Buzz Soldier On Without Hingis In Home Finale
by Christopher Gerby

Road losses to the Springfield Lasers and New York Sportimes ran the New York Buzz's record to a league worst 2-9. Even recently reliable star Martina Hingis floundered, taking a pair of 5-2 singles losses (to Chanelle Scheepers and Kim Clijsters) and lopsided defeats in women's doubles. To make matters even worse, Hingis -- "under the weather," according to Buzz owner Nitty Singh -- opted out of the home finale. The Boston Lobsters, who'd already beaten the Buzz in this same building less than a week ago, figured to be overwhelming favorites now that New York was short-handed.

The pre-match introductions were a bit more elaborate on Tuesday night, with a group of girls in bee costumes turning cartwheels. One couldn't help but notice, however, that the Buzz were still short a player! Recent University of Georgia graduate Yvette Hyndman, stepping in for Hingis on very short notice, didn't make it to the court until the evening's first event (men's doubles) was underway. Hyndman had every reason to be tardy: she was still in Jacksonville, Florida when the Buzz summoned her on Tuesday morning. "I drove two hours and took two flights to get here," she told me after the match. A commendable effort to be sure. Would her new teammates show the same level of commitment?

First set: men's doubles -- Domijan/Jenkins vs. Butorac/Gambill

Tuesday started to look like Opposite Day when the men's doubles team of Alex Domijan and Scoville Jenkins -- normally the Buzz's weak link -- came out firing to open the match. After Domijan held serve to get things underway, Jenkins cracked two backhand returns for clean winners in a love break of Jan-Michael Gambill. Looking loose and competing well (even throwing up a Jimmy Connors-esque series of defensive lobs in one memorable rally), Domijan and Jenkins sprinted to a 4-1 lead without facing a break point. Could it be that the Buzz didn't need Martina Hingis after all?

Jenkins was serving for the set at 4-2, 30-all when the tide turned. After a double fault gave the Lobsters their first break opportunity, Gambill converted it by whipping a pass behind a flat-footed Domijan. The air really went out of the SEFCU Arena at that point and a love hold by Eric Butorac sent the set into a tiebreak.

  • AD serving: Domijan opens with a service winner -- 1-0 BUZZ
  • AD: Nicely reflexed half-volley forehand winner by Butorac for the mini-break -- 1-1
  • JMG: Gambill's first serve sets up an easy smash for Butorac -- 2-1 LOBSTERS
  • JMG: Coming in behind his serve, Gambill dumps a backhand volley -- 2-2
  • SJ: Domijan bricks a backhand volley of his own -- 3-2 LOBSTERS
  • SJ: Jenkins follows his second serve in and pushes a forehand volley long -- 4-2 LOBSTERS
  • EB: Best rally of the set ends with Domijan's smash overwhelming Butorac -- 4-3 LOBSTERS
  • EB: Domijan takes a big rip on a forehand pass attempt, but it's well long -- 5-3 LOBSTERS

    Squandering a 4-1 lead clearly wasn't how the underdog Buzz wanted to start the night, but coach Jay Udwadia wasn't blaming his men's doubles duo. "They played probably the cleanest five games I've seen all season and then the other team stepped it up a little bit," Udwadia told me after the mtach. "We weren't making mistakes -- they just stepped it up and made us play a few extra shots and hit some key returns. It wasn't like we played worse for them to catch it up."


    Second set: mixed doubles -- Borwell/Jenkins vs. Kops-Jones/Butorac

    One area in which Martina Hingis's absence would be felt only mildly was in mixed doubles, sice Sarah Borwell had already split time with Hingis in the team's last three sets of mixed. Borwell seemed capable of rising to the occasion, but Raquel Kops-Jones -- who plays doubles with Sarah on the WTA Tour -- wasn't feeling charitable. On serve at 2-1, Kops-Jones won a bang-bang volley exchange with Borwell, taking a 15-30 lead on Borwell's serve. Kops-Jones immediately followed with a forehand winner for 15-40. Borwell's intermittently shaky serve did the rest of the damage from there, as her double fault gave Boston a 3-1 lead.

    The Buzz's PA announcer/DJ seemed as out of sorts as the team. During the change of ends, he broke in with this cryptic annoucement: "It looks like Carlos has got an...uh...nothing's going on!" I have no idea who Carlos is, so that unexplained glitch stood out for me as the absolute high point of an otherwise unremarkable set. Comfortable service holds finished it up, with Jenkins netting a backhand return on set point to complete Boston's 5-2 victory.


    Third set: women's singles -- Sarah Borwell vs. Coco Vandeweghe

    Recurring injuries forced Sarah Borwell to abandon her singles aspirations in 2008. Aside from very infrequent appearances in qualifying draws, the 30-year-old Brit has played doubles exclusively for the past couple seasons. Being pressed into singles duty here in the pressure cooker of World TeamTennis was a tall order -- quite literally, with all 6 feet 1 inch of Coco Vandeweghe looming across the net. One of the better American prospects in the women's game, Vandeweghe has hit her stride in the later stages of the WTT season. She came in having prevailed in her last three singles appearances, with victims including Victoria Azarenka and Ashley Harkleroad.

