For the second straight year, the Orange County Breakers have a totally new roster of players.
But the 2013 Breakers scream "Orange County," perhaps more than any other team in the Mylan World Team Tennis franchise's 11-year history.
Steve Johnson starred at Orange High, and his father, Steve Sr., is a Breakers assistant coach this year. Coco Vandeweghe lives in Newport Beach, and Breakers Coach Trevor Kronemann, who is back for his seventh year at the helm, lives in Mission Viejo.
"We've got four of the people on our bench living in Orange County," Breakers General Manager Kerry Schneider said. "It's really cool, and pretty rare in World Team Tennis."
The Breakers open their season Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Bren Events Center on the UC Irvine campus, playing host to the Philadelphia Freedoms. The Texas Wild visit on Monday at 7 p.m.
The Breakers have 14 matches in the next 18 days, seven at home, concluding the regular season at home against the Springfield Lasers on July 24. The playoffs follow, with the conference championship matches July 25 and the finals July 28.
Last year's Breakers were the most successful in years, finishing the regular season 8-6 and advancing to the Western Conference Finals before falling to Sacramento. Orange County has just one WTT title, won as the Newport Beach Breakers in 2004, yet the squad appears to have a good chance to win the eight-team league this season.
Kronemann, who is also the men's tennis coach at UC Irvine and is in his 22nd overall season of WTT as a player or coach, said that this could be the most talented team the franchise has had in his tenure.
"Hopefully we can vie for that ever-elusive Billie Jean King Cup," Kronemann said. "I'm excited going into the season ... You've got to be excited. On paper, this is a really strong team."
Besides Johnson and Vandeweghe, the Breakers also feature Treat Huey and Maria Elena Camerin. Liga Dekmeijere will substitute for Vandeweghe for the final five matches of the season, as Vandeweghe will play the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, where she was a finalist last year.
Schneider said she got really good feedback at the WTT Roster Draft in March. She has met every player on the team as well, after picking up Camerin from LAX Airport on Friday, and said she expects this to be another fun team full of characters.
Johnson, 23, a two-time NCAA champion at USC, will be making his debut in World Team Tennis. He is an emerging star on the ATP Tour, where he currently has a career-high singles ranking of No. 98 in the world, and made the main draw in both men's singles and doubles at Wimbledon.
Vandeweghe, who is 21, is playing her fifth season of World Team Tennis and played on the Capitals last year. She recently pushed No. 8-seeded Petra Kvitova in a tough three-set, first-round match this year at Wimbledon. She has been ranked as high as No. 69 on the WTA Tour, and is currently No. 114.
"All four players were in at least one main draw at Wimbledon," Schneider said. "We have a lot of talent ... this is another good group."
Huey, 27, who played for the league champion Washington Kastles last year, is currently ranked No. 24 in doubles. He and partner Dominic Inglot, the No. 16 seeds, made the third round in doubles at Wimbledon before falling to the top-seeded Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike.
The Bryan brothers, who won their 15th major doubles title at Wimbledon at Saturday, currently hold all four grand slam doubles titles and also won Olympic gold last summer. They visit the Breakers with the Texas Wild on July 16.
Camerin, 31, is making her debut in the format. She has been ranked as high as No. 41 in the world in singles and No. 33 in doubles. She made the main draw at Wimbledon, losing to No. 19-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in a three-set match in the first round.
Other home matches include July 13 vs. Springfield (Andy Roddick playing for Springfield), July 15 vs. Sacramento and July 21 vs. Sacramento. All matches begin at 7 p.m., except the Sunday opener and the match July 21, which start at 5 p.m.
As always, the schedule is hectic. The Breakers have four matches in four nights from Wednesday through Saturday, and five matches in five nights from July 18-22.
"It comes down to one thing: travel schedule," Kronemann said. "How do you handle that as a team, and as an individual for the team. The first nine days are taxing at best. I think it comes down to wanting to compete every night."
Breakers tickets start at $15 for the upper reserved section, and $30 for courtside. They're available at the team's website, http://www.breakerstennis.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun