When Bobby Reynolds’s name is announced before each Washington Kastles’ home match, he’s announced as “The Closer.” Since 2010, he has been the man the team chooses to finish out matches. In that time, the Kastles won three World Team Tennis titles, and they will have an opportunity for a fourth in a row Sunday after a 21-16 win over Philadelphia in Thursday’s Eastern Conference championship.
More often than not this season, Coach Murphy Jensen opted to play Reynolds first, to start the match with the veteran's team-first energy and crowd-winning enthusiasm. That worked pretty well, too, as he won 55 games and helped Washington to a 10-4 regular season record.
On the night the Kastles announced Reynolds would retire at the end of this season, he dominated two of his final matches in D.C. He won his singles match’s first 10 points on his way to a victory and then served the conference-title clinching game in men’s doubles.
“I’ve always heard about Centre Court at Wimbledon or in Australia or the U.S. Open,” Reynolds told the crowd at George Washington’s Smith Center. “But this is my center court.”
Reynolds’s career-high singles ranking is 63rd. He is a team player misplaced in a sport where me-first competitiveness thrives. Reynolds was WTT’s male rookie of the year in 2010, the league’s MVP in 2012, and the “heart and soul” of the Kastles, as owner Mark Ein put it, for the past five years.
Martina Hingis, who played against Reynolds for two seasons before joining the Kastles, said he was the player she never wanted to see take the court for an opponent.
“I’d see him come on court and think ‘Ugh, Bobby’ because the match isn’t over, that’s why he’s famous for being the closer,” Hingis said. “I’d get my team the lead and then comes Bobby and think ‘Oh no.’ ”
Leander Paes, who paired with Reynolds in that match-closing doubles set and for the past five seasons, said Reynolds stands out among all the players he has played with and against in professional tennis for two decades.
“He maximizes all the talent he has,” Paes said. “. . . He’s one of the nicest guys off the court and the hardest workers on the court.”
Reynolds was the only player to play in all of the Kastles’ 34 straight wins from 2011 to 2012 and has been a part of three league championships, with a chance for four Sunday. He was the second-leading singles player in the league coming into Thursday night’s win, and he was ranked among the top five doubles players.
The Kastles’ constant filled that role typically Thursday night. Washington’s four losses are its most in any year since Reynolds debuted.
Hingis stumbled against Taylor Townsend, the 18-year-old who had been bewildered by the veteran Hingis’s guile in three previous meetings this season. Townsend kept the normally active Hingis on the baseline to stifle her trademark creativity and win, 5-2.
“She was more consistent,” Hingis said. “She hit a few shots that caught me off guard.”
Hingis and Paes rallied to take mixed doubles, but then Townsend whacked a shot off the head of doubles partner Liezel Huber. The 37-year-old had to retire a few points later, leaving Townsend to play out a quick set against Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova one-on-two. That left the match to Paes and Reynolds, and the latter served the duo to a 4-1 win in the clinching game.
Normally dictating, but on this night defensive, all Hingis could do as a looping Philadelphia return fell to the Smith Center floor was watch: she had long since given up on the shot as out or out of her reach.
The ball landed deep, and Hingis hollered, knowing her Kastles were now safely on their way to their fourth straight Eastern Conference title.
Two of the Kastles’ regular season losses came against the Freedoms in matches at Philadelphia. Coming into Thursday, the Kastles had won both the teams’ matchups in D.C.
Philadelphia’s doubles combination of Frank Dancevic and Marcelo Melo knocked Paes and Reynolds off 5-3 in the final match, but the Kastles’ pair won the final game that WTT rules require to earn the conference banner.