    A power discrepancy was evident early on, as Vandeweghe blasted a pair of forehand winners to open the set with a break. Game 2 ended with back-to-back Vandeweghe aces, good for a 6 game lead in the overall score. Borwell got on the board at 1-2 (when Vandeweghe chopped a squash shot into the net on game point), but it was merely a brief respite in the Boston onslaught. Borwell's forehand was producing wild errors, her serve was erratic, and her approach shots were getting punished. After lacing a backhand winner to break for 4-1, Vandeweghe clinched her 5-1 rout by holding at love. To call it a very decisive win would be an understatement, as Coco triumphed in just 14 minutes.


    Fourth set: women's doubles -- Borwell/Hyndman vs. Kops-Jones/Vandeweghe

    After three sets of cheerful spectating, Yvette Hyndman made her World TeamTennis deubt. The 22-year-old blonde was a college star, making the all-SEC team in all four of her seasons as a Georgia Bulldog. Her professional resume is skimpy as can be, however, with a career high singles ranking of 967 and a pro doubles record of 0-6. Hyndman would be an obvious target for the Lobsters, but she passed her opening test, coming up with a nice little scoop forehand winner to take the very first point of women's doubles.

    Coco Vandeweghe shook off Hyndman's winner by reeling off the next four points to hold for 1-0. Sarah Borwell jumped out to a 40-0 lead in the following game, but followed with an eye-popping three consecutive double faults. A return by Raquel Kops-Jones on deciding point clipped the tape and landed wide, bailing Borwell out. Sarah's serve having gone haywire was not a good harbinger, though, especially with her rookie partner playing some fairly nondescript (and understandably tentative) doubles. The Lobsters had so little fear of the Borwell and Hyndman returns, Vandeweghe stayed in an I-formation crouch at the net during SECOND serves as Kops-Jones held for 2-1.

    Borwell's double fault disease was contagious -- Hyndman tossed in one of her own to give the Lobsters a break point in Game 4. Kops-Jones banked it in style, ripping a winning backhand return down the line. Vandeweghe then continued her very impressive showing with a love hold for 4-1. It became increasingly clear there would be no Cinderella story here for Yvette Hyndman. Facing set point at 30-40 in Game 6, Borwell thought her shaky serve had produced an ace, but it was called out. Following a dispute with the umpire, Borwell returned to the line...and hit a second serve wide. A fitting end, as the lopsided 5-1 Lobsters victory ended on Borwell's fourth double fault of the set.

    It goes down in the books as a less than stellar WTT debut for Yvette Hyndman, but you couldn't wipe the smile off her face. The Georgia alum truly enjoyed herself and it looked to me like she had good chemistry with Borwell. "She's really nice," Hyndman agreed after the match. "It was a lot of fun with the fans and everything."


    Fifth set: men's singles -- Scoville Jenkins vs. Jan-Michael Gambill

    The greatest comeback in World TeamTennis history took place in 1988, when Jenny Byrne and John Lloyd led the New Jersey Stars back from an 8-game deficit starting the final set against the Los Angeles Strings. Both of those franchises are now extinct...and so were the New York Buzz's chances of winning the home finale unless Scoville Jenkins could mount an even bigger comeback at the expense of Jan-Michael Gambill. Jenkins took to the mission with a certain swashbuckling, grip-it-and-rip-it verve. His aggressiveness paid off with a 40-0 lead in the opening game. Of course, the Buzz being the Buzz, Jenkins then dropped four points in a row, with a double fault on deciding point handing Gambill the break.

    If the Buzz were counting on a loss of focus from Gambill, they figured wrong. The endlessly intense 33-year-old hissed "come on!" after closing out his opening service game with a forehand winner and an unreturnable serve. Still hitting every ball as hard as he could, Jenkins countered with a hold for 1-2. That made the overall score 22-9 in favor of the Lobsters...and apparently looked like the start of a rally to the DJ/announcer. Mustering a gallows optimism worthy of Bob Uecker in Major League, he intoned, "We're still in this one, Buzz fans!"

    I admired some of the DJ's music selections tonight (mixing in a bit of Manfred Mann's "Blinded By The Light" and the guitar riff from Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?"), but he was dead wrong about the Buzz being in this one. Gambill held easily for 3-1 and watched some wild Jenkins errors sail over the basline in a break for 4-1. Still going for broke (hey, down 24 to 9, why not?), Jenkins smacked a couple winners and got to 15-40 on the Gambill serve. He wouldn't put another return in play. With an ace, a service winner, and one more ace down the T, Jan-Michael secured a 5-1 win and put the hopelessly outgunned Buzz out of their misery.


    After a promising 4-1 lead in the opening set, the Buzz had gone into an epic tailspin, losing 24 of the last 29 games. Limping out of the SEFCU Arena after a mere 94 minutes of action, they didn't exactly leave the home fans much to remember them by. Nevertheless, Buzz coach Jay Udwadia insists his team gave their best. "We're playing our hardest and we came up against a great team in Boston," Udwadia said after the debacle. "It's still a complete team effort, but (playing) without Martina made it a little bit tougher."

    Despite the Buzz now sporting a hideous 2-10 record, with an ongoing 0 for 6 drought away from Albany, Udwadia isn't dreading their two remaining road matches. "The effort has been great from the players, even though we've lost a few in a row, so I wanna congratulate them for that, but we need to start stepping it up and winning some more 3-all points and closing out some matches," says Udwadia, who guided the Buzz to their only WTT championship in 2008. "It's never easy losing. We're in here to win it. We didn't come to Albany to lose. We're gonna try to get better towards the end of the season and finish on a positive note."