Hartford out-Foxes Kournikova’s crew
By PAUL ANGILLY, The Bristol Press
AVON -- Although back problems continue to keep her off the WTA Tour schedule, Anna Kournikova still drew a packed house into the Apple Arena at Blue Fox Run Golf Course Wednesday night for a World Team Tennis match. And while the home Hartford FoxForce emerged with a 24-18 victory over Kournikova’s Sacramento Capitals, many of those in attendance reserved their loudest cheers for the famed tennis calendar girl.
"It’s just an opportunity to be on the court again in front of the fans," Kournikova said of playing in the WTT league for the third straight year.
"Once you’ve been a professional athlete, there’s no other feeling like being on the court," she said.
While she says that returning to the WTA Tour still remains among her goals, she added, "I really don’t know what’s going to happen."
Playing in the WTT league is a great opportunity, she said, because it doesn’t require the type of total commitment and extensive training that playing on the WTA Tour does.
"My back doesn’t bother me when I play a week in a row," she said, although it does bother her when she tries to work out for six hours a day, like she would need to do on tour, she added.
"I’m taking my time, and whenever that I feel that I’m ready" she might consider a return to the tour, she said.
"If I come back, I want to be 100 percent," she added.
Hartford was already ahead 14-11 in the match when Kournikova took the court for the first time to play mixed doubles. She and partner Mark Knowles held her serve twice, but Hartford’s Don Johnson and Milagros Sequera won the set 5-3.
The match was delayed by rain in the middle of the third set (men’s doubles), then it was delayed again during the mixed doubles set. Only a fraction of the crowd remained through the second delay to see the end of the fourth set and the fifth set.
Kournikova and Nicole Vaidisova -- a 16-year-old German rising fast through the WTA rankings -- took a 4-2 lead over Hartford’s Sequera and Lisa McShea in the final set, but the FoxForce team rebounded to win the final three games to take the set and the match, avoiding the possibility of overtime.
Before taking the court, Kournikova said she enjoys participating in team events such as Fed Cup or World Team Tennis.
"It’s great. I love team events. The crowd gets into it," she said. "I’m very fortunate to have such a great team."
After dropping the second and third games, Hartford’s Wesley Whitehouse came back strong in the opening men’s singles set against Sacramento’s Sam Warburg, taking the next four games to put the FoxForce ahead 5-2 early.
Sequera then played an outstanding match against Vaidisova in women’s singles, winning the final point after the set was tied 4-4 in games and 4-4 in the set-deciding tiebreaker.
Sacramento’s Warburg and Knowles won the Capitals’ only set of the night, defeating Johnson and Whitehouse 5-4 in men’s doubles.
Hartford is now 5-1 this season, just one loss behind the first-place New York Sportimes (6-1) in the Eastern Conference standings. Sacramento falls to 4-3, in the midst of a close Western Conference race.