Rich Kessler)

When play resumed, the Kastles won one game before the rain returned, prompting another suspension that lasted nearly as long as the first delay. When play began for a third time, the Aces saved two break points to secure a 4-2 lead. And though Paes and Stubbs fought hard to win the next game, Rojer and Huber rebounded to serve the set out and score an early advantage for the Aces, 5-3.

The tide shifted, starting with women's doubles. Stubbs and Arina Rodionova shocked top doubles player Huber and Paszek with a very unlikely 5-0 whooping to take the lead for Washington. Men's doubles followed with Paes and Bobby Reynolds avenging their early, regular-season loss to St. Louis, defeating Roman Borvanov and Rojer 5-2, which gave the Kastles a commanding, 13-7, lead at halftime. At this point, Coach Jensen tried a daring move.

In a departure from his typical order, Jensen opted to flip-flop the singles matches, choosing to let the women play the penultimate set of the match, followed by the men. Who knows what the outcome would have been should he have stuck to his original plan? It's hard to imagine a more dramatic finale. After Rodionova extended the Kastles' lead to 18-11 with a 5-4 upset win over Paszek ranked nearly 100 spots above her, Reynolds and Borvanov took the court for what would turn out to be one of the most memorable sets (and moments) in WTT history!

Arina Rodionova deftly hits a volley. Great net play runs in the Rodionova family. (Photo Credit: Willis Bretz)

It started routinely enough. Neither player earned a service break the entire set, though Reynolds had a chance to both break and clinch the title for the Kastles with Borvanov serving a deciding 3-all point at 3-4, but Borvanov saved it by hitting a booming ace down the tee to force a tiebreak. Reynolds then went on to take a 4-2 lead in the breaker to earn three more match points, but Borvanov saved the first with another ace, then outdueled Reynolds in a pair of extended-rally points to claim the set and force the match into overtime.

Despite the setback, Washington remained optimistic. They still had a substantial lead, 22-16. In order for the Aces to win, Borvanov would have to win six-straight games, a possible, but unlikely feat. The Kastles bench began to grow tense, however, after Borvanov easily held serve, then broke Reynolds's serve on a deciding point, then held again to shrink the Kastles' lead to 22-19.

Reynolds responded well to Borvanov's surprising resurgence. He threw down two service winners and drew an error off the Ace to take a 3-0 lead in the fourth game of overtime, earning four championship points. And he needed them all.

At 3-0, Reynolds approached the net with a solid inside-out forehand approach before smashing an overhead that many in attendance thought would be the final shot of the match. Coach Jensen was one of those people, flinging a Powerade high into the air to celebrate. But Borvanov managed to get his racquet on the ball and lob it back to Reynolds's side of the court, just as Jensen's Powerade landed. Reynolds put the second lob away with an untouchable smash, which would have won the match and championship, but the Kastles were penalized the point because of the hindrance caused by Jensen's premature Powerade celebration.

The Powerade Incident - Murphy Jensen on Championship Point WTT 2011.

The Powerade Incident - Murphy Jensen on Championship Point WTT 2011.

It was an honest mistake from an exuberant coach, whose positive energy and enthusiasm led him to Coach of the Year honors, but it forced Reynolds to regroup and gave Borvanov a new lifeline in the match. The Ace maximized the opportunity, hitting an overhead winner of his own with Reynolds serving at 3-1, and the Kastle missed a backhand at 3-2 to bring up another deciding point for the game.

Finally, at 1:03 a.m., on championship point #9, Reynolds toed the baseline and delivered a picture perfect first serve directly into Borvanov's body. The resurgent Ace tried to get to the side of the ball and hit a backhand, but it was a futile effort. It was a service winner. Reynolds clinched the Kastles' second league title. It was a frantic, yet fitting finish to the Kastles' first perfect season, one that took over eight hours of on-and-off tennis to complete.

Doubles legend Rennae Stubbs, her teammates and team owner Mark Ein celebrate victory and history on match point. (Photo Credit: Willis Bretz)