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
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."
OVERALL SCORE: LOBSTERS 5, BUZZ 4
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.
OVERALL SCORE: LOBSTERS 10, BUZZ 6
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.
OVERALL SCORE: LOBSTERS 15, BUZZ 7
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
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."
OVERALL SCORE: LOBSTERS 20, BUZZ 8
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.
FINAL SCORE: LOBSTERS 25, BUZZ 9
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."