Marcelo Arevalo made his World TeamTennis debut an evening to remember.
Arevalo played three sets, winning two, and helping the Washington Kastles rally past the New York Empire 21-20 at The Greenbrier.
Arevalo opened and closed the win for Washington. He defeated Jack Sock 5-3 in men’s singles before teaming up with Nick Monroe to beat Sock and Neal Skupski 5-4 (5-3) in men’s doubles.
The Salvadorian won both deciding points in men’s singles and, at 2-2, broke Sock to take control. Arevalo kept the ball in play, putting pressure on Sock, who made some costly unforced errors.
Men’s doubles was even more thrilling. The teams traded holds to set up the decisive tiebreaker, but not without some drama. Monroe stepped up to serve with the Kastles down 4-3. He fell behind 15-40, but fought off three match points to force the tiebreaker. Monroe served last in the tiebreaker, winning two points to wrap up the win.
“I felt really, really comfortable playing here since I got here pretty early,” said Arevalo, who arrived in West Virginia six days before the match. “I got to practice a lot before our first match. The singles match, against Jack, was tough and I don’t know how I was able to get the win. Then the whole team did its job and we got the W.”
Arevalo suffered just one setback in his WTT debut, as he and Arina Rodionova lost a thriller in mixed doubles. The teams traded breaks late to set up a 9-point tiebreaker. Skupski, playing alongside Kveta Peschke, held serve for New York, and mini-breaks of Arevalo and Rodionova gave the Empire the 5-4 win and a 13-11 lead at the halftime break.
Kim Clijsters’ comeback story started with a 5-2 win over Washington’s Bernarda Pera in women’s singles. The Hall of Famer retired in 2012, but — at age 37 — is eyeing a return to the tour. She erased a pair of 0-40 deficits in the set and won two of three deciding points to get the win. It’s an impressive victory for Clijsters. Pera is ranked No. 60 in the world.
Washington took a big 5-3 decision in women’s doubles to set up the thrilling finish. Rodionova held serve to push Washington in front 4-3. The Kastles turned right around and broke Peschke for the win, taking advantage of a double-fault on set point.
And there, at the end of the match, was Arevalo with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Not only is he comfortable on the court at The Greenbrier, he’s comfortable in the team environment of WTT.
“I played in college and I’ve played Davis Cup for El Salvador as well, so I’m used to playing team competition,” he said. “This is what I really love. I’m a doubles player, also, and I just enjoy playing next to someone, especially as a team. This is really big for me. I’ve been preparing for this for two or three months. I’m happy to be here and hopefully we can have a great season.”
This statistic is going to sting a little bit for the Empire: 0-for-8. New York had several opportunities for break points in men’s doubles, but couldn’t get a single one. That allowed Washington to wriggle off the hook and steal the victory.
Both teams get a day off before returning to action July 15. The Empire plays the Philadelphia Freedoms at 3 p.m.ET, on Facebook Watch and CBS Sports Digital. The Kastle square off against the San Diego Aviators at 7 p.m. That match will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
Jeff Kessinger is in his sixth season covering the Springfield Lasers and WTT, and 18th as a sportswriter. Follow him on Twitter @JKessingerSGF.