Top 10 Moments in Kastles History: #8July 05, 2017
#8: McEnroe and Paes Unprecedented Incident at City Center DC
Shot Heard Round the World Turned Crucial Match for the Sportimes
WATCH: Fireworks and Highlights from one of the most memorable matches in WTT history
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!
The match against the New York Sportimes on Thursday, July 16, 2009, at the original Kastles Stadium at City Center DC, began like any other for the Washington Kastles. It was Washington's tenth match of the season, and in their one and only previous meeting, the Kastles prevailed easily, 25-13. When the players arrived on court it appeared as though it would be business as usual. But after a heated, three-and-a-half hour slugfest, the match gained global notoriety and arguably went down as one of the greatest matches in World TeamTennis history!
Surprise, surprise! John McEnroe was involved.
At the pre-match press conference, McEnroe - New York's marquee player - was asked if at this stage in his career he considered himself an entertainer or an athlete.
"A little bit of both," said McEnroe. "I think people come here expecting me to get angry and yell at someone."
Well, fans who came looking for this McEnroe to show up, sure got their money's worth!
Olga Puchkova kicked things off for the Kastles, taking on the Sportimes' Abigail Spears in the opening women's singles set. Puchkova was on her game, but Spears, who had the fourth-best women's singles record in WTT that season, came out strong, overwhelming the Kastle in a few crucial moments to hand New York their first win of the night and a 5-3 head start. But Puchkova didn't throw in the towel that easily.
Teaming up with Grand Slam doubles champ Rennae Stubbs, Puchkova took on Spears and Christina Fusano in women's doubles. And in this contest, Puchkova and Stubbs were the superior team, showing extraordinary skill to defeat the Sportimes, 5-2, and take the lead by a narrow margin, 8-7.
This is when things got interesting!
Leander Paes / Scott Oudsema ( Kastles) vs. John McEnroe / Robert Kendrick (Sportimes)
This blockbuster men's doubles set got off to an exciting start. Both teams brought their "A" games, wowing the crowd with spectacular serves, powerful groundstrokes, lobs and drop shots, and all the players appeared to enjoy the competition. But as the score tightened in the seventh game of the set, the mood on court changed dramatically.
It was 3-all in the set, and game point for the Kastles, when Paes served to McEnroe in the ad court, rushed into the net and tagged Kendrick hard with a smash off Mac's floating return, to take the lead in the set 4-3. But McEnroe and the Sportimes didn't take too kindly to Paes's jab at Kendrick. Before the Kastles assumed their return positions for the next game, they were confronted by the Sportimes' Coach Chuck Adams and a livid McEnroe, who crossed the net onto the Kastles side of the court and shouted harsh words at Paes.
If the crowd (and players) thought the storm had passed when Kendrick served the first point of the next game without incident, they were most definitely mistaken. Because on Kendrick's very next serve to Oudsema, the Sportime deliberately tagged Paes - who was not the receiver - at net with a 125+ mph first serve, which caused all of City Center to erupt in shocked amazement!
In response, the Kastles bench was jolted to their feet in protest, as Coach Murphy Jensen demanded an official response from the chair umpire. Amid the chaos that overcame the court, Coach Adams received a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct and after the Sportimes held serve to tie the set at 4-all, Olga Puchkova and Rennae Stubbs voiced their feelings about the New Yorkers on the changeover, which resulted in additional code violations and a point penalty for abuse of officials for the Kastles.
The point penalty turned out to be costly for the Kastles, since it was a service point to start the tiebreaker. The Sportimes took full advantage of the 1-0 gift, snatching the breaker, 5-1, and set, 5-4, to tie the match at 12-12 going into halftime!
WATCH: ESPN's coverage of the Paes vs. McEnroe Incident at Kastles Stadium Heard Around the World
After halftime, McEnroe once again took the court, this time to take on Oudsema in men's singles. In this set McEnroe (a 16-time Grand Slam champ) showed why he is still one of the toughest competitors in the game. His crafty serve and deadly volleys were too much for Oudsema to handle. Mac shut the Kastle out, 5-2, to push the Sportimes ahead, 17-14, going into the final set.
But despite the three game deficit, the Kastles still had a great shot to take back the lead in mixed doubles with Paes and Stubbs, who had, by far, the best record of any mixed team that season. True to form, the duo dominated throughout, beating the Sportimes' Kendrick and Spears, 5-2, to send the match into a deciding Supertiebreaker!
With the momentum at their backs, the Kastles jumped to a quick 3-1 lead, but eventually lost, 7-5, in a Supertiebreaker full of dramatic exchanges and spectacular shot-making. It was a magical night of tennis that had more drama than anyone could ever ask for. Fans in attendance still remember and talk about it to this day.
"Basically, it was a great match, maybe the greatest World TeamTennis match ever played,"Sportimes owner Claude Okin said afterwards. "By the end of the match, John spoke to Leander, and Robert and Leander shook hands at the net, embraced each other, and everybody involved, from coaches to players to owners, had hugs and handshakes. Really what you saw was the intensity of the rivalry, and that's what makes World TeamTennis great. Basically I was proud to be part of it."
"It definitely was a great match," agreed Kastles owner Mark Ein after the match. "We see eye to eye that it was one of the best matches you could ever have. I think it was unfortunate that we got a point penalty when our player was tagged with a serve, which in the more than 60 combined years that our team has played professional tennis, no one's ever seen, ever. One of the cardinal rules of tennis you learn when you're a little kid is you never cross the net. In every other match that's an automatic default. For that to happen, and then for us to get a point penalty, which changed the momentum dramatically to start a tiebreaker, that was really unfortunate. But it definitely was a great match, and it was a great experience for the fans."
The loss ended a five-match winning streak for the Kastles, who would fall in the next two matches to an all-time Kastles W-L low of 5-7. But the team rallied from that point on to finish the season 7-7. And it was the Kastles who would get the last of the Sportimes.
Washington defeated New York, 22-19, in the Eastern Conference Championship eight days later and on the same Kastles Stadium court where the Paes and McEnroe fireworks occurred. That victory not only earned the Kastles sweet revenge but also a spot in the WTT championship match two days later. The Kastles ended up winning the WTT Title in another thrilling match over the Springfield Lasers two days later at Kastles Stadium in only their second year in the league. Although the Kastles emerged with the league championship, the first in team history, perhaps the most memorable match from the season was this match against the Sportimes.
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