Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

July 9, 2013

Move over Wilt: Kastles can pass Lakers' win streak

WASHINGTON — Oh, the audacity. A World TeamTennis club is challenging the Los Angeles Lakers for all-time winning streak supremacy.

The Washington Kastles began the WTT season riding a 32-game winning streak, following back-to-back unbeaten championship seasons. They liked to tell anyone who would listen that they were second only to the Lakers among the "longest winning streaks in major U.S. pro sports history.''

That changed Monday night when they won their season opener against the New York Sportimes - in front of a sellout crowd that included first lady Michele Obama - to tie the Lakers' mark of 33 from the 1971-72 season. Another win Tuesday against the Boston Lobsters would break the record.

Saying the Sportimes, Lobsters and Lakers are on a level playing field might make some chortle - but not the Kastles.

Leander Paes said he cried - yes, cried - when he had to leave the Kastles for a few games last year to represent India at the Olympic Games. He was fearful that his absence might cause the team to lose.

"I hurt for it,'' Paes said. "To me, playing the Olympics last year was huge. But leaving the Kastles to go for the Olympics and give it a chance to break the streak, I walked off the court in tears that day.''

Still, it's a tough sell - Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain taking a back seat to a team that plays its entire regular season in 17 days.

Most fans don't consider WTT to be a "major'' sports league. The matches have more of an exhibition feel, with the sport's top players making only featured appearances on certain nights. It would look more like the majors and less like Triple-A if, say, Roger Federer and Andy Murray were playing every match.

Nonetheless, these are professionals who are trying to win. And, in the Kastles' case, they keep doing it. Coming out on top 32 times in a row isn't easy in anything.

"It all depends on your perspective,'' Kastles coach Murphy Jensen said. "Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean (King), Chris Evert, the best tennis players that have ever played tennis have played World TeamTennis, and no team had gone undefeated. So to think this is anything less than the NBA or the NHL? Seriously? Five years ago, I would say absolutely, but not with the Washington Kastles. This organization is completely different than any other team in the league.''

Asked what makes it different, Jensen and his players have a two-word answer: Mark Ein, the team owner and entrepreneur who has created a winning culture that attends to every need of player and fan.

"Mark Ein is the architect, and he's put together a product that players want to perform and want to play for,'' Jensen said. "It is the most professional, elite World TeamTennis organization ever assembled. There are players knocking on the door that would only play for this organization.''

Jensen and three members of his roster - Paes, Anastasia Rodionova and Bobby Reynolds - were a picture of contentment and camaraderie as they talked and joked while sitting courtside before a practice Monday morning at the Kastles' immaculate waterfront stadium, which almost always sells out its 3,000 or so seats. Ein stood near the center of the court, his 2009 and 2011 WTT championship rings on his left hand and the 2012 ring on his right hand.

"Teams that are good, like the Patriots - granted they've got Tom Brady, but people come and go - they just have the right culture,'' Ein said.

Ein doesn't hedge when asked to defend the streak.

"I see what they have done to make this happen and what it means to them, and truly how hard it's been some nights,'' Ein said. "I really believe, deeply believe, that this streak is as hard as any of the other streaks. Eight of our matches have been decided by one game. We've had 10 match points against us. It's not like we've killed everyone every night. There have been a lot of close matches, and they've managed to pull out the victory.''

The streak - and the debate over where it belongs in sports history - has brought invaluable attention to the Kastles and the WTT overall. That, in turn, has helped WTT promote its spectator-friendly brand of tennis, one that emphasizes the game's personalities.

The team aspect adds to the atmosphere. As does the streak. Opponents want to be the team that stops the Kastles' winning run. And each of the Kastles players doesn't want to be the one that has a bad night that cause it to end.

So far, at least, they've had each other's backs.

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0111web.jpg ‘Team behind the Team’

    For the second-straight year, the Claremore Zebra student training staff will be represented in the Oklahoma Coaches All-State games held in Tulsa.
    Meranda Golbek and Sarah Szcinski, a pair of 2014 Claremore High School graduates, earned All-State honors for their athletic training careers and will join two other student trainers from Jenks and Stillwater High School on the East squad.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • FISHFRYweb.jpg Claremore QB Club holds Fish Fry Aug. 2

    The Claremore Zebra Quarterback Club will hold its annual Fish Fry fundraiser on Aug. 2 at the Claremore High School cafeteria.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former WTAMU men's basketball coach Rick Cooper tabbed Wayland Baptist AD

    Wayland Baptist University has named former Pioneer player and coach Rick Cooper as its new director of athletics.

    July 25, 2014

  • Arkansas men's basketball season tickets on sale

    Season tickets for the 2014-15 Arkansas men’s basketball campaign are now on sale, as head coach Mike Anderson’s fourth edition of the Razorbacks and their #Fastest40 style of play return six of their top seven scorers from last year’s club that won 22 games.

    July 25, 2014

  • BIG 12: OSU's Yurcich pumped up for second season

    With the 2014 season on the brink, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is ready for his second year at the helm after coaching a powerful offensive squad a year ago.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Moss smashes grand slam, A's blast Astros 13-1

    A warm day helped Brandon Moss reach another milestone and it helped Jeff Samardzija enjoy even more run support.

    Moss hit a grand slam and the Oakland Athletics gave Samardzija more run support than he has had all season in a 13-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Ross records 11 strikeouts, Padres rout Cubs

    Tyson Ross kept mowing down Chicago Cubs hitters, long enough for San Diego's suddenly potent offense to carry the Padres to victory for the second straight night.

    Ross struck out a career-high 11, and the light-hitting Padres broke out for a season-best nine runs in the sixth inning in a 13-3 rout of the Cubs on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Aoki's 14th-inning single lifts Royals past Indians, 2-1

    After four hours, 23 minutes and a dozen pitchers combining to throw 397 pitches, Nori Aoki gave the Kansas City Royals a win.

    Aoki singled home Lorenzo Cain in the 14th inning to lift the Royals to a 2-1 victory over Cleveland after Indians starter Corey Kluber carried a perfect game into the seventh inning on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: White Sox topple Twins, 5-2

    An impressive start from Hector Noesi was just a couple of pitches away from being something really special.

    Noesi allowed three hits over 7 2-3 innings, and Adam Eaton had three hits and two RBIs to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Chen helps Orioles blank Mariners, 4-0

    Wie-Yen Chen threw one of his finest games in the major leagues, allowing just five hits over eight innings in Baltimore's 4-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014