The New York Empire presented by Citi faces a must-win scenario on Wednesday, July 31 and playoff uncertainty after falling to the first-place Philadelphia Freedoms tonight at Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in The Bronx, 25-15.
The Empire move to 7-6 while Philadelphia improves to 11-2 on the season.
The Empire travel to Philadelphia to close out the home-and-home series on Wednesday and must finish the World TeamTennis regular season as one of the top four teams in the overall standings without tying with the San Diego Aviators and Orange County (Calif.) Breakers for the last playoff spot. The Aviators and Breakers, both currently playing matches, hold tiebreakers against the Empire if the season ends with all three teams having the same record.
U.S. Davis Cup captain Mardy Fish jumped out to a 3-1 lead for the Empire in the first set of the match but Philadelphia’s Mitchell Krueger fought back forcing game point at set point down 4-3, and for the second night in a row, Fish faced a tiebreaker to give his team a first-set win. The young Krueger pushed the former American No. 1, Fish, to the limit and eked out the tiebreaker and set win, giving the Freedoms a 5-4 lead.
Philadelphia’s women’s doubles team of Raquel Atawo and Taylor Townsend took Krueger’s momentum and didn’t slow down taking the set, 5-1, over the Empire’s Varvara Lepchenko and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
The second tiebreaker of Fish’s night occurred in the third set when he returned to the court with Empire doubles specialist Neal Skupski. The duo took the Freedoms’ Krueger and Fabrice Martin to a score of 4-4, not only in the set, but also the tiebreaker. Kruger’s 135 mph serve gave the Freedoms the set and extended its lead to 15-9.
Philadelphia’s Townsend showed why she’s currently WTT’s top-ranked women’s singles player, jumping out to a 3-0 lead against the Empire’s Lepchenko before winning the fourth set, 5-1.
The final set of the match featured the Empire’s Skupski and Martinez Sanchez lined up across from the Freedoms’ Martin and Atawo. Down 20-10 in the match, New York faced the unsurmountable task of not only winning the set to force Extended Play, but not dropping a single game once Extended Play began.
Skupski and Martinez Sanchez forced the final set into a tiebreaker and won, 5-4, sending the match into Extended Play. Facing deciding point in the first game and a powerful serve from Martin, the Empire fell short, 25-15.
Women’s Doubles: Atawo/Townsend (PHL) def. Lepchenko/Martinez Sanchez (NYE), 5-1
Men’s Singles: Mitchell Krueger (PHL) def. Fish (NYE), 5-4
Men’s Doubles: Mitchell Krueger/Fabrice Martin (PHL) def. Fish/Skupski (NYE), 5-4
Women’s Singles: Townsend (PHL) def. Lepchenko (NYE), 5-1
Mixed Doubles: Skupski/Martinez Sanchez (NYE) def. Martin/Atawo (PHL), 5-4
Extended Play: Martin/Atawo (PHL) def. Skupski/Martinez Sanchez (NYE), 1-0
The Empire closes the 2019 WTT regular season in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 31 against the Freedoms. The WTT Playoffs begin on Friday, Aug. 2 as the top four teams play at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The WTT Final will follow on Saturday, Aug. 3.
The Empire, in partnership with the Women’s Sports Foundation, held a special ceremony between the third and fourth sets tonight honoring International Tennis Hall of Famer and Co-founder of World TeamTennis, Billie Jean King.
In addition to King, the two groups honored Executive Director of the Women’s Sports Foundation Deborah Antoine, District Attorney of Bronx County Darcel D. Clark, Council Member of the 16th District of New York City Vanessa Gibson, Four-time Olympian and Team USA’s Flag Bearer at the 2018 Winter Olympics Erin Hamlin, Chief Strategy & Impact Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation Olga Harvey, Executive Director of the Cary Leeds Center Liezel Huber, World Rugby Hall of Famer and USA Rugby's Player of the Decade Phaidra Knight, Parks Commissioner of Bronx Borough Iris Rodriguez-Rosa and Emmy Award Winning Television Anchor Michelle Yu.