As expected, a match with serious playoff implications played out like a heavyweight fight with the Orlando Storm and New York Empire exchanging haymakers throughout. The two teams entered seeded third (Orlando) and fourth (New York), respectfully, with the WTT regular season concluding on Thursday.
The match was intense and close throughout, featuring four tiebreaker sets, with Orlando eventually prevailing 23-21 in extended play. The win locks a playoff spot for the Orlando Storm, who have won six in a row, and stand at 9-4. The loss drops the Empire to 6-6, tied with the Washington Kastles for the final remaining playoff spot.
The first set, Mixed Doubles, set the tone as the two teams exchanged breaks before the Empire’s Jack Sock and Coco Vandeweghe were able to dominate the tiebreaker with the Storm’s Ken Skupski and Jessica Pegula, 5-0, to take a one game lead.
Pegula would exact some revenge on the Empire in the next set, scoring a 5-2 win for the Storm in Women’s Singles thanks to a break on a double fault by Vandeweghe on deciding point.
Sock would punch back in Men’s Singles, coming off the deck a break down to beat the Storm’s Tennys Sandgren in a tiebreaker to pull the Empire within a game, 13-12.
The fourth set, Women’s Doubles, featured New York’s newly acquired tandem of Vandeweghe and Melichar against the Storm’s duo of Pegula and Darija Jurak. Pegula and Darija would win the seesaw battle in a tiebreaker, 5-4, giving the Storm an 18-16 lead heading into the final set; Men’s Doubles.
The Empire’s Sock and Neal Skupski would battle tooth and nail with Sandgren and Neal’s older brother, Ken Skupski, with New York winning a critical tiebreaker to force extended play. With Orlando ahead, 22-21, Sandgren would hold serve in extended play, dashing New York’s comeback hopes.
“The team was awesome tonight. The girls played fantastic,” said Sandgren. “Everyone wanted to do their best tonight and try and get that playoff spot. People showed up and played well.”
Orlando Storm defeat New York Empire, 23-21
►Mixed Doubles: Jack Sock/Coco Vandeweghe (Empire) def. Ken Skupski/Jessica Pegula (Storm), 5-4
►Women’s Singles: Pegula (Storm) def. Vandeweghe (Empire), 5-2
►Men’s Singles: Sock (Empire) def. Tennys Sandgren (Storm), 5-4
►Women’s Doubles: Pegula/Darija Jurak (Storm) def. Vandeweghe/Nicole Melichar (Empire), 5-4
►Men’s Doubles: Sock/N. Skupski (Empire) def. K. Skupski/Sandgren (Storm), 5-4
►Extended Play: K. Skupski/Sandgren (Storm) def. Sock/N. Skupski, 1-0