Friday, July 15, 2011

World Team Tennis - Everything I Dreamed of and More

This past week, I finally attended my first ever World Team Tennis match. What is World Team Tennis you ask? It's a league where each of 9 cities have a team of current pros, up-and-coming pros (i.e. lower ranked), and then a few legends sprinkled in. When there's a match, they play 5 slightly abbreviated sets of: 1) men's singles, 2) ladies singles, 3) mixed doubles, 4) women's doubles, 5) men's doubles. However, to keep things interesting, the overall score for the match is based on number of games won. So essentially, both teams will always be in it until the end! However, the best thing was how much fun the event was. This is not normal tennis where everyone is hush-hush. It combined elements of other sporting events (dance music in between points, an MC to pump up the crowd, towel-waving, and even cheerleaders!).

I picked a date to see the Washington Kastles play the New York team, and while I originally thought I was going to see either Venus or Serena and John McEnroe (yes, the 52-year old) and Martina Hingis, it ended up being just McEnroe and Hingis as the superstars this night.

In terms of the tennis itself, the quality was fantastic. Both teams had players who knew how to play doubles (i.e. Leander Paes, Stubbs, McEnroe, Hingis). In addition, the points were competitive and top-notch. The rules for the game are pretty insane in that the overall game total is used. However, in the last set of the night, if the team that is losing in overall games wins the set, they go to "overtime." "Overtime" lasts until either the team that is ahead overall wins a game, or the losing team ties the overall score. For example, if a losing team is down 20 - 16 entering OT, the losing team has to win 4 straight games. If the losing team were to tie the overall score, the match then proceeds to the "SuperTieBreaker!" The supertiebreaker is one traditional tiebreaker, however it's just first to get 7 points (and not first to win by two). If you managed to make it through this explanation, you may also think that some of the awesomeness/insanity of the scoring system is reminiscent of the movie Baseketball's triple-elimination playoff system. For the record, I'm in favor of MLB moving to an 82-game season followed by a triple-elimination playoff, but I digress.

The match I saw was between the 1st place Washington Kastles (6-0) and the New York team (5-1). McEnroe was surprisingly awesome during the match. His serve still had some pace and was booming in fact. In addition, his net play was fantastic and McEnroe was still able to hit it back. The overall match got a little crazy at the end, as it ended with men's doubles. New York actually was losing overall entering the last event (men's doubles), but took a big lead in the last set such that they had a couple of match points. Washington fended off the match points and the way the score ended, the overall score was 19 all, meaning that we skipped overtime (since the overall score was tied), and went straight to "Supertiebreaker!" All I have to say is that it was a dream come true. The Supertiebreaker ended up being tied at 6-6, meaning that both teams had match point at the end! Washington ended up winning, pleasing the home crowd. I'm okay with that system of not having a win-by-two, only because it's shorter in terms of time and made for quite a lot of drama.

The memorable moments of the match were:
1) the supertiebreaker getting tied at 6-6, resulting in BOTH teams getting a match point!
2) McEnroe taking off his shirt and revealing he is indeed a bad-ass as he has two tattoos (which I found surprising)
3) Hingis' complete control of most points... and screwing up a bunch of game-points
4) A "Peanut Butter Jelly time" dance-off between the MC and a young girl. Here's one video of that if you don't know what I'm talking about (note: Family guy has blocked any decent quality videos of them doing it, but here's one low quality one of Brian doing it)
5) Tennis cheerleaders! & tennis cheerleaders almost getting hit by random serves
6) Awesome dance music in between points and obnoxious Austin Powers, "Yeah, baby!" sound bites, followed by the umpire saying in a hushed tone, "Quiet Please."
7) Washington coach Murphy Jensen throwing his towel on the court in the middle of a point to challenge a call, resulting in McEnroe yelling at him, "You can't do that in the middle of the point!"
8) Allowing coaches/teammates to talk to players in the middle of the game to adjust strategies (which is not allowed normally in tennis)

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