Taylor Townsend‘s hands were still shaking. Philadelphia coach Craig Kardon said it looked like his hands after five cups of coffee. That‘s the effect a heart-stopping, come-from-behind win over the 53rd-ranked singles player can have.
Townsend erased a 1-3 deficit and saved four match points to defeat Sorana Cirstea 5-4 and give the Freedoms a 21-20 win over Springfield Sunday night at Mediacom Stadium. The defeat snaps a four-match winning streak for the Lasers.
“I had great support from my team,“ Townsend, grinning ear-to-ear, said. “Everyone just stayed really positive. I got kind of down when I got broken at 1-2. I broke her back, then she broke me again. It was a back-and-forth match, but I was just trying to stay focused on every point and stick to my game plan.“
Both Philadelphia and Springfield are now 6-6 and, along with New York, sit a half-match behind Orange County in the race for second place and a spot in the Mylan WTT Finals next weekend. San Diego is still in first, one game up on Orange County.
“(Townsend) knows what‘s at stake,“ Kardon said. “She wasn‘t playing her best, but she was fighting. That‘s the most important thing. And she knew how to play (Cirstea). We all gave her some info, but left her alone to compete. That‘s what it‘s all about.“
Cirstea had her serve broken to open the set, but immediately broke back to even the score. Another service break gave her a 3-1 lead at the changeover, but that‘s when Townsend found her footing and got back into the match.
“I had a little more confidence hitting my forehand cross,“ Townsend said. “I‘d been trying to lift it a little bit and hit it too high, and here the ball really flies. I told myself to hit it and go for it, and everyone on the sideline was encouraging me to keep doing what I was trying to do.“
Benjamin Becker staked the Lasers to an early lead on a night filled with service breaks. Becker broke Darian King‘s serve twice for a 5-2 win in men‘s singles. It‘s the third win of the season over King for Becker, all by the same score.
But Philadelphia responded in kind, winning mixed doubles by that same score. Townsend and Fabrice Martin, leading 2-1, broke Anna-Lena Groenefeld‘s serve and cruised to the victory.
The Freedoms led 12-11 at halftime after winning men‘s doubles 5-4. Both teams held serve and, after Becker just missed a winner into the right doubles alley, King served three straight points to capture the nine-point tiebreaker over Becker and Nicolaas Scholtz, who was making his WTT debut as a substitute for Jean-Julien Rojer.
A victory in women‘s doubles knotted the score at 16 heading into the final set. That, too, went to a tiebreaker as Groenefeld got the best of Kveta Peschke, her longtime doubles teammate. That duo won a WTA doubles title in Prague this year and also reached the semifinals in Charleston and Stuttgart.
“It was strange playing against her,“ Groenefeld said. “Even when we had a break, we never actually played against each other. We know each other so well. It‘s a difficult court to play on, so it could‘ve gone either way. We were the lucky ones in the end.“
But, ultimately, Philadelphia was the luckiest. Now both teams enter the final two matches of the regular season needing victories ÔÇô and maybe a little help ÔÇô to advance to the championship match. The Freedoms play San Diego and Orange County, both on the road, to finish their schedule; Springfield has a home-and-home against New York.
“New York is playing well. It‘s not going to be easy for us,“ Lasers coach John-Laffnie de Jager said. “We‘re just going to keep taking one point at the time, stay positive and keep enjoying it. That‘s what‘s helped us get here. We‘re not going to change anything.“
TURNING POINT: Taylor Townsend was her own worst enemy, serving three double faults and giving Sorana Cirstea the break and a 4-2 lead. But Townsend immediately broke back, giving herself the momentum she needed to steal women‘s singles and a win for Philadelphia.
NEXT ON: Springfield enters the home stretch with a trip to New York for a 7:00 p.m. Eastern/6:00 p.m. Central match tomorrow night, the first leg of a season-ending home-and-home series. Marcus Willis is playing for New York, filling in for Mardy Fish. Follow results on WTT.com/livescores or SpringfieldLasers.com.