- Associated Press - Monday, July 25, 2011

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Washington Kastles completed the first perfect season in World Team Tennis, defeating the St. Louis Aces 23-19 on Sunday night to win the series championship in a match that took nearly eight hours to complete because of several rain delays.

The final began at 5:20 p.m. and lasted until Bobby Reynolds‘ winner at around 1:05 a.m. to the cheers of a few hundred fans who remained at Family Circle Stadium. The Kastles ended the year 16-0, the first team since the WTT began in 1974 to go through a season without a loss.

Washington’s squad lasted through three rain delays totaling four hours in a city which last year won the honor as the “Best Tennis Town in America.”

“This was something special, and I’m glad I was a part of it,” Reynolds said.

The event was held where the women’s clay court Family Circle Cup is played each spring. The summer tennis circuit agreed last winter to hold its conference championships and finals here.

The Kastles won their second championship in three seasons. And it took almost everything they had.

Reynolds was playing men’s singles, the last segment of the five-event team format, and Washington was ahead 22-14. That’s when Reynolds‘ opponent, Roman Borvanov staged a late comeback, winning five consecutive games to cut St. Louis’ deficit to three games. Things got even crazier when Washington coach Murphy Jensen threw a water bottle on the court in celebration when he thought Reynolds‘ overhead smash would clinch the championship. Instead, Borvanov returned the shot and St. Louis gained the point to continue the match.

Reynolds wrapped things up in his next service game, winning Washington’s second WTT title in three seasons.

“I wanted to cry,” Jensen said. “I pray for a lot of things but this one I said, ‘If you can help me, this is the one I want.’ “

The Kastles advanced to the finals by defeating the Boston Lobsters in the Eastern Conference title Friday night. St. Louis won the Western Conference over Sacramento on Saturday night and was vying for its first WTT crown since 1996.

The contest was anything but a typical tennis tournament. Cheerleaders from nearby Bishop England High School waved pompoms from the sidelines, music was blasted between points and a man on stilts danced along on the court and in the stands.

WTT commissioner Ilana Kloss said the new approach to the series concluding weekend went very well.

“We predetermined the market and that’s always a little scary,” she said.

Then again, Charleston’s recent past in tennis gave organizers comfort. More than 2,000 turned out here Sunday, including College of Charleston basketball coach Bobby Cremins, who holds a yearly tennis fundraising event.

The city won the United States Tennis Association’s online vote for the “Best Tennis” designation, outpointing much larger Southern cities Atlanta and Richmond, Va., for the honor. Family Circle Tennis Center general manager Bob Moran said the yearly tournament, which boasts past champions such as world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Justine Henin and American stars Venus and Serena Williams, has influenced recreational players to dig out their rackets and find a court.

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