CHARLESTON, S.C. – Kevin Anderson got Sacramento off quickly with a men's singles victory and the Capitals swept into the World Team Tennis championship with a 25-15 victory over top-seeded Orange County in the Western Conference finals Friday night.
Anderson, a 6-foot-8 South African playing his first season in the WTT, had lost twice to Orange County's John-Patrick Smith during the regular season, yet broke his opponents serve at 3-all and served out the opening set. Sacramento then won the four other tennis disciplines — mixed doubles, men's doubles, women's singles and women's doubles — that make up World Team Tennis in a dominant showing.
"I happy to get that win and, more importantly, give us a good start," Anderson said.
Sacramento (8-7) moves into Sunday's championship finals. It will face Washington, which features seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, or New York, led by fiery John McEnroe. The Eastern Conference finals take place Saturday night at Family Circle Tennis Center.
Anderson had a hand in more than just the singles, though. He won Sacramento's first service game in mixed doubles before coming out for substitute Mark Knowles, a match the Capitals won 5-4. Anderson later teamed with Knowles to take the men's doubles match, 5-1, over Orange County's Smith and Travis Parrott.
Sacramento's Coco Vandeweghe defeated Jana Juricova, the 2011 NCAA singles champion from Cal, in women's singles 5-4. The Capitals doubles team of Asia Muhammed and Yasmin Schnack completed the sweep with a 5-3 win over Juricova and Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
World Team Tennis is usually wrapped up by now, but the mid-summer league delayed its finals until now because of the tennis competition at the London Olympics, plus the run of established summertime tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open.
It didn't take long for Sacramento to mesh from the seven-week layoff. Vandeweghe said the Capitals players have played with and against each other for years and have established friendships that don't disappear simply because of the tennis schedule. "It's really not that difficult to become a close-knit group again," she said.
It's the second straight year the WTT held its championship weekend along South Carolina's coast. The venue plays host each year to the WTA's first clay-court event, the Family Circle Cup, in April. This past tournament, the court was re-christened for WTT co-founder and tennis icon Billie Jean King as part of the celebration last spring honoring women's tennis' "Original 9," who reunited at the 40th anniversary of the Family Circle.
King watched courtside and interacted with the crowd during the Western Conference finals. She was glad the city had additional time to promote the event, but took a wait-and-see approach if holding the finals nearly two months after the regular-season would work for the league.
It certainly didn't work for Orange County, which entered as the top team in the Western Conference. Since the season ended, though, the club lost its biggest name, Lindsay Davenport, to injury. Still, Breakers coach Trevor Kronemann thought his best chance was having his women players compete at the end to lock down a victory. When Smith, named the WTT male rookie of the year for 2012, lost his early match, it put Orange County in a hole it couldn't get out of, the coach said.
"We had the momentum going in at the end of the season," Kronemann said. "Yeah, if we're going to Monday morning quarterback, you can say, 'Wow, we won three of the four we played them during the regular season.' This was a pretty big difference. But what are you going to do."
That's what Sacramento might say if it gets the chance to face defending champion Washington, which has a two-year, 30-match win streak coming into the weekend. The Kastles completed the WTT's first undefeated season here a year ago, winning a championship final that took more than eight hours to play because of bad weather. The forecast looks good and Anderson thinks his club might have what it takes to end Washington's run.
"This being my first time, getting into the finals is great," he said. "I'm sure some of us will come out and watch a few points tomorrow. But in this format, it's important to have fun."