Top 10 Greatest Hits of 2012 – Number 10: Winning the World Team Tennis Championship (September 16, 2012)
Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look back at how last year played out for me with a countdown of my Top 10 Greatest Hits of 2012. Here we go …
Tennis is mostly a solitary sport, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it this year with the Washington Kastles squad even more than in the previous years.. Since 2000 I have played nine seasons for the WTT on a few different teams but the last two years with the Kastles especially 2012 – was absolutely awesome.
In 2011 we not only won the championship but we went undefeated. I remember sending a text to my Mom that read, “Mom, It really felt amazing to play on a team. It was one of the best moments of my career.”
Coming off an undefeated season there is always added pressure and expectations, but the 2012 finals against Sacramento were straight out of a movie. After the Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, and Men’s Doubles matches, we were down by one point. Then, Leander Paes and I won the Mixed Doubles match so it was dead even going into the last match of the tournament: Women’s Singles.
I had been part of WTT championship teams before, but I had never played in the finals, much less in the last match of a tournament to determine the overall champion and keep a monumental win streak alive! Talk about crazy.
Carrying the hopes and dreams of a whole team onto the court is a lot of pressure, but it’s a lot of motivation too. I was so determined to keep our streak alive. I wanted to do my part. I felt like that was why I was there was: so I could bring my team up.
In what turned out to be a pretty historic occasion, I edged Coco Vandeweghe 5-4 to give the Kastles the championship and keep us undefeated for 32 straight matches. It was the first time in sports history that a team has gone undefeated in back-to-back seasons. The Kastles now have the second longest winning streak in history, after the 1971-72 Lakers who went 33 games without a loss. I will be playing with the Kastles again in 2013, so we’ll take a crack at that record and see if we can become the longest-winning team in sports. All of my teammates on the Kastles are like, “We thought the pressure was off!” but it’s still on. More than ever.
It took me weeks to come off the high of winning the World Team Tennis championship but it wasn’t about breaking records. For me, the best part was getting to experience what it is like to win on a team. Tennis isn’t centrally located. I play all over the world and I have fans spread out everywhere. I had never felt that kind of neighborhood “home team” pride and support as an athlete. I feel it as fan when I go to Miami Dolphin games, but to experience it as an athlete was amazing. Later on, I spent some time in Washington D.C. and Kastles fans were like, “Thanks for keeping us alive!” It was fantastic! When you play for a team sport it feels like you are playing for everyone. The whole city is right behind you. That felt so good.