Buzz Seek Revenge Against Visiting Freedoms
by Christopher Gerby

With all hopes of a winning season having gone out the window, the 1-7 New York Buzz are now playing out the string. If they were looking for motivation, a rematch against the Philadelphia Freedoms (who came from behind to edge the Buzz in the season opener) at least provided the lure of revenge. Further inspiration would come from the crowd, who were instructed early and often by the arena DJ/announcer to get involved in the match. He helped set the mood in the introductions, giving the Buzz players cheeky, inside joke nicknames. (Chest bumping their way through the intros were Alex "The Dominator" Domijan, Scoville "His Teammates Call Him Lima" Jenkins, Sarah "I Love My Starbucks" Borwell, and Martina "Showed Up Late for the Last Road Match" Hingis.)

First set: women's doubles -- Borwell/Hingis vs. Lertcheewakarn/Nagle

Starting the evening with their strongest event looked like a gambit gone wrong for the Buzz when Martina Hingis dropped serve in the very first game and fell into a 0-2 hole with partner Sarah Borwell. The Lady Buzz got it going after that, however, rolling through four consecutive games as they took advantage of Noppawan Lertcheewakarn's relatively weak serve and some erratic volleying by Courtney Nagle. After coming out flat 48 hours ago against Boston, the entire New York lineup now appeared energized. Jay Udwadia was making frequent trips to the baseline for mid-match coaching and Scoville Jenkins popped off the bench to dish out enthusiastic high fives.

Momentum is only as good as your next service game, though, and Borwell's attempt to serve out the set was a catastrophe. She coughed up two double faults, including one on break point. A love hold from Lertcheewakarn followed, knotting the set up and taking it into a tiebreak. With the Buzz's less reliable events coming up, this 'breaker felt like a must-win for Hingis and Borwell.

  • MH serving: First serve by Hingis sets up a winning Borwell volley -- 1-0 BUZZ
  • MH: Nagle misses a forehand return and groans loudly -- 2-0 BUZZ
  • CN: Nagle nets a low, tricky forehand volley -- 3-0 BUZZ
  • CN: Double fault by Nagle gives the Buzz a fistful of set points -- 4-0 BUZZ
  • SB: Nagle closes well and snaps off a backhand volley winner -- 4-1 BUZZ
  • SB: Another untimely double fault from Borwell -- 4-2 BUZZ
  • NL: Right on top of the net, Nagle bricks a reflex forehand volley to end it -- 5-2 BUZZ

    Another win in the books for Borwell and Hingis, who've been a nearly unbeatable combination this season. "We haven't lost many," Hingis remarked with a smile after the match. "We lost to Venus (Williams) and (Rennae) Stubbs, which is a pretty tough team to beat, but we're kinda owning the other players. Hopefully we can get at least that one -- the MVP of doubles, right?"


    Second set: men's doubles -- Domijan/Jenkins vs. Amritraj/Delgado

    Doubles make up 60% of the scoring in World TeamTennis and the lack of a men's doubles specialist has been the most glaring hole in the 2010 New York Buzz roster. It was a familiar sight when -- on a critical deciding point early in the set -- Ramon Delgado placed a return right at the feet of a helpless Scoville Jenkins, breaking his serve for a 2-0 Philadelphia lead.

    The primary stumbling block for the Freedoms was Delgado's serve, which was all too often finding its way into the net. Serving for the set at 4-2, the Paraguyan followed a lucky ace (a second serve which trickled off the tape -- one of those only-legal-in-WTT flukes) with a pair of double faults. Jenkins and Alex Domijan couldn't get much going when serves were put in play, however, and the set ended on a thunderous overhead smash by Prakash Amtiraj. The men of the Freedoms had followed their 5-1 rout on opening night with a 5-2 win here.


    Third set: men's singles -- Alex Domijan vs. Ramon Delgado

    On July 5th, the Buzz sent Scoville Jenkins into action against Ramon Delgado and emerged with a 5-4 win. Alex Domijan's recent run of fine singles play earned him the assignment tonight, with similar results. Domijan had a clear serving edge over Delgado, but Ramon was generally coming out ahead in the baseline rallies. After trading breaks to open the set, the evenly matched duo navigated their way to 4-all and the night's second tiebreak.

  • AD serving: Domijan opens with a mighty service winner out wide -- 1-0 BUZZ
  • AD: Delgado guides a backhand winner down the line for a mini-break -- 1-1
  • RD: Service woes now behind him, Delgado uncorks an ace -- 2-1 FREEDOMS
  • RD: Domijan takes control of the rally; Delgado finally hits a desperate forehand wide -- 2-2
  • AD: Another nice rally ends with a winning drop shot from Domijan -- 3-2 BUZZ
  • AD: Domijan throws an ace out wide to earn set points -- 4-2 BUZZ
  • RD: Delgado answers with an ace down the T -- 4-3 BUZZ
  • RD: Really feeling it now, Delgado whacks an ace out wide -- 4-4
  • RD: Domijan gets a return in play and gradually overpowers Delgado, who nets a defensive backhand -- 5-4 BUZZ


    Fourth set: mixed doubles -- Hingis/Jenkins vs. Nagle/Amritraj

    Martina Hingis more or less threw mixed doubles partner Scoville Jenkins under the proverbial bus in her post-match comments following their latest desultory loss on Wednesday, so it was a mild surprise to see them back together here. The tricky Buzz were up to something, however. Before the set even began, Sarah Borwell took off her warmup attire and commenced jogging and stretching behind the Buzz bench. Was she a decoy? Was she getting ready just in case Hingis floundered? Time would tell.

