For the second time in about 17 hours, the Orlando Storm found themselves in the middle of a Supertiebreaker at the end of a three-hour match.
But unlike Friday’s result, where Tennys Sandren outlasted San Diego’s Ryan Harrison, the Storm fell short Saturday against the Orange County Breakers — 7-5 in the Supertiebreaker and 23-22 overall — and back to .500 on the season at 3-3.
The final set shouldn’t have even gotten that far for the Storm, who were up 22-18 after Jessica Pegula and Darija Jurak held serve against Andreja Klepac and Gabriela Dabrowski to knot the set at 3-3. But after their own service hold, the Breakers lived up to their name, taking the next game when Dabrowski smashed home a winner in front of Jurak.
In Extended Play, Orange County (2-3) had an easy opening service game to cut its deficit to 22-21. Orlando then had match points on its racket at 40-30 and 40-40, but Dabrowski thwarted the Storm both times. The first save came on a well-placed drop shot by the Canadian; the second saw her send a backhand down the center line that Jurak returned long.
Orlando did take the first two points of the Supertiebreaker, but one unforced error each from Pegula and Jurak kept the Storm from extending their lead. The duos engaged in a back-and-forth battle from there, up to 5-5, where the Breakers had two serves to cap their comeback. They went ahead 6-5 when Pegula returned Klepac’s serve into the net and would officially pull victory from the jaws of defeat when Jurak’s attempt to go up the line with a backhand also ran into the mesh.
Those final few games marred what had been a spectacular day of tennis from Pegula. The 26-year-old from Buffalo took the place of Danielle Collins in women’s singles and put forth the most impressive set from any player on the day in a 5-2 triumph over Jennifer Brady that took just 23 minutes. Pegula won 13 of 15 first-serve points during that set.
In mixed doubles, Pegula used some 110-mph serves as well as some solid ground strokes to help her and Ken Skupski get past Dabrowski and Austin Krajicek, 5-4 (4). Those wins plus Orlando’s 5-4 (3) victory in men’s doubles gave the Storm a four-point advantage heading into that fateful fifth set.
— After surviving Friday’s Supertiebreaker, Sandgren was first on the court for the Storm on Saturday afternoon as he went up against Steve Johnson. Sure enough, he found himself in another tiebreaker but couldn’t replicate his previous success and lost 5-4 (4). Statistically, Sandgren was the better player despite the defeat; he posted a higher first-serve percentage and scored more first-serve points. He also tallied nine aces to Johnson’s four and saved four break points while converting the only break opportunity he had.
However, one crucial category where Sandgren wasn’t the better player was double faults; he committed two while Johnson turned in a clean sheet. That had a very direct impact on the outcome.
Once trailing 4-2 in the tiebreaker, Sandgren rebounded with a put-away smash winner at the net and one of those aces to reach the climatic final point. Johnson, sensing how in rhythm Sandgren was on his serve, called a timeout at 4-4. The attempt to ice Sandgren apparently worked as the 28-year-old Tennessean double faulted upon the resumption of play. As both men walked off the court, Johnson tapped on his head, stressing his smart decision to halt the action as Sandgren was heating up.
— San Diego held a league-high .594 winning percentage in men’s doubles (19 wins in 32 games) prior to today’s loss for Johnson and Krajicek.
— Orlando went 2-2 in tiebreakers Saturday. For the season, its record in all tiebreakers is 7-6.
Orlando will play their fourth match in as many days on Sunday, facing expansion franchise Chicago Smash at 4 p.m. ET. Orange County will look to continue their momentum Sunday evening when they face their Southern California rival, the San Diego Aviators, at 8.p.m ET. Both matches will be televised live on ESPN+.
OC Breakers defeat Orlando Storm, 23-22
Men’s Singles – Steve Johnson (Breakers) def. Tennys Sandgren (Storm), 5-4
Women’s Singles – Jessica Pegula (Storm) def. Jenn Brady (Breakers), 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Sandgren/Ken Skupski (Storm) def. Johnson/Austin Krajicek (Breakers), 5-4
Mixed Doubles – Skupski/Pegula (Storm) def. Krajicek/Gabriela Dabrowski (Breakers), 5-4
Women’s Doubles – Andreja Klepac/Dabrowski (Breakers) def. Darija Jurak/Pegula (Storm), 5-3
Extended Play – Women’s Doubles – Klepac/Dabrowski (Breakers) def. Jurak/Pegula (Storm), 2-0
Supertiebreaker – Women’s Doubles – Klepac/Dabrowski (Breakers) def. Jurak/Pegula (Storm), (7-5)