Great News! For the fourth straight year, Team USA has reached the finals of the Master’s U BNP Paribas Finals and will be competing for the Team Championships due to our 6-1 victory over Russia today. Today we will be battling the #4 seed Germany for the team title. Germany upset the host nation France 6-1.
Not much time to write, for it is getting late here in Aix en Provence (near Marseille in Southern France) and we have an early wake up call for tomorrow (Sunday) but we definitely want to share our joy in reaching the finals.
The team match begins with the two women’s singles matches and in our case these matches are always like a action pack thriller which begins with action packed escapades from the very beginning. As you can imagine, the strength in the Russian team is the incredible powerful Russian women players. We knew that we would be in a cat fight from the very first ball that was struck.
#1 Lauren Embree (University ofFlorida) fought tooth and nail in her win over her Russian opponent 6-2, 6-4. Don’t let the score mislead you, for every point was an epic with the fierce and violent ferocity of the Russians strokes matching up with the graceful finesse and steadiness of Lauren’s game. It looked like the Russian would take the second set when she grabbed a 3-0 lead, but Lauren’s composure and fortitude turned the tide to secure a 1-0 lead for the USA. On the adjacent court, Zoe Scandalis (USC)was in the exact battle. Zoe is the epitome of an athletic backboard who doesn’t truly overpower her opponent, but through her will power, retrieving ability, mental strength and patience will out last you. Her Russian opponent, hit the ball at the speed of light in an all or nothing assault. Zoe in every set found herself down in all three sets, but somehow always managed to sneak back in both the 2nd and 3rd sets. In the second set, she came back when down 3-5 to get into a tiebreaker. Once again, she was down in the tiebreaker (2-4) but was able to swing the tide and capture the second set. In the 3rd set, Zoe was again down a break but fought back to get herself into a tiebreaker to decide the match. She fell in the tie breaker, but not before she had sapped almost every bit of fuel from the gas tank of the Russians resolve.
The tide swung with a Jarmere Jenkins (University of Virginia) men’s singles thrashing with a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Evan King (University of Michigan) won his match when his opponent retired with an injury in the beginning games of the match. The USA now held a 3-1 lead going into the doubles. Our women’s doubles team of Embree (Florida) and Jacqui Cako (Arizona State)played the match of the day to secure the victory and ensure the Americans a date with the Championships with a 6-7,7-6, 11-9 victory. As you can imagine, this was a see saw battle which saw leads come and go like the tide on the beach. One second we thought that our gals were going to seal the deal, only to find them falling behind with no hope or cavalries in sight. Thanks to Lauren Embree whose game of relentless tenacity worked magic and Jacqui Cako coming up with miraculous volleys to win several pivotal points, our gals were able to pull off a great comeback victory and secure the team win and a date with our fourth straight appearance in the championship match.
Our doubles team of Jarmere Jenkins and Evan King put icing on the cake with a 8-2 win and a trip to the finals tomorrow.
Team USA (supported by the USTA and Intercollegiate Tennis Association) now has a four year record of 10-1. We are now looking to secure our third World Championship in four years.
This team of Americans are truly exceptional! They represent our country with class, poise, humor, and intensity. We are having the time of our lives, (and remember the matches last all day- starting with 7am wake up calls and the final matches are completed after 7pm. In addition, the tournament is held in two indoor facilities (one with heating ) and the other which is an ice box (temperatures in the high 30s). We are so excited about tomorrow’s match for we will get to play in the heated facility and not in the “frozen tundra”.
Last not but not least, our six players not only have talent on the tennis court but also in singing and dancing as a group in the team van, in restaurants and at the tournament venue. We not only have won two big matches (over Belgium and Russia) but also have won numerous friends captivated by our players zest for life.