The New York Empire played its inaugural Mylan World TeamTennis (WTT) season this summer, as professional tennis returned to the historic Forest Hills Stadium at West Side Tennis Club. While the Empire didn’t finish with the record it would have liked after a 2-10 campaign, it was still a fun and exciting couple of weeks in Queens for New York tennis fans.
The Empire notched the first win in the franchise’s history on Aug. 3 at home, a 19-15 triumph over the Springfield Lasers, and the first road win came against the five-time defending WTT champion Washington Kastles on Aug. 8.
Despite the record, the Empire’s WTT debut season featured guest appearances by former U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, Long Island native Noah Rubin and fan-favorite Marcus Willis, who played in five of the final six contests of the season.
“I love the team atmosphere, it’s a lot fun and it’s competitive,” Willis said of the WTT format. “I think tennis should be fun. You don’t see a lot of smiles on the pro tour these days, and we have a pretty nice life. This is a great way to get on the court and play some of the best players in the world.”
New Jersey native Christina McHale made her WTT debut this season and echoed Willis’ sentiments.
“I wish we could’ve had a better record, but it’s been a fun experience,” said McHale. “Most of the time, it’s so serious when you’re playing in a tour match. But here, you have the fans cheering and getting loud, so it’s really fun. It’s been a busy two weeks, but a really fun two weeks.”
The season wasn’t just highlighted by the play on the court. The Empire hosted an LGBTQ Pride Night with former NBA player Jason Collins as special guest coach, as well as a Salute to Strong Women Night, which featured a ceremony and appearances by Billie Jean King, former WNBA player Kym Hampton and Olympic Gold Medalist Sarah Hughes among other successful women.
The Empire will be back and better in 2017, and will look to build on its performance this past season.
“It’s been a ton of fun,” said Empire Head Coach Patrick McEnroe about the New York crowd this year. “We came up a little short, it wasn’t quite the record we were looking for, but I think for year one, we’ve got a few things to build off of. I love West Side Tennis Club, the crowds have been great, and I think it’ll serve us well going forward. Even in the matches where we were down and out, the crowd hung around and stayed until the end, so I think that’s a real positive. We’ll work hard and try to build for next year.”
Credit all photos to Sidney Beal III, Brian Coleman, Emma Fein & Lee Seidner
Christina McHale sets up for a backhand against the Washington Kastles during the NY Empire's first ever match
Long Island’s own Noah Rubin helped lead the Empire to its first ever World TeamTennis win in franchise history against the Springfield Lasers
The Empire after their 19-15 win over the Springfield Lasers, the first win in franchise history
Andy Roddick joined the Empire at West Side Tennis Club against the Washington Kastles, playing singles and pairing with Neal Skupski in men's doubles
Mylan World TeamTennis and the NY Empire gave kids tons of access on the court throughout the season
Maria Irigoyen shows off her doubles skills for the Empire, including this shot against the Washington Kastles
Neal Skupski, a late addition to the New York Empire roster, displayed excellent doubles work during his time in Forest Hills
Marcus Willis of Wimbledon fame dazzled the crowd at Forest Hills, beginning with his singles performance against the Orange County Breakers
NY Andy Roddick returns a serve during his match against the Washington Kastles
Despite their record, the New York Empire had a lot of fun throughout their inaugural season
Salute to Strong Women Night, featuring Billie Jean King, was one of the popular events during the inaugural WTT season for the Empire