WASHINGTON — As far as the Washington Kastles are concerned, a place in sports lore long associated with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Co. now belongs to Martina Hingis, Leander Paes and the streamroller of a team that dominates World TeamTennis.
The Kastles won their 34th consecutive match Tuesday night, routing the Boston Lobsters 25-12. The streak is one better than the storied run of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, a landmark achievement that stands as the high-water mark for the NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball.
The Kastles claim they now hold the longest winning streak “in major U.S. pro sports history.” That’s a matter of debate, considering that the WTT usually isn’t considered a “major” sports league and that its top players appear only in selected matches, creating an atmosphere more comparable to that of a fan-friendly minor league baseball team.
But the Kastles know how to win, and the streak has brought invaluable publicity to a league that packs its entire season into a three-week span in July. Coach Murphy Jensen’s squad is 2-0 this season and is coming off back-to-back WTT titles, going undefeated both years. Washington’s last loss came on July 22, 2010, also against the Lobsters.
It’s a run that’s included both Venus and Serena Williams, although neither is playing this year. Venus Williams was supposed to make the occasional appearance as the star player in 2013, but she dropped out with a lower back injury. She was on hand to support her teammates Monday night when the streak reached 33, following the customary White House visit with President Barack Obama to celebrate the Kastles’ 2012 title. First lady Michelle Obama also attended Monday’s match.
With neither Williams on the squad, Hingis is now the Kastles’ marquee player. The 32-year-old Swiss, who won five Grand Slam singles titles in the 1990s and will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this month, paired with Anastasia Rodionova to win the women’s doubles and with Paes to take the mixed doubles. Hingis then cruised past Jill Craybas 5-2 in women’s singles, pumping her fist and getting a big hug from Jensen after Craybas’ shot landed long to end the set.
Paes and Bobby Reynolds wrapped up the match by winning the men’s doubles 5-2 in front of a crowd that mostly filled the Kastles’ 3,000-seat stadium along the D.C. waterfront.
Chamberlain, West, Jim McMillian, Gail Goodrich, Pat Riley and Flynn Robinson all scored in double figures when the Lakers won their 33rd in a row on Jan. 7, 1972, a 134-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks that improved Los Angeles to 39-3. The streak ended two nights later with a 120-104 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, who were led — ironically — by 39 points from future Lakers icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Perhaps the best reminder of the Lakers at the stadium Tuesday was the Kastles’ public address announcer, who announced the game on stilts, making him more than 7 feet tall.
Streaks also come with superstitions, and Kastles owner Mark Ein was no exception. He donned the same brown dress shoes he wore when the team captured the 2009 title, the day that coach Jensen had all the players put pieces of tape on their shoes to symbolize team unity.
“Before the match, they called me over and said I had to wear it, too,” Ein said.
The small pieces of white tape are still on Ein’s shoes.
“I definitely can never wear these into a meeting again,” he said, “so I figure at least I can wear them out at Kastles Stadium. I’ve broken them out four or five times for big matches.”
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