White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.—The 2020 season has seen its fair share of challenges, and no one was more suited for the final challenge than WTT Finals Female MVP CoCo Vandeweghe.
Sunday’s final between New York Empire and Chicago Smash came down to the deciding point of the Supertiebreaker between Vandeweghe and Nicole Melichar and Eugenie Bouchard and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. That final point was worth $500,000.
“I’ve never been under that kind of pressured I think ever,” Vandeweghe said. “It was so much fun to have it on my racket to be able to control the situation. Luckily, I controlled it in the right way. So I’m really pumped and it just really accentuated what WTT is.”
As if the drama wasn’t already enough in the final set with Vandeweghe and Melichar storming back, Chicago coach Kamau Murray subbed Sloane Stephens in for Bouchard. It was a stunningly risky move given Stephens had been on the bench for almost an hour, but Bouchard and Mattek-Sands had given up a three-game lead by losing the set 5-4 and Extended Play 2-0. To her complete credit, Stephens wanted in and stepped up to the challenge.
In the deciding point at 6-6, Vandeweghe wanted the return and Stephens served right into her wheelhouse. Without hesitation, Vandeweghe ripped a forehand winner past Stephens as her partner Mattek-Sands made the move to cross. Chicago challenged the call but it had just clipped the baseline.
“I went down on my knees [like] I missed it because I saw all their fingers go up,” Vandeweghe said. “And I couldn’t hear what the actual call was—if there was a call or anything. Then my team swarmed me so I was like, OK it was in, but I was panicking.”
“It comes down to the last point, the last swing. When you’re a Grand Slam champion you’re a made person, you’ve accomplished what you’ve wanted as a kid,” New York coach Luke Jensen said. “She didn’t even hesitate to take that shot,”
The championship-winning moment was reminiscent of WTT Finals Male MVP Jack Sock’s forehand on match point at Wimbledon in 2014.
“Her’s was more stressful because it could have been out potentially,” Sock said. “I gave mine a little more margin, but I love CoCo’s energy, her tenacity. She always wanted to take the deciding points and she’s had that confidence and belief, which was awesome.”
Throughout her career, Vandeweghe has lived and died by her big-swinging baseline power game. When she’s on, the American can beat virtually anyone and pulls off runs like to the semifinals of the Australian Open and US Open in 2017. When she’s off, and injured, she can lose to anyone. After reaching as high as No. 9 in 2017, she tumbled out of the Top 300 by the end of 2019. She kept her doubles game intact though, winning the 2018 US Open with Ashleigh Barty.
Sock’s recent career has been parallel to his mixed doubles partner’s. The 27-year-old had a similar breakthrough year in 2017, cracking the Top 10 just like Vandeweghe, and capping it off with his biggest career title at the ATP Masters 1000 in Paris. In 2018 and 2019, injuries and a loss of winning momentum pushed him completely outside of the rankings. Like Vandeweghe, he still thrived in doubles, winning Wimbledon, the US Open and the ATP Finals in 2018 with Mike Bryan.
“I think we have big energy, big personalities,” Sock said. “[We’re] not afraid to get a little feisty out there. I think in a team atmosphere like this, it’s part of why we did really well and were able to pull it through in the end.”
As in-sync teammates, Vandeweghe and Sock would go 4-0 together at The Greenbrier. They’re both hoping the 2020 WTT season of winning the King Cup boosts their comeback journeys on the tour when tournaments finally pick back up again later this month.
WTT Championship Awards Ceremony
Nina Pantic is a tennis writer, editor, podcast host and content producer. She played collegiate tennis at UCLA. You can follow her on Twitter at @NinaPantic1