Serena Williams was the main attraction of the Washington Kastles' match Thursday, but Michelle Obama may have stolen the show.
With the first lady and her two daughters in attendance, Williams led Washington to its second victory in 24 hours and third straight overall, defeating the Boston Lobsters 25-10. The former world No. 1 clinched the Kastles' victory with a cross-court forehand in the tiebreaker of the final set, the only close set of the match.
In her first action on American soil since 2009, Williams wasn't fazed by the competition — nor the presence of the first family in the stands.
"I got a chance to go out back and say hey to her [Obama]," she said. "I'd met her before, so it was good to see her. She was like, 'you need to come out to the [White] House.' "
Washington coach Murphy Jensen was not quite as calm.
"I said if you ever need a coach, you got it," he laughed. "And I was a little embarrassed because I blew her a kiss. I hope Mr. President isn't [upset]."
But on the court it was all about Williams, who played in the women's doubles, mixed doubles and women's singles portions of the match. Her play in the final minutes ultimately won it for Washington.
"Serena was unbelievable," Jensen said. "I wanted her to be our anchor, and by having her as our anchor it really made the rest of the team step up to new heights. She's the biggest ball-striker in the history of the game, and luckily she's a Washington Kastle."
She and teammate Rennae Stubbs gave the Kastles an early 5-2 lead after the first set, and Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds followed with a 5-1 blowout in the men's doubles. While Williams was spectacular, Reynolds quietly helped the team to consecutive wins in the second and third sets. Washington won 10 of its 13 games with the reigning World TeamTennis (WTT) Rookie of the Year on the court.
"Bobby Reynolds is playing some of the best tennis in the world right now, and I knew coming into this thing that he was ready to go," Jensen said. "He wanted to come only to play for the Washington Kastles after his experience last year, and he legitimately wants to win a ring."
Reynolds couldn't match his coach's enthusiasm, but he was still happy with his play.
"The girls came out with a great start and kind of got us rolling," he said. "Playing in front of a home crowd like this, and playing in front of the first lady, there's so much motivation — not that we don't need it."
After squeaking out a 19-18 win against the Freedoms in Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Kastles got a much-needed blowout Thursday night. The players were so comfortable that their biggest concern in the third set was the music selection at the wharf-side stadium. Paes rushed to the media table and asked personnel to play more hip-hop, and at the next break, he and Williams were smiling and dancing to Rihanna.
The music selection was one of many features that energized the crowd on a buggy night in Washington. A man on stilts, mascots dressed as giant tennis balls and an array of on-court games between sets had the crowd smiling throughout the night. And with such a strong outing on the court, even the players couldn't help but have a good time.
"I definitely had a really, really good time out there today," Williams said. "That's what's great — to enjoy every match."
Everything seemed to be going right for the Kastles, and having the first lady in the stands certainly didn't hurt.
"It was neat that she came out and supported us," Reynolds said. "It's always neat to be able to tell your kids and grandkids that you were able to meet her."
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