Anna Kournikova by Max Cook
The Washington Kastles ended their regular season last night with a 22-17 win over the Western Conference’s last place St Louis Aces. Unfortunately, a beautiful night of tennis turned into quite a rainstorm. The sold out crowd was invited to stay dry in the VIP tent in hopes that the rain would pass, but as soon as the storm got worse and the tent started flooding, team owner Mark Ein made the call to move the match to the East Potomac Tennis Center at Hains Point. Once play resumed, sets of mixed doubles and women’s doubles were split between the two teams, forcing the match into overtime which was won by the Washington-Jones women’s duo.
One of the key ingredients in the success of World TeamTennis is star power. While most tennis fans can appreciate the quality of tennis that’s being played, it never hurts to toss in a player who is a household name. The Kastles have Serena Williams, the Sportimes have John McEnroe, and the Breakers have Lindsay Davenport. But there is star power and then there is celebrity power, which is what St Louis has in Anna Kournikova. Despite having a career high singles ranking of No. 8, two Grand Slam doubles wins at the Australian Open, and wins over such tennis legends as Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, and Martina Hingis, she is now best known for her supermodel looks and romantic involvement with Enrique Iglesias.
The peak of Kournikova’s tennis career may have come and gone, but as the saying goes, “sex sells”. This month she is on the cover of China’s Sports Illustrated despite not having played on the pro tour in over four years. Fans and media alike were gawking and giggling amongst themselves last night as soon as she made her way onto the court, myself included (minus the giggling). During the pre-match press conference, one guy jokingly asked another, “What should we ask her?” to which the other replied, “Ask her what she’s doing after the match.” My guess was that she caught the first plane (or rather private jet) back to Florida.
All in all, the inaugural season of the Washington Kastles was a huge success that laid the foundation of a great fan base. I think as more and more people become aware of the team, how fun the matches are to watch, and what World TeamTennis is all about, it will be a common thing to hear your friends ask, “Hey, you going to the Kastles match tonight?” I know I for one can’t wait for next year.