- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When Washington Kastles fans reach their seats at the team’s new waterfront stadium, they find signs that say “Refuse to Lose.”

In Thursday night’s match against the New York Sportimes, Leander Paes, Bobby Reynolds and their teammates showed just how strongly they believe in that slogan. With a 20-19 win that was decided by a best-of-13 super-tiebreaker, the Kastles remained undefeated, improving to 7-0.

Arina Rodionova, playing in her first home match for the Kastles, was hard-pressed to describe her excitement as she watched Paes and Reynolds battle back from a 6-4 deficit to win the super-tiebreaker 7-6.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Rodionova said. “It’s one of the best I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s so great to play for the team, and the guys pulled it out today.”

The 21-year-old World TeamTennis rookie played a key role in the outcome of the match, battling Martina Hingis in singles and partnering with Rennae Stubbs for women’s doubles. Although she took a tough 5-2 loss to Hingis and lost the doubles match 5-4 in a tiebreaker, the games she won were essential to the Kastles’ victory.

“Those two games made the difference,” coach Murphy Jenson said. “That’s the beauty of World TeamTennis. One more game makes all the difference.”

Rodionova reached a low in singles after losing her third consecutive game on a double fault. Trailing 3-0, she took a 3-2 lead in the fourth game before a point won by Hingis was challenged by Jensen and overturned in Rodionova’s favor. But Hingis and her teammates vocally demanded a replay of the point on the grounds that she had returned the ball after the disputed call.

After the argument subsided, the referee granted a replay, disregarding a fan’s suggestion that the entire game be started over. But another lengthy dispute began after Hingis tied the game at 3. Rodionova won the break point on an unforced error by Hingis and won the following game before losing the final two.

“I was really nervous because Martina Hingis is such a great champion,” Rodionova said. “She’s been my hero since I was 6 years old, and it was my first game, so I was just trying to get into it.”

Bobby Reynolds had opened the match with a 5-2 victory over New York’s Jesse Witten, so the teams were tied at 7 after two events. A 5-2 victory in mixed doubles gave Washington the lead after the first half.

After Rodionova and Stubbs lost the fourth event, the Kastles entered the men’s doubles set clinging to a 16-14 lead. Their advantage disappeared when Paes and Reynolds lost 5-2 to John McEnroe and Travis Parrott, setting up the super-tiebreaker.

Jensen was almost incoherent after the win.

“I’m speechless, even though I’m out of my mind at the same time,” he said.

The screaming fans, and the signs they waved, spoke for him.

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