The Washington Times - July 24, 2009, 02:08PM

The Washington Kastles started 0-4 this season but have rebounded to play in their first playoff game against the New York Sportimes tonight. A win puts them in the Championship Final here in D.C. Sunday.

Team owner Mark Ein said he’s been impressed with how the team has hung in there, taking the matches nearly as seriously as normal pro tour events.


“The team’s come together,” Einm said. “It’s really incredible for a team of such experience veteran people who have played at the highest levels of tennis for so long, how much they’ve come together as a team and how much they care about winning….It is not a Grand Slam, but they definitely care a massive amount about the outcome and winning. It’s very important for them to win.”

Head coach Murphy Jensen said the team is confident it will avenge the supertiebreak loss to the Sportimes last week.

“If we stick to our guns and play our best tennis we’ll kill this team,” Jensen said.

It could be a tall order for the Kastles, as they’ll be playing with their original lineup from earlier in the year, when they struggled. The Kastles rebounded midseason when Serena Williams joined the team for a few matches, and this latest push into the playoffs was helped along by the addition of 10th-ranked Nadia Petrova. Petrova is not eligible to play in the playoffs, and Williams is not expected to play (though there are rumors she could show up.)

So the lineup will be doubles specialists Rennae Stubbss and Leander Paes, plus Olga Puchkova and Scott Oudsema.

Needless to say, it will be important for Puchkova to play well and fill the void left by Williams and Petrova.

Jensen said Puchkova has practiced well, but the results just haven’t come. In events she has played, the Kastles have won 46 games while dropping 70. Petrova, meanwhile, went 16-11 and Williams went 36-19.

“Olga has a chance to be the star this weekend,” Jensen said. “She just has to pull it together…she’s young, she has all this talent…she shouldn’t care and just go out there and play. My job is to get her to transfer what happens in practice onto the playing field.”