- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009

In only its second year of serving as home to a World TeamTennis franchise, the District will host the league’s championship match.

WTT and the Washington Kastles announced Thursday that the champions of the league’s Eastern and Western Conferences will face off at Kastles Stadium at 11th and H streets NW. The match, scheduled for July 26, will mark the first time since 2004 that the championship has been played on the East Coast.

League officials said they chose the District after the success of the Kastles’ debut season, crediting team owner Mark Ein for constructing a temporary downtown stadium that attracted sold-out crowds nearly every game.

“Mark has really become a model team owner very quickly,” said Jeff Harrison, WTT’s vice president of league properties. “He created a tremendous facility in a high-traffic location. And Washington is such a great team sports town, and that’s just helped create the right mentality.”

The Kastles plan to increase the capacity of their stadium from 2,300 to 3,000, making it one of the largest venues in WTT. Ein said he expects to sell out most matches again and has had to create a waiting list for box seats. The team also renewed most of its sponsors, including deals with Geico, WTOP Radio, AKA Hotels, AAA Mid-Atlantic, Comcast SportsNet and the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development.

The Kastles are scheduled to play seven home matches. Eight-time Grand Slam singles winner Serena Williams will appear with the team against the Newport Beach Breakers on July 14. Her teammates include renowned doubles specialist Leander Paes and 2008 U.S. Open Junior champion CoCo Vandeweghe, plus Angela Haynes and Scott Oudsema. Murphy Jensen, who served as half of a popular doubles team with his brother Luke in the 1990s, will serve as coach.

Marquee visiting players include Venus Williams with the Philadelphia Freedom on July 7, Anna Kournikova with the St. Louis Aces on July 8 and John McEnroe with the New York Sportimes on July 16.

The team will resume its effort to promote tennis in the D.C. area by holding children’s clinics and providing every fan under 16 with a new tennis racket, Ein said. The U.S. Tennis Association, which purchased a minority ownership stake in WTT, said it would work with the Kastles in promoting kids tennis programs. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said the city planned to offer more free tennis lessons to children in the city’s recreation centers.

• Tim Lemke can be reached at tlemke@washingtontimes.com.

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