|Anastasia Rodionova won in singles and mixed.
(Photo by Willis Bretz)
Nothing, not even Mother Nature, can stop the Washington Kastles it seems. After waiting out a 90-minute rain delay, the reigning World TeamTennis champions needed only 109 minutes to dismiss the Philadelphia Freedoms 22-13 for their 21st consecutive victory.
Despite the late start, stands full of rambunctious Kastles' fans stayed until Bobby Reynolds
closed out the match. They witnessed the Freedoms take an 8-7 lead through two sets after Czech twins Karolina
and Kristyna Pliskova
defeated Kastles' sisters Anastasia
and Arina Rodionova
5-2. It would be the only set lost by Washington all night.
After that, it was all Kastles as Washington swept the final three sets by a combined score of 15-5. Leander Paes
and Anastasia Rodionova improved to 5-0 in mixed doubles, as Reynolds did in men's singles. By virtue of his 5-1 win over Luka Gregorc, Reynolds has now closed 14 of the Kastles' 21 wins since the start of the 2011 season.
MXD - Paes/Anastasia Rodionova (WAS) def. Kerr/Kristyna Pliskova (PHL) 5-3
Something had to give in mixed doubles, which pitted the 4-0 Paes and Rodionova against the 2-0 Jordan Kerr
and Kristyna Pliskova. But for much of the set, nothing gave: Neither team earned a break point until the final game.
That's not to say that there weren't spectacular points along the way. Paes won the third game of the set by carving a backhand drop volley to bring Kerr into the net, then cutting across the net and placing his next volley in the exact spot of the court that Kerr vacated.
The left-handed Kristyna Pliskova responded with a love service hold that included two service winners and an ace.
But in Pliskova's next service game, with the Kastles leading 4-3, Washington worked its way to the first break point of the set. As Pliskova stepped to the service line, Kastles' coach Murphy Jensen
called a timeout, icing the server.
Following the break, Rodionova nailed a deep return to draw a high ball from Pliskova that Paes attacked instantly for a winner, clinching a fifth victory for him and Rodionova this season.
Washington leads 5-3.
WD - Ka. Pliskova/Kr. Pliskova (PHL) def. An. Rodionova/Ar. Rodionova (WAS) 5-2
The women's doubles set pitted the Rodionova sisters of Washington against the Pliskova twins of Philadelphia -- a family feud on USTA/Family Night.
Early on, it appeared that the Rodionovas would get the upper hand on the 20-year-olds from the Czech Republic, who entered tonight's match as the top-ranked women's doubles pair in the league.
With the set score 1-1, Anastasia Rodionova whipped forehand after forehand at Karolina Pliskova until the right-handed Pliskova broke down and made an error. That set up two break points for the Rodionovas, but Arina missed a lob on the first and Karolina cracked an ace on the second to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead.
Arina Rodionova and Kristyna Pliskova held to make the set score 3-2 in favor of Philadelphia. Then, just like that, the Pliskovas made their move -- each twin hitting a winner and Anastasia Rodionova making two forehand errors to allow the Freedoms to break for 4-2.
Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova saved their best game for last, with Kristyna hitting two volley winners and Karolina striking a stirring crosscourt forehand winner to take the set 5-2 and give the Freedoms the lead.
Philadelphia leads 8-7.
MD - Paes/Reynolds (WAS) def. Kerr/Gregorc (PHL) 5-2
The men's doubles set got off to a nightmarish start for Washington when Reynolds uncharacteristically double-faulted three times to give away the first game.
Any question of Reynolds' form, however, was erased in the next game when he nailed a backhand return at Kerr's body to break Philadelphia's serve right back.
Reynolds, who appears to have added velocity to his serve this season, held easily in his second service game to give Washington a 3-2 lead.
In the next service game, Kerr lost a 2-0 lead when Paes chipped an inside-out backhand return past both Freedoms for a winner, then Reynolds belted a return to set Paes up for a volley put-away.
Kerr missed a volley to concede two break points to the Kastles, and on the first Paes failed in his attempt to cut across the court and intercept a volley at 2-3.
But on the second, Paes decided to make the same play, poaching off of Reynolds' return with the hope of attacking a high ball off the Freedoms' first volley. This time, Paes got the shot he was looking for and knifed a backhand winner down the line, high-fiving three fans in the front row to celebrate the break.
There was no stopping Paes from that moment; he held serve at love to clinch the set for the Kastles 5-2.
Washington leads 12-10.
Arina Rodionova and Coach Murphy Jensen show support in mixed doubles.
(Photo by Willis Bretz)
WS - Anastasia Rodionova (WAS) def. Karolina Pliskova (PHL) 5-2
For the fourth straight set, the Kastles and Freedoms changed sides of the court after four games with the score at 2-2.
Anastasia Rodionova had led 2-0 before a rash of errors allowed Karolina Pliskova to even the set.
But something must have been said during the changeover that sparked the fiery Australian, because she was a changed woman from that moment on.
After holding for 3-2, Rodionova made a concerted effort to approach the net, hitting winners with a forehand volley and an overhead smash to set up break point.
Pliskova was back on the offensive as she desperately tried to hold serve and keep the Freedoms' hopes alive. She belted a down-the-line forehand that against most players would have been a winner. But Rodionova used her long wingspan, lunged, and retrieved the shot with a lob.
Seemingly waiting forever for the ball to drop, Pliskova dumped her next forehand into the net, rewarding Rodionova for the extra effort she gave to keep the point alive.
Now leading 4-2, Rodionova served out the set in style. She bashed two crosscourt backhand winners in the final game, winning what turned out to be the most important set of the match.
Rodionova's strong performance lifted Washington to a five-game lead with one set remaining.
Washington leads 17-12.
MS - Reynolds (WAS) def. Gregorc (PHL) 5-1
You knew Bobby Reynolds was in the zone that all great closers long to be in when early in his singles set he hit a screaming forehand winner. Literally.
The third-year Kastle yelled "YEAH" for the entire stadium to hear, almost instantly after flattening a down-the-line winner that whizzed by a helpless Gregorc.
After three holds to start the set, Reynolds broke the Freedom rookie with a backhand return that dribbled off the net and onto Gregorc's side.
Dropping his groundstrokes deep in the court and within inches of the sidelines, Reynolds moved Gregorc at will behind the baseline, holding for 4-1 with an overhead smash that became a souvenir for a fan sitting in a Premier Courtside Box.
Another down-the-line winner by Reynolds -- this time a backhand -- set him up with match point, which he converted when Gregorc netted a volley.
For a guy who double-faulted three times in his first game of the evening, Reynolds did a complete 180 by the night's end, justifying why Coach Jensen has scheduled men's singles as the final set in the last seven Washington home matches.
Washington wins 22-13.
Bobby Reynolds closed out Win No. 21 in a row.
(Photo by Willis Bretz)