The inaugural season of the New York Empire got underway on Sunday night, as the defending champion Washington Kastles came into West Side Tennis Club and defeated the Empire 22-15 on the opening night of the 2016 Mylan World TeamTennis season.
The thunderstorms hovering over Forest Hills managed to hold off for a few hours to allow play to happen, and the fans were treated to high quality tennis. The five-time defending champion Kastles got things started with a 5-4 win at Men’s Doubles, as Leander Paes and Denis Kudla outlasted Neal Skupski and Guido Pella in a tiebreaker to take the early lead.
The Kastles would extend its lead to 10-6 after Martina Hingis and last year’s Female MVP Anastasia Rodionova defeated Christina McHale and Maria Irigoyen 5-2 in the Women’s Doubles set.
The Empire would not go away quietly, though, as Pella took on Kudla in the Men’s Singles set. In the fourth game, he broke at love for the 3-1 lead, and went on to serve out the set 5-2 to trim the Kastles advantage to just 12-11 after three sets.
But the legendary mixed doubles tandem of Paes and Hingis would extend the Washington lead in the fourth set. At 4-2 in the set, McHale and Skupski would set up a break point, but Hingis won the massive point at three-all to win the set 5-2, and push the Kastles lead to 17-13 heading into the final set.
Two Americans would battle in the Women’s Singles set, as McHale took on Madison Brengle of the Kastles. Brengle broke in the opening game and never looked back, going on to win 5-2 to clinch the 22-15 Kastles victory.
“I think [the atmosphere] was great. I was just disappointed in how I played,” said McHale, who played three sets on Sunday after flying in from Montreal earlier in the day. “It was tough. Credit to them, they played well. I have a taste of this now and I hope we can continue to improve heading into tomorrow.”
Next up for the Empire is Caroline Wozniacki and the Philadelphia Freedoms, who will visit Forest Hills on Monday night.
“It was great to be out here for the first time. It’s an unbelievebale set up they have going on here, and it was nice to get back on the court,” said Skupski, who won WTT Male Rookie of the Year last season as a part of the California Dream. “Unfortunately, we went up against a good team today, but hopefully we can bounce back tomorrow against Philadelphia.”