World TeamTennis: Victoria Azarenka Comes to Philadelphia

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:

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:

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.

Amy can be spotted on a tennis court in the Philadelphia area, shanking backhand volleys.

4 Responses

  1. Karen
    Karen July 16, 2014 at 5:19 pm |

    Thanks for this Amy. Its so funny, but I remember always looking forward to WTT each year, but with the advent of my TennisTV subscription, I end up watching watching tennis online. I really need to catch up on WTT. I am glad that it is now being shown on ESPN3 as it will really perhaps get more locals to come out and support the players.

    However, the sad fact is that tennis is really looking like it is on its last legs in the US and this is not good for those of us outside the US who rely on the major networks to offer coverage of these events. If people stop attending tennis tournaments then tournament directors will no longer make money, sponsors will not put money in and the sport will die.

  2. Master Ace
    Master Ace July 17, 2014 at 10:28 am |

    “If the leading team won set number six”

    Did you mean set number 5 (Men singles, men doubles, women doubles, women singles and mixed doubles)? If not, where did they get 6th set from? I do like where the winning team has to win the match by winning the last set, overtime or supertiebreak.

  3. Joshua
    Joshua July 21, 2014 at 4:32 am |

    Master Ace & Amy:

    I was confused by this too. The rules Amy linked to state that a match is “either 5 or 6 sets” but I couldn’t figure out why on earth there would be a 6th set (the rules say this sixth set is a second round of mixed doubles). I’ve never seen a six set WTT match (the sixth set is NOT overtime, which occurs only if the trailing team wins the final set, whether that’s fifth or sixth). The rules either don’t explain when/where/why a 6 set match might be played or did so in a way that I couldn’t understand.

    Incidentally — while this whole system is enormously confusing, it’s basically necessary for the format to work. In a normal best of five tennis match, the match can be over after three sets. Obviously, that would not work for WTT, which wants to maximize the “fun” and also their use of star players like Azarenka. So, they use cumulative scoring. But the fact is that you can still win the match outright in the third set as long as you led by more than 12 games — and you can effectively win the match in the middle of a set thereafter. So by requiring all sets to be played, and allowing the side that is behind in total games but won the final set to keep playing in overtime you leave alive the chance of victory for either team until the very end of the fifth (or sixth????) set (or overtime???).

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