Yesterday, Jeff and I went to a World TeamTennis match in Villanova — the Philadelphia Freedoms vs. the San Diego Aviators. Headlining the event was Victoria Azarenka, playing for the Freedoms. This was our Order of Play:
— Victoria Chiesa (@vrcsports) July 15, 2014
For those of you who have never seen a World TeamTennis match, this is what the court looks like for all WTT matches, complete with the colors:
— Amy Fetherolf (@AmyFetherolf) July 15, 2014
The scoring system is different than regular tennis. WTT decided that traditional tennis scoring was too confusing, so they came up with these totally simple rules instead:
After both mixed doubles sets are finished and scores are recorded and totaled, the procedure is as follows:
If the leading team won set number six, the match is over.
If the trailing team won set number six, the match continues into Overtime until the leading team wins one game or until the score is tied. If a tie occurs, a Supertiebreaker will be played to determine the winner.
If the overall score ends tied, a Supertiebreaker will be played to determine the winner.
Overtime is a continuation of the sixth set. Team number six should be designated as the strongest mixed doubles team. Once you have come out of the mixed doubles set, you cannot return in Overtime. The first person to serve in Overtime is the person who was next to serve at the end of the sixth set. This Overtime rule gives the trailing team a chance to make a comeback.
The winner of the match is presumably whichever team actually figures out what’s going on.
I went to a World TeamTennis match last year with @StephintheUS. The most jarring thing about the WTT experience is that they play loud music between points. Whoever was running the sound system for last night’s match gloriously forgot that this was a thing for the first set and got me all excited that they had changed it, but sadly they started doing it when the singles play got underway.
Before play started, the announcer mentioned that Victoria Duval, who was supposed to play with the Freedoms before being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has been in constant contact with the team, and that the team would be wearing a patch in her honor during the match.
As the men’s doubles players warmed up, Billie Jean King, who sat on the Freedoms bench, was dancing to Gangnam Style. It is my greatest regret that I didn’t capture this on my cell phone camera.
(Sidenote: did you know that Elton John’s song, “Philadelphia Freedom,” was written for BJK and the Freedoms? I did not, until Wikipedia told me so.)
During the warmup, the announcer proclaimed, “Let’s see the biggest Freedoms fans!” Unfortunately, as he was saying this, the big screen was showing empty sections of the bleachers.
Another very entertaining aspect of WTT is the fact that the announcer talks between points. When Frank Dancevic couldn’t get to a winner from Somdev Devvarman, the announcer consoled him.
“Tough one, Frank. It was a great effort, Frank.”
Everything is sponsored at WTT. Any ace is a “Mylan ace.” A timeout is a “Geico timeout.” Also, they can take a timeout mid-game, which is really weird.
Jeff was quite disturbed by the fact that the chair umpire had no chair. She was standing on a podium for the entire thing. I think it’s the equivalent of one of those standing desks, which I could never use because I’m way too lazy.
The singles set between Frank Dancevic and Somdev Devvarman was enjoyable. Devvarman is an incredibly fast mover, and chased down almost everything Dancevic threw his way. Dancevic came out on top.
Victoria Azarenka, who played in women’s doubles, singles, and mixed doubles, was the main attraction. At first, she looked quite rusty. She wore a sleeve-type thing on her leg, apparently dealing with a minor thigh injury. She got better as she went on, though, and managed to come through in her singles match against Daniela, or as the announcer called her, “DanEELia” Hantuchova.
In a really unfortunate music choice, the DJ started playing “Party Rock Anthem,” as sung by Vika’s recent ex, Redfoo, between points during Vika’s match. It would’ve been a brilliant tactic to throw her off if she were on the visiting team, but that’s probably not what they were going for.
The final set, mixed doubles with Vika-Melo and Peschke-Klaasen, was highly entertaining. The match was tight, and Vika-Melo came back from a break down (I think — like I said, the scoring was confusing) to win it for the home team.
It was a lot of fun watching the players interact with each other. Taylor Townsend, who did not end up playing, was the Freedoms’ biggest cheerleader on the bench, and it was random to see her enthusiastically cheering on Marcelo Melo. It was funny to see Somdev get riled up about a line call in Hantuchova’s match.
The tennis was not extremely memorable, considering that it was basically an exhibition match. However, World TeamTennis is a nice showcase for top tennis players in cities that don’t have ATP or WTA tournaments. Not everyone can afford to travel to one of the few North American tournaments to see world class players, so this is a good way to get exposure to tennis at the highest level. It seemed as though the kids in the audience really enjoyed the format. I think Vika had fun, too.