Washington Kastles hope to retain nucleus after championship season


Kastles Coach Murphy Jensen and player Rennae Stubbs jump for joy after beating St. Louis to win the World Team Tennis title. (Fred Mullane/camerawork usa/Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA)

Twice in the last three years the Washington Kastles have delivered a championship to a city whose professional teams have been short on titles of late.

And owner Mark Ein said Tuesday that he’s optimistic about keeping the nucleus of Washington’s World Team Tennis franchise together for the 2012 season.

“This has been the experience of a lifetime for them,” said Ein, who was on hand in Charleston, S.C., where the Kastles became the first team in the 36-year history of WTT to post an undefeated season when they finished off a 23-19 overtime victory over the St. Louis Aces early Monday morning to claim the league championship.

“They all want to come back, and I want them to come back.”

The Kastles closed their 16-0 season after rain halted the championship match three times, extending the five-sets competition to more than eight hours.

As was the story much of the season, every member of the Kastles had a hand in the outcome of the championship, a seesaw affair that ended at 1:03 a.m. Monday.

St. Louis opened by winning the mixed-doubles set (the Kastles’ strength), with Liezel Huber and Jean-Julien Rojer upsetting veterans Rennae Stubbs and Leander Paes, 5-3.

Stubbs teamed with Arina Rodionova to exact revenge by routing Huber and Tamira Paszek, 5-0, in women’s doubles. Paes and Bobby Reynolds followed suit with a 5-2 victory in men’s doubles.

Rodionova then edged Paszek, 5-4, to win women’s singles and was honored as the championship’s MVP as a result. St. Louis’s Roman Borvanov beat Reynolds in men’s singles and prevailed again in overtime, but the Kastles’ lead proved insurmountable.

Three Kastles claimed 2011 regular season honors: Paes, male MVP; Rodionova, female rookie of the year; and Murphy Jensen, coach of the year. Along with Reynolds, the 2010 male rookie of the year, and Stubbs, that’s largely the group Ein hopes to keep together.

He also hopes to bring back the squad’s two marquee players who weren’t in action for the championship — Venus Williams, who headlined the July 5 season opener at the Kastles’ new venue on the city’s Southwest waterfront, and her sister Serena, who drew first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia for her July 7 appearance.

Six of the Kastles’ seven home matches at Kastles Stadium on the Wharf were sell-outs.

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