FOREST HILLS, NY, USA – Led by WTA stars Shelby Rogers and Darija Jurak, the San Diego Aviators took home the Billie Jean King Trophy with a 25-14 (1-1 in Extended Play) win over Nicole Gibbs and Alla Kudryavtseva’s Orange County Breakers in the Mylan World TeamTennis Final.
Rogers and Jurak are in the midst of career-best seasons in singles and doubles, respectively, and helped the Aviators win three of the five sets played in women’s singles, doubles, and mixed to help their team clinch victory at the West Side Tennis Club on Friday.
A French Open quarterfinalist back in May, Rogers was set to make her Mylan WTT debut a year ago, but a debilitating knee injury not only kept that from happening, but essentially derailed her entire 2015 season.
“Having this be my first full season of World TeamTennis, I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” Rogers told WTA Insider after the Final. “I couldn’t have asked for a better result. The memories and friends I’ve made will last forever. Everything was perfect; you get the nerves from your team and want to perform well for them. That was really cool tonight; I’m glad we could come through, and this is such a great moment for us.”
The young American will head into the US Open just shy of the career-high ranking of No.50 that she earned last week; defeating Gibbs 5-2 in women’s singles and partnered with Jurak to win the women’s doubles set by the same score, Rogers hopes to take some of the tactics she learned from Billie Jean King’s co-ed professional league into her WTA matches.
“World TeamTennis is great at helping you learn to play the big points well, and teaches you to not be so distracted by little things. You have to play through whatever, and the crowds are great. They really get into it and give us energy that helps us through the tough times. Our home matches in San Diego were the best; our fans were so loyal and it’s been a blast.”
Jurak joined the league as a substitute back in 2013, and credited new WTA partner Anastasia Rodionova – who helped the Kastles to many of their record-setting six straight Mylan WTT trophies – with inspiring her to new heights in her second season with the Aviators.
“Nastya said a lot of things about World TeamTennis,” the doubles specialist said of her co-winner in Eastbourne and co-finalist in Stanford. “She’s a four-time champion – and she set a good example; I learned from her a lot because she’s been playing this league and on the WTA tour for so long and I’m fortunate that I can play with her.
“I can’t explain how happy I am that we won today. This team effort is amazing, and I’m really happy that we have such good chemistry, which is almost everything here. Without that, it’s impossible to win, because we have to really be a team.”
Finishing a close second to the Aviators, Gibbs and Kudryavtseva had another season to remember in Mylan World TeamTennis, reaching their second straight final with two different teams. Rookie of the Year in 2015, Kudryavtseva paired Gibbs to become top women’s doubles team in the league and win seven straight matches to reach the championship match in New York City.
“It was really fun to have the chance to develop what we had done last year and progress as team,” said Gibbs, who was awarded Female MVP after combining her doubles prowess with the second highest winning percentage in women’s singles.
“I always give all the credit to Alla in the doubles. She’s the one telling me what to do and I’m just kind of occupying space out there, and letting her do her thing.”
“And that’s why I like to play with her, obviously,” Kudryavtseva added with a laugh. “She gives me all the credit; even when she’s over there hitting aces, she’ll say, ‘Well done! You gave me good direction!'”
The 41st season of Mylan World TeamTennis came to a close with the spirit of King’s vision of men and women working together in harmonious equality completely on display within both teams not only on display, but also standing in stark contrast to the increasingly polarized climate in which the league presently exists.
“It’s always a privilege to get to play in a league founded by Billie Jean King and really delivers her message,” Gibbs said. It’s really special for both of us, especially as individuals who are vocal about equality; we’re walking the talk by playing World TeamTennis and making ourselves available in this part of the year.
“We’re in the midst of a contentious election in the US, and so people are probably more vocal than normal about some of these topics. I just hope that equality is something pushed as an agenda item.”