Charleston’s rep as Best Tennis Town got a bit beaten down on Sunday at the World TeamTennis finals on Daniel Island. Mother Nature wasn’t trying to push us off our pedestal; she was just serving up normal late-July weather: extreme heat plus 100 percent humidity and lightening storms. The Washington Kastles’ match against the St. Louis Aces stretched out over eight long hours, four of which were spent waiting out rain delays, but WTT history was made when the team won the final after an undefeated season.
WTT is a pro team league that Billie Jean King founded in 1974 to create gender equality and foster team spirit in tennis. That makes the male/female on-court chest bump legit, but still eye-popping when the Kastles’ mixed doubles team did it to celebrate a winning shot in the first set. Venus and Serena Williams are on the team, which certainly helped get them to Charleston, but sadly, none of the marquee players were here for the final matches.
The season’s rookie of the year is Arina Rodionova, who danced and pranced around center court like she owned it. “Hot Rod” had fans screaming as she won both her doubles and singles sets and earned MVP of the match, helping secure the Kastles win. This stunning athlete had her engine turbocharged and hips a’shakin’ to the rock and club music that played all night.
The Bishop England cheerleaders added pompom action to the sidelines and Taco Boy, Pot Kettle Black, and Hubee D’s added to the the stadium food scene. The unusual noisemakers of choice were “thunder sticks” (balloons that you clap together) and cowbells — even the sleepy, yawning kids got in on this.
After lightening flashes, three bouts of drizzling rain, frenzied tarp covering and uncovering of the court, a squadron of leaf-blowers, industrial squeegees, air dryers, and bath towels, the court looked comical, like a scene from Ghostbusters on repeat.
But there was live TV coverage involved and players who were flying out Monday morning, so even with the Daniel Island noise ordinance, play went on until just after 1 a.m., when Bobby Reynolds of the Kastles won his singles match in overtime. Billie Jean King gave out the late night trophies as the sparse crowd finally called it a night.