2013 Mylan WTT Preview: Springfield Lasers
2012 Record: 4-10 (4th in the West)
Owners: John Cooper and Springfield-Greene County Park Board
Key Additions: Andy Roddick, Vania King, Alisa Kleybanova, Jean-Julien Rojer
Key Losses: Timea Babos, Devin Britton, Maria Sanchez, Amir Weintraub
Head Coach: John-Laffnie "JL" de Jager
The Springfield Lasers have had a rough couple of seasons. After finishing last in the Western Conference for the second consecutive year, the Lasers have decided to bring out the big guns. With a former great like Andy Roddick helping to lead the squad, head coach John-Laffnie (J.L.) de Jager, winner of Mylan WTT Coach of the Year honors in three of the past six seasons, is feeling justifiably confident heading into the 2013 season. “I am very happy with our team. It is a very well balanced side with lots of experience players.”
Roddick has remained a big part of the game since retiring in 2012. The former No. 1 recently partnered with mentor and Mylan WTT co-founder Billie Jean King to join the World TeamTennis ownership group, and will most likely take on the role of de facto player captain of the Lasers during the five matches he’ll play in the middle of the season.
With former top 20 player Alisa Kleybanova making her Mylan WTT debut, the Lasers won’t be short on inspiration. The Russian is in the midst of a comeback after winning a much bigger match against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Before her diagnosis, Kleybanova was one of the ones to watch on the WTA Tour, with wins over Jelena Jankovic and Kim Clijsters. Joining her in women’s singles and doubles is Vania King. The American brings experience to the squad, having brought the Lasers to the Western Conference title in 2009 (named Female MVP the same year). Coach de Jager has high hopes for both. “The women are key in Mylan WTT and with Vania and Alisa we are very solid.”
Another Lasers veteran makes his return after a hiatus in Rik de Voest The South African is playing his fifth season of Mylan WTT, the highlight being when he was named Male Rookie of the Year during his debut season with Springfield. Rounding out the squad is Jean-Julien Rojer, a doubles specialist who is playing some of his best tennis in 2013. With Western Conference opponent Aisam Qureshi (Texas Wild), Rojer won the ATP Masters Series event in Miami. “It helps a lot when you have energy in the team and our men have huge amounts of it. Rik, Julian and Andy will be solid in singles and doubles.”
Coach de Jager is one of the top coaches in WTT history and is also the current coach of the South African Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams, so he knows how to motivate and lead a team. He encourages his players to “keep alert so you can help your players with strategy and tactics. Stay positive and have lots of energy!” They will need some big contributions from their women to give them an edge in the West.