WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.V. (July 18, 2020) – The New York Empire brought something extra into their 2019 championship rematch with the Springfield Lasers; six-time Grand Slam Champion Kim Clijsters. The former No. 1 player in the world wasn’t on the team last season when the Lasers repeated as champions with a nail-biting 20-19 victory over the Empire in the WTT Finals in Las Vegas. The 37-year-old Clijsters, who has now won all nine sets she has played in WTT (Women’s Singles/Mixed Doubles), helped deliver two set victories and a late lead en route to the Empire’s 20-15 win.
The match was tense throughout, with Springfield opening a 4-2 lead in Mixed Doubles behind last year’s Finals MVP Robert Lindstedt and Caty McNally, only to see the Empire’s duo of Clijsters and 2019 WTT Male MVP Neal Skupski rally back. Clijsters would force the tiebreaker with a winner down the line to break McNally. The final point of the tiebreaker would come on a McNally double fault, giving the Empire the opening set, 5-4.
McNally and the Lasers would bounce back in a big way in the second set. Paired with Hayley Carter, Springfield would dominate the Empire’s Women’s Doubles team of Sabine Lisicki and Kveta Peschke, 5-1, to take a three-game lead.
Skupski and Jack Sock would pull the Empire within a game, 12-11, with a 5-3 Men’s Doubles victory over Lindstedt and Jean-Julien Rojer in the third set.
In Women’s Singles Clijsters would set the tone early by breaking Olga Govortsova in the opening game with a crosscourt winner at deciding point. Her 5-1 victory in Women’s Singles would give the Empire a 16-13 lead heading into the final set.
Jack Sock would close the show for New York by beating Mitchell Krueger 5-2 in the final set.
Skupski on the win: “It is nice to get a little victory over Springfield after the loss last year in the finals, which was a heartbreak. We’ll take a lot of confidence off of this.”
Empire Coach Luke Jensen on the respectful rivalry with Springfield “Honestly, I love the way they (Springfield) played last year, they earned it. So it wasn’t a revenge game, different players, some of the same components but different circumstances. We love the character of their team, the character of their organization. To keep it in perspective this is just one match of the regular season that is going to be a rock fight all the way to the end.”
Jensen on the addition of Kim Clijsters: “When I see someone like that who has come back because she has a tremendous positive relationship with tennis, a sport that has so much burnout, so many people that when they leave the stage they leave for life….Hey, sorry for the rest of the league. I think she’s only going to get more relaxed. She’s only going to get better.”
NEW YORK EMPIRE defeat Springfield Lasers, 20-15
Mixed Doubles – Neal Skupski/Kim Clijsters (Empire) def. Robert Lindstedt/Caty McNally (Lasers), 5-4 in a tiebreaker
Women’s Doubles – Hayley Carter/McNally (Lasers) vs. Kveta Peschke/Sabine Lisicki (Empire), 5-1
Men’s Doubles – Skupski/Jack Sock (Empire) def. Lindstedt/Jean-Julien Rojer (Lasers), 5-3
Women’s Singles – Clijsters (Empire) def. Olga Govortsova (Lasers), 5-1
Men’s Singles – Sock (Empire) def, Mitchell Krueger (Lasers), 5-2
NEXT SCHEDULED MATCH: Both teams get a day off, with the Springfield Lasers returning to action on Monday at Noon ET/9 AM PT and the New York Empire visiting the Orange County Breakers at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT. Both matches will be aired on Tennis Channel.