Lasers doused in WTT opener
Five-time league champion Sacramento wins key points in close games to pull away.
The Lasers' Rick Leach
feathers a touch volley over the net Monday during his doubles match.
MARK SCHIEFELBEIN / FOR THE NEWS-LEADER
making her Springfield Lasers debut, unleashes a forehand return during the mixed doubles match against the Sacramento Capitals. Smashey and Rick Leach lost 5-1 to Sacramento's team of Mark Knowles and Elena Likhovtseva.
Kelly McCain of the Lasers
cuts loose on a service return Monday night during her women's doubles match with Kaysie Smashey at Cooper Tennis Complex.
MARK SCHIEFELBEIN / FOR THE NEWS-LEADER
Welcome to World TeamTennis.
If the intricacies of the league's format or the crazy travel schedule don't get you, the Sacramento Capitals usually will.
The Springfield Lasers opened their 10th WTT season Monday night on a frustrating note, falling 25-12 to the five-time league- champion Capitals in front of a paid attendance of 1,200 at the Cooper Tennis Complex.
Sacramento, which boasts the No. 5 men's doubles player (Mark Knowles) and No. 16 women's singles player (Elena Likhovtseva) in the world, never trailed. The Capitals cruised to relatively easy wins in mixed and women's doubles and never looked back.
The score may have been deceptively one-sided, though, as Sacramento won 12 of 15 crucial game points — 3-all points that give the game to the point winner.
"If we had been able to get some more of those (3-all) points, it really could have made it closer," said new Laser Rik De Voest, who picked up the only Springfield win of the night with a 5-4 (5-1) victory over Sam Warburg in men's singles. "We play them again (Wednesday), so we'll see what happens."
Knowles and Likhovtseva took advantage of three 3-all wins to defeat Springfield's Rick Leach and Kaysie Smashey 5-1 in the opening mixed doubles match.
Likhovtseva and Ruxandra Dragomir Ilie defeated Smashey and Kelly McCain 5-2 in women's doubles, but the Lasers rallied in men's doubles, as Leach and De Voest took Knowles and Warburg to the final point, falling 5-4 (5-4 tiebreak).
In women's singles, McCain was no match for Likhovtseva, who played in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last week, falling 5-0.
In the final set, De Voest and Warburg held serve through 4-4, but De Voest outlasted the former NCAA doubles champion from Stanford in the tiebreaker. WTT rules say a match cannot end if the team that trails wins the final set, forcing overtime. Needing just one game to end OT, Warburg won on serve to close the match.
With an all-new Lasers team that includes two rookies, the introduction to WTT was an eye-opener.
"It was a learning experience," Smashey said. "There were a lot of unkowns before the match, and it took me a little time to get into it. But now we know what to expect, and we'll be ready next time."
That next time comes tonight, when the Lasers face the defending league champion Newport Beach Breakers in Newport Beach, Calif.
"The schedule is tough, but it's fun to be out here playing," Leach said. "But we want to be competitive. ... I think the match was closer than the score showed tonight. We're better than that."
The Lasers face the Houston Wranglers at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Cooper.
<LI>Who's that guy?
De Voest's purple Lasers uniform sported the name "Devorst" on its back. Instead of being upset, the easy-going De Voest saw it as a chance to change history.
"I'm undefeated, I guess," said De Voest, who won in singles and lost in doubles. "The other guy lost."
De Voest said Lasers officials assured him he'd have a new uniform in time for Friday's match.
Sacramento 25, Springfield 12 (OT)
— Mark Knowles-Elena Likhovtseva (Sacramento) def. Rick Leach-Kaysie Smashey, 5-1; Women's doubles
— Likhovtseva-Ruxandra Dragomir Ilie (Sacramento) def. Smashey-Kelly McCain, 5-2; Men's doubles
— Knowles-Sam Warburg (Sacramento) def. Leach-Rik De Voest, 5-4 (5-4); Women's singles
— Likhovtseva (Sacramento) def. McCain, 5-0; Men's singles
— De Voest (Springfield) def. Warburg, 5-4 (5-1). Overtime
— Sacramento 1, Springfield 0