Olsen, Sperling Lead Stars at Kastles Charity Classic
Two star-studded rosters of politicians, members of the media, sports figures and current Kastles players battled to the final point in the first-annual Washington Kastles Charity Classic, proving that Republicans, Democrats, Administration and Congress can work together when there is a good cause and team tennis involved.
In the innovative and entertaining match between the Stars and Stripes teams, it was the Stars, led by DC United coach Ben Olsen and Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling, who emerged victorious 41-39.
The real winners were Share Our Strength, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and D.C. Public Education Fund. The three charitable organizations shared all of the profits from ticket sales as well as extra funds from the event underwriter Walmart and other sponsors Comcast, Verizon and the Washington Kastles.
Tiebreakers and Mylan World TeamTennis rules were in play throughout the Washington Kastles Charity Classic, exposing some of Washington's most notable names to the exciting format that Kastles fans have come to know and love.
The Stars and Stripes competed in six doubles tiebreakers up to 7 and one doubles tiebreaker up to 10, with the team that accumulated the most points over the course of the evening emerging victorious.
Stars coach Murphy Jensen and Stripes coach Leander Paes wore microphones to add a bit of Kastles color to the evening, dishing out verbal jabs as often as the Kastles are winning matches these days.
The Stars got off to a strong start behind back-to-back winners by radio personality Mark Plotkin, who teamed with Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander to defeat Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans and DC Deputy Mayor Paul Quander 7-3. Councilwoman Alexander showed great moves on and off the court, dancing to "Peanut Butter Jelly Time."
In the second set, the Stripes tied the match score at 10-10 when broadcast journalists Bret Baier and Jonathan Karl showed great feel at the net to beat former Indiana Governor Evan Bayh and ex-Louisiana Senator John Breaux 7-3. The colorful Breaux competed despite knee replacement surgery that he is scheduled to undergo next week.
The third set pitted Kastles' teammates Paes and Bobby Reynolds against one another for a change. Playing with wooden racquets, Paes paired with Washington Redskins' Hall-of-Famer Darrell Green for the Stripes, while Reynolds partnered former Redskins' player Rocky McIntosh for the Stars.
Despite an amazing point from McIntosh in which the 6-foot-2, 242-pound linebacker outdueled Paes at the net, the Stripes won the third set 7-4.
The Stars rallied to tie the match score at 21 by clinching the fourth set 7-4. Gene Sperling hit winners on the final two points as he and fellow economist Alan Krueger defeated Bloomberg's Peter Cook and Hans Nichols.
Paes and Reynolds returned to the court for the fifth set, which pitted the undefeated Kastles' mixed doubles team of Paes and Anastasia Rodionova against Reynolds and Arina Rodionova.
The Kastles got a kick out of playing one another. As Arina Rodionova lined up to hit a second set at 1-2, Paes asked Reynolds across the net: "How safe do you feel, Bobby?"
Reynolds replied: "Not at all," before ducking for cover as Paes scorched a return over his head and beyond the baseline.
Paes and Anastasia Rodionova won five of the last six points to claim the tiebreak for the Stripes, much to the dismay of Stars' coach Jensen.
"You're hitting to the best doubles player in the history of the game. Are you insane?" Jensen hollered at Reynolds, who directed a majority of his shots at Paes during the set.
The sixth set came down to the deciding 6-6 point of a tiebreaker following an impressive display by Olsen and Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette of the Stars and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin and former Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers of the Stripes.
An Olsen overhead winner on the last point cut the Stripes' lead to 34-31 going into the final tiebreaker up to 10 points.
Olsen and Sperling started the final tiebreaker for the Stars against Nichols and Karl of the stripes. The Stars jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind three winners before Coach Jensen and Coach Paes began making substitutions to get all of their other players involved.
Not everybody returned to the court with a racquet in hand. McIntosh took over the role of a ballboy at the net -- becoming unofficially the biggest ballperson in the history of tennis.
The one constant in the tiebreak was Sperling, who never left the court. After the Democrat nailed Baier at the net to make the score 7-2, Republican Congressman LaTourette remarked to his teammate: "Sperling, I take back everything I ever said about you."
Sperling finished the tiebreaker alongside Krueger, and when Wolin's backhand landed long on match point, Team Stars had completed a come-from-behind victory. As Coach Jensen ran after the Kastles Trophy, McIntosh performed unofficially the biggest back handspring in the history of sports celebrations.
Thanks to all of the participants, sponsors and fans for a magical night for three great causes!
Washington Kastles Charity Classic Results
Team Stars def. Team Stripes 41-39
Mark Plotkin/Yvette Alexander (Stars) d. Jack Evans/Paul Quander (Stripes) 7-3
Bret Baier/Jonathan Karl (Stripes) d. Evan Bayh/John Breaux (Stars) 7-3
Darrell Green/Leander Paes (Stripes) d. Rocky McIntosh/Bobby Reynolds (Stars) 7-4
Alan Krueger/Gene Sperling (Stars) d. Peter Cook/Hans Nichols (Stripes) 7-4
Paes/Anastasia Rodionova (Stripes) d. Reynolds/Arina Rodionova (Stars) 7-3
Steve LaTourette/Ben Olsen (Stars) d. Larry Summers/Neal Wolin (Stripes) 7-6
Olsen/Sperling (Stars) d. Karl/Nichols (Stripes) 10-5*
* Substitutions were made throughout the set for all players but Sperling.