- The Washington Times - Monday, July 4, 2011

The Washington Kastles, whose world-renowned players have won more than 50 Grand Slam titles, open their season Tuesday with the goal of becoming World TeamTennis champions for the second time in three years.

Venus Williams will take the court for the Kastles on Tuesday when they host the Kansas City Explorers, the league’s defending champions, at their new stadium on the Southwest Waterfront. Serena Williams will join the team Thursday for its second home match.

Fresh off fourth-round losses at Wimbledon, the two icons come to Washington determined live up to their status as elite players.

“[Marion] Bartoli beat Serena [at Wimbledon] and pretty much played the greatest match of her life,” Kastles coach Murphy Jensen said. “That’s what it takes to beat a Williams sister in a women’s game. They have something to prove, and they’re really going to look at the matches we play in World TeamTennis as a springboard to the U.S. Open season to win another Grand Slam in New York.

“If anything, I think they’re going to be even tougher this season than in the past.”

A WTT match features five sets: men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The first player or pair to win five games wins a set. But the final outcome of a match is determined by the total number of games a team wins rather than the number of sets.

The Williams sisters are joined on the Kastles roster by Leander Paes, Arina Rodionova, Bobby Reynolds and Rennae Stubbs. Reynolds had the highest winning percentage of any men’s singles player in WTT last year, while Paes led all players with 66 games won in mixed doubles.

Rodionova is a WTT rookie, but Jensen said she will have an important role to play on the team.

“I’m going to want her to be filling in and getting as much World TeamTennis experience as possible so that when we’re without Venus and Serena, Arina’s had a ton of World TeamTennis match play, and she’s up to speed, and she’s able to compete even at the highest level, like a Serena or Venus,” Jensen said.

“What really helps her is that she’ll be on the court training with the best players in the world. It’ll automatically lift her game up three or four notches.”