IRVINE — For the first time this year, an Orange County Breakers match went into overtime Saturday night at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center.
Overtime is a unique feature to World Team Tennis. It is not unique in the world of one of the onlookers of the women's singles match between Anna-Lena Groenefeld of the Breakers and Asia Muhammad of the Sacramento Capitals.
Asia's younger brother, Shabazz, watched the action close to the court in the southeast corner. Shabazz Muhammad, considered one of the top high school men's basketball recruits in the country, will play at UCLA this year.
Asia nearly pulled off a superstar type of comeback herself. But Groenefeld got the hold she needed in the second game of overtime and helped the Breakers earn a 23-20 victory.
"It's a big confidence-builder for the team," said the Breakers' John-Patrick Smith, who opened the match with a big tiebreaker victory in men's doubles with Travis Parrott. "Anna-Lena competed great tonight. Great team effort."
It was a victory that Coach Trevor Kronemann's Breakers (2-2) needed, as they moved within a half-match of Western Conference-leading Sacramento (3-2). Orange County is tied for second with Kansas City. The Breakers are away for their next five matches, before returning to the Bren on July 23 against Springfield.
Sam Querrey, ranked No. 55 in the world in singles, was announced as a last-minute addition to the Capitals' lineup earlier Saturday. Smith and Parrott still pulled off the big men's doubles victory over Querrey and the longtime doubles standout Mark Knowles.
"It's really fun playing with J.P.," Parrott said. "He's got a lot of energy. He played at Tennessee and I played at Georgia, so we should not like each other, but we get along pretty well. We really have fun out on the court. We enjoy playing first, and it's helped our team get the two wins we have. We've been able to keep that momentum going throughout the match.
"Team Tennis is so much about getting off to a good start. You really have to start quick, and that's what we did tonight. J.P. and I really started off well, and that's not what we did [Friday] night. We lost in mixed doubles, 5-0, and that kind of set the tone for the whole match. It felt like it was the opposite tonight."
The Breakers had lost at Sacramento, 24-14, on Friday night. But, after Groenefeld and Breakers marquee player Lindsay Davenport earned a 5-3 victory over Muhammad and Yasmin Schnack in women's doubles Saturday, the hosts had a 10-7 lead.
Smith, who lost to Mardy Fish on Friday, had another tough men's singles set with a top American in Querrey on Saturday. Querrey won, 5-3. But Parrott and Davenport came back for a 5-2 victory over Knowles and Schnack in mixed doubles, pushing the Breakers' lead to 18-14 entering women's singles.
Muhammad topped Groenefeld in a tiebreaker, sending the match to overtime. Muhammad held serve in the first game of OT to bring the Capitals within 22-20. But Groenefeld, one of the league's top women's singles players this season, easily held serve in the next game to end the match.
The road schedule next week will be challenging. The Breakers play at Springfield on Monday, at Boston on Tuesday, at Philadelphia on Thursday, at Washington on Friday and at Kansas City on Saturday. Davenport is scheduled to play in the Springfield and Boston matches.
The Breakers will continue battling, and having fun doing it.
"A team sport is more fun when you can get a couple of wins under your belt," Parrott said. "But the whole team has had fun hanging out. We've got really good team chemistry."
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