With American star John Isner still traveling back from Wimbledon and unable to make his scheduled appearance Sunday, the New York Empire have struggled to start the World Team Tennis (WTT) season.
After losing both ends of a home-and-home series against the Washington Kastles, who were without their own stars — including Venus Williams — coach Gigi Fernandez’s team has a chance turn things around when the Empire host the Philadelphia Freedoms on Wednesday night at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
“We have a lot of matches still to play,” said Empire newcomer Tatjana Maria, currently ranked 57th on the WTA circuit. “We are positive and we will keep going.”
So far, Maria and fellow WTT newcomer Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez have produced excellent tennis for the Empire, in both singles and doubles play. Each WTT match is made up of five sets, with one each for men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Maria handled the women’s singles legs in both matches against the Kastles, finishing 1-1, while the pair were in the women’s doubles portion, finishing 1-1. Martinez-Sanchez was paired with Englishman Neal Skupski for the mixed doubles legs in both matches, and they also went 1-1.
Like most WTT players, Maria hopes her participation in WTT will provide an opportunity for her to fine-tune her game headed into the business end of the professional season. That, of course, includes the U.S. Open on the Empire’s home court.
“It’s a super [opportunity],” she said. “It can only help playing here at the home of U.S. Open. We have a lot of matches, which will give me an opportunity to play, and it’s great to connect with fans as well.”
As for Isner, currently the highest-ranked American (10th) on the ATP Tour, he was signed to play one night only for the Empire on Sunday, but was forced to withdraw. Designated as the team’s “franchise player,” he currently is not scheduled to appear over the remaining slate of matches and may not be able to play for the team this season.
However, 2014 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard is scheduled to to take the court for the Empire on July 26, when the Orange County Breakers visit Flushing.