    After opening service holds by the men, it was scrappy redhead Courtney Nagle's turn to serve. Nagle, as it turned out, was having ball toss issues. Not at a red alert Ana Ivanovic level, mind you, but bad enough that she had to mutter "sorry" after catching more than one wayward throw. Nagle held it together enough to take the game to a deciding point, but promptly lost it with a double fault. The Buzz had a 2-1 lead...and an impending substitution.

    Hingis made her way to the Buzz bench and Borwell took her place, prompting one fan to wonder aloud, "What, they were doing too well?" The lineup change didn't exactly pay immediate dividends -- just like Nagle in the previous game, Borwell double faulted on deciding point. They were back on serve at 2-all and momentum had shifted to the visiting Freedoms. Ramon Delgado and Philadelphia coach Craig Kardon even fired up their teammates by doing an impromptu set of push-ups during the change of ends.

    The pattern from the first round of serving played itself out again: Amritraj held, Jenkins held, and Nagle (who'd been trying to pump herself up with ear-splitting shouts of "COME ON!") double faulted on break point. It was now 4-3 Buzz, with the set on substitute Sarah Borwell's racquet. This time, the charming Brit made good. When Amritraj drove a return into the net on set point, the "come on" shout came from Borwell. After a shaky start, she'd helped the Buzz to a 5-3 win of the set and an overall lead.


    Fifth set: women's singles -- Martina Hingis vs. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn

    A Hollywood screenwriter couldn't have drawn up a more fitting conclusion. The season opener ended with a jet-lagged Martina Hingis coughing up a lead against inspired teenager Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, allowing the Freedoms to steal a win from the Buzz. Having rounded into singles form over the course of the season -- and full of energy after getting the hook in mixed doubles -- Hingis was poised to write a different ending on Friday night. Sure enough, she stormed out to a 2-0 lead, breaking Lertcheewakarn when the up-and-comer from Thailand couldn't dig out a Hingis drop shot.

    Game 3 saw Lertcheewakarn strike back, taking a 15-40 lead with a vicious down-the-line backhand winner that looked downright Hingis-esque. Undaunted, the Swiss Miss answered by taking the next three points, good for a 3-0 lead. Lertcheewakarn got on the board with a convincing hold for 1-3 and got within striking distance of a break at 30-all in Game 5. Hingis again held her off, pumping her fist after a service winner made it 40-30 and adding a second fist pump when Lertcheewkarn's errant backhand made it 4-1 Buzz.

    Hingis pulled within two points of victory at 0-30 in Game 8, but young Noppawan showed a lot of nerve and competitive fire by snaring the next four points, getting to 2-4 with a sterling pass. Serving for the match, would Hingis fold the way she had in their previous encounter? The answer came quickly: Hingis comprehensively served it out at love, banking the Buzz's second win of the season when Lertcheewakarn's lunging return of a first serve sailed wide.


    "I'm glad I served well tonight," Martina Hingis said after her clinching performance in singles. No pushover when it comes to dishing out compliments, Hingis had praise for 2009 Wimbledon juniors champion Noppawan Lertcheewakarn. "She's a very feisty player. It's not the style of game that I really like. You can't give her too many opportunities, because then she takes the ball on the rise; she makes the game. It was a matter of giving her more chances to miss." Hingis acknowledged that it felt good to get a bit of revenge, but reminded the press that her first encounter with the 18-year-old Thai came under less than ideal circumstances. "The opening night was a difficult night, coming over from Europe. Hopefully if I play next year again, if I come back here, I'll try to come to the U.S. a bit earlier."

    Sitting out the last several games of mixed doubles also contributed to Hingis having fresher legs this time around. I asked Martina if that was the reason Borwell subbed in for her. "It was kind of both," she replied. "I think also our mixed the other night wasn't that great. Sometimes it's also the chemistry has to work. So well, (we thought) we'll try this. I'm gonna return a couple games, then she jumps in. Give 'em the break, which we did -- that was kinda the plan! Then she comes in and holds serve. They did great, so I'm very happy for the team, for Sarah and Scoey."

    Yes, Borwell had held to close out the mixed doubles, but the first service game of her relief appearance hadn't gone nearly as well. "World TeamTennis has the most stressful set-up, so to sub in is even worse," Borwell explained after the match. "It took me about a game to get used to it. Then I was used to it and it was alright." More than alright has been Borwell's doubles partnership with Hingis. When I asked how she thinks they'd fare on the WTA Tour, Sarah was effusive. "I think we'd win Grand Slams together. I might have to talk her into it. She's a perfect foil for me, because my returns aren't great and she never misses a return. My serves and volleys are pretty good. I don't have as much pressure on my returns because I know she's pretty much gonna make every one."

    Curiously, tennis isn't Borwell's first sporting love. The 30-year-old doubles specialist was such an avid soccer player going up, she earned regular playing time on the boys football team in her school days. "My dad works for Aston Villa -- it's (an English) Premiere League team. I grew up with Jonathan Woodgate, who plays for Tottenham Hotspurs. He always said I should just play soccer, but there was no money in it, so I had to go to tennis... I prefer soccer. If Man United came and offered me a contract, I'd play for free. Even a third division team, really."

    Borwell is no slouch on the tennis court, of course, and she's thrived in the raucous, fan friendly atmosphere of WTT. "We try and psyche them up as much as we can," Borwell said of the upstate New York fans. "I quite like fist pumping and cheering. I think it gets them going. If you're walking around the court and not looking like you're enjoying it, the crowd won't. Even if you miss, you wanna try to get them involved and they were really good tonight."

    Hingis sounded a pragmatic note when I mentioned the fan involvement. "It helps when you're winning. That gets the crowd boosted." Wins have been few and far between for the Buzz this year, but Martina remains cautiously optimistic as she and the Buzz embark on another road trip. "We tried to make the best of what we still have ahead of us. Every win is a good win; gives you a good attitude; helps you sleep better at night. We'll see."