Mashona Washington by Max Cook
In a dramatic come-from-behind victory, the Washington Kastles showed John McEnroe and the New York Sportimes that they are not to be messed with on their home court. What started out looking like an easy New York win, the match became a slug fest that came down to a women’s doubles “Supertiebreaker”. Mashona Washington and Sacha Jones out dueled Milagros Sequera and Hana Sromova, beating them 7 to 5 and giving the Kastles an 18-17 win.
For those of you not familiar with WTT, this is not your father’s tennis league. The World TeamTennis Pro League reminds me a little bit of the XFL, minus the part of being a complete failure. Mix world ranked players and high action, competitive tennis with cheerleaders, mascots, and fan contests, and you have WTT tennis. Also different from regular ATP tournaments is the format:
Each team is comprised of two men, two women and a coach. Team matches consist of five sets, with one set each of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The first team to reach five games wins each set. One point is awarded for each game won, and a nine-point tiebreaker is played if a set reaches four all. If necessary, Overtime and a “Supertiebreaker” are played to determine the outright winner of the match.
While DC’s Kastles are headlined by tennis giant Serena Williams, the other players on the team have some pretty impressive records of their own. Justin Gimelstob won 13 doubles titles on the ATP Tour and has career wins over Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter, and Gustavo Kuerten. At age 17, kiwi Sacha Jones was ranked No. 11 in the world as a junior and played for the New Zealand Fed Cup team this year. Their coach, Thomas Blake, was a two-time All American at Harvard University. And Scott Oudsema (who the ladies are sure to love) won Grand Slam junior titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open in 2004. These players are not messing around. With resumes like these, there’s no doubt about it – they play to win.
John McEnroe and Scott Oudsema by Max Cook
Last night’s men’s singles match between McEnroe and Oudsema was virtually no contest with Oudsema winning 5 of 7 games. As much of a tennis legend that McEnroe is, his 49 year old moves couldn’t keep up with the young 22 year old and his powerful serve. That didn’t prevent McEnroe from competing for every point; you can take the player out of tennis but you can’t take tennis out of the player. While he doesn’t quite throw the famous temper tantrums like he used to (“You’ve got to be kidding me!”), he was murmuring obscenities after many lost points (as every good tennis player does) and complaining to the camera crew that was moving around too much for his liking.
A night of WTT tennis for McEnroe is not like it is for the other players as he spends his “down time” signing tennis balls, doing TV interviews, and overseeing McEnroe impersonation contests. While he’s there to play tennis, he’s also there to entertain the fans who expect a few “Big Mac Moments”. It’s great to see a legend giving back to the sport that he loves and that made him who he is today.
There are quite a few matches left in the Kastles’ Season, including a match on Wednesday July 23rd against the St Louis Aces featuring Anna Kournikova. While ticket prices are a little steep ($40-60), there really isn’t a bad seat in Kastles Stadium, and whether you’re a big tennis fan or not, you are sure to have a great time. Bring the little ones too as the players from both teams hold an autograph session after the match to sign rackets, balls, or whatever else you bring along.
Scott Oudsema by Max Cook
Last night was my first opportunity to shoot a pro sports tournament and I have to say, it was a lot of fun. My camera (Canon 1D Mark III) was basically designed for sports shooters, and at the time of its release last year, it boasted the world’s fastest shutter speed at 10fps. When it’s firing at that speed it sounds a bit like a thumbing through a flip book – ratta tat tat – and comes in handy when you’re trying to capture fast action sports such as tennis.
John McEnroe by Max Cook
I only used one lens, my 70-200mm f/2.8 IS with lens hood attached. I thought about getting some wide angle shots of the stadium beforehand but was too mesmerized by the players, even if they were just warming up. I managed to fill two 2GB compact flash cards with roughly 600 jpeg images, and that’s even after I deleted many of them that either a) sucked or b) were out of focus. When you shoot at 10fps, it’s not hard to fill up your memory cards in a hurry.
Dealing with the changing light in the stadium was tough. Early in the match, the court was lit by the quickly setting sun. During twilight, I was still getting enough light at a low ISO setting (400-500) to achieve a fast shutter speed (> 1/600 second). But when the sun was completely gone and the only source of light was the stadium lighting, even at an ISO of 2000 and a wide open aperture, my shutter speeds were becoming too slow (1/360 second) and the autofocus was having trouble in AI Servo mode.
Sacha Jones by Max Cook
All in all I think I got some pretty good shots considering it was my first time shooting a sporting event, but next time I think I may try to shoot some RAW shots (jpegs aren’t very crisp) and eventually I may have to send my camera in to have its notorious autofocus issue repaired.
You can see all of my photos from the match here.