Mylan World TeamTennis celebrates its 40th birthday this year. For more on WTT, including this season's schedule,
2014 Record: 7-7 (2nd in the West)
Owner: John Cooper & Springfield-Greene County Park Board
Key Additions: John Isner
Key Losses: James Blake, Olga Govortsova
Returners: Michael Russell
Coach: John-Laffnie de Jager
The Springfield Lasers turned around a middling 2014 regular season to come from nowhere to upset the San Diego Aviators in the Western Conference Championships. Though they fell to the Kastles in the final, it was their second straight appearance on that stage, and Coach John-Laffnie de Jager fully believes the team can go one better in 2015.
“A team like Washington -- they have quality players on their team, and they have players that have played at the big stage,” de Jager admits. “They know how to win; they have players who have won Grand Slam titles. So when you’re playing the big matches, those guys step up. Hopefully this year with the team that we have now, we can have one or two lucky breaks.
“Last year, we lost seven out of the nine three-all points in the first two sets so that makes a huge difference.”
De Jager has made some slight changes to the line-up, with men’s singles stalwart Michael Russell supporting Springfield on the days former No. 9 John Isner isn’t headlining play for the Lasers. Russell led the professional team tennis league in men’s singles last season, while Isner is a Mylan WTT veteran, with four seasons already under his belt.
“I think it’s going to be great for us to have John Isner coming into town, obviously he’s the top American. I’ve seen him play in WTT for a few years and it’s great that he’s going to be on our team.
“Mike Russell is coming back for us, and he was a clutch player for us last time; he helped to get us into the Finals.”
The Lasers had drafted German Anna-Lena Groenefeld for the 2014 season, but she had to withdraw due to injury. The powerful doubles specialist is back on the roster for this season, and de Jager has high hopes for her to turn the tide in 2015.
“Ana-lena Groenefeld, unfortunately, got injured last year and didn’t play, only played two matches, but we’re very happy that she’s back to give us a lot of strength in the mixed doubles.”
Playing mixed with Gronefeld will be another German doubles expert in Andre Begemann; Begemann is a Mylan WTT rookie and a fast riser on the ATP doubles circuit, reaching two ATP World Tour semifinals in 2015; Standing at 6’2”, the German was an All-American at Pepperdine in 2006.
“We have a new guy in Andre Begemann, so we’re going to have two Germans on the team; that’s going to be fun. He’s a powerful guy, he moves well. He’s making great strides on the doubles tour at the moment, I was very happy that we got him.”
The three-time Mylan WTT Coach of the Year believes the women on his team are crucial for league success, and has in his arsenal a trio of talented Americans who will play singles this season. Alison Riske, Varvara Lepchenko, and Sachia Vickery have been Mylan WTT substitutes, but will all make their roster debut for Springfield.
“We all know WTT, it’s a lot about the women, and we’ve got a solid line-up on the women’s side. I’m looking forward; it’s going to be a great season.”
The Lasers will play their first match at home, hosting the Philadelphia Freedoms on July 12 at the Mediacom Stadium at Cooper Tennis Complex. As Springfield takes aim, can they shoot for Mylan WTT success?