Last month the Washington Kastles won the World Team Tennis (WTT) championships and capped off a perfect 16-0 season which included 14 wins in the regular season. This was the first time since the league began in 1974 that a team has completed an undefeated season and gone on to win the championships.
The bulk of the workload rested on the shoulders of Arina Rodionova, Leander Paes, Bobby Reynolds and Rennae Stubbs with an assist by Venus and Serena Williams. With the new Kastles Stadium at The Wharf and multiple sellout home matches, the season was truly magical.
After the dust settled, Coach Murphy Jensen was named WTT 2011 Coach of the Year, Leander Paes was named WTT 2011 Male MVP and Arina Rodionova was named WTT 2011 Female Rookie of the Year.
The final home match of the season was also Night Out with the Kastles for the LGBT community. Kastles stalwart and LGBT sports hero Rennae Stubbs, a lesbian, sat down to reflect on the winning season.
BLADE: The media has assigned nicknames for the four mainstays of the team. Rodionova is Hot Rod. Paes is Scissorhands. Reynolds is The Closer. I have heard them refer to you as Stubbsy. Do you have a favorite nickname for yourself?
STUBBS: I had not heard of Leander being called Scissorhands, I think Magician is probably more appropriate and as for me, Stubbsy has been my nickname for as long as I can remember, so I will stick with it.
BLADE: Coach Murphy Jensen seems to embody the perfect mix of leadership, motivation and fun. What’s it like to play tennis for him?
STUBBS: Murphy was and is the perfect combination of all those things. With an experienced team like Leander, myself and Bobby, there isn’t too much tennis instruction or experience he needs to push on us, more just keeping us positive in tough moments and keeping us laughing. With Arina it was a matter of him keeping her positive and feeling good.
BLADE: I love the camaraderie of the players on the court in World Team Tennis. It’s like your entourage is out there with you. That must be a great change of pace from the WTA tour. Do you love it?
STUBBS: I do love it. I have always loved being on a team and team tennis with it’s balance and equality make it the perfect team environment. Our team camaraderie was the reason behind our success this year. We always supported each other. There were nights when one of us might have had a rough set and we would always say, ‘Hey I got your back tonight,’ and we always did. We cared for one another and our team owner Mark Ein kept stressing to us, keep supporting each other. We even started to get together in huddles in the middle of matches and end of matches and motivate each other. Saying things like, ‘Everyone keep taking care of your own business and no matter what we support each other to the end.’ It was such a nice feeling in the end to continually support and motivate one another and get the job done. I was so proud of us.
BLADE: Do you get to enjoy the sights and sounds of D.C. when the Kastles are in town, or is it all business?
STUBBS: Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of down time, but one Sunday I had off and I did as much site seeing as possible. I absolutely love the city, its architecture and parks are so beautiful. I tell all my friends, it’s a must on the list of cities to see, truly a favorite.
BLADE: You and Leander Paes are two of the greatest doubles players of all time. Did you play together before partnering for the Kastles?
STUBBS: Only once. It was back a few years ago at Wimbledon. We lost in the first round, but it was a close match and it was a really tough draw. Most other times we have had regular partners and plus he wins without me.
BLADE: You have competed for Australia in four consecutive Olympics. Are you gunning for a berth in 2012 in London?
STUBBS: I will never say never, but that is a long way away and I just can’t see myself going for another full year of the tour. It would be amazing to play an Olympics at Wimbledon, I won’t lie, but like I said, that’s seems like an eternity to me right now.
BLADE: You picked up the microphone and gave a heartfelt thanks to the fans at the Kastles season finale. Did the new stadium and the sellout crowds motivate you or add to the pressure?
STUBBS: Oh it motivated me for sure and I know the rest of the team felt the same way. The work that Mark Ein and his staff did to get that great new stadium up and running every night was amazing. Also the fans were the reason we won most of those matches this year, especially the tough ones. We have the best fans in the league and to not thank them after the season we had, would not have felt right, especially after going 14-0. I wanted to let everyone know how much we appreciated their support all season and I promised them we would bring the title back to D.C.
BLADE: Was there a doubles team this year in WTT that rattled your cage?
STUBBS: Not really. I am want to beat everyone I play and contribute as much as possible to the end score for our team. There might be a team or two that motivates a little more, but overall, a win’s a win. The most nervous I was all season was when the first lady Michelle Obama and her kids came. I was really motivated that night to play well, I won’t lie. And they were so into it, it was great and they could not have been nicer. Only in D.C.
BLADE: At the regular season finale at Kastles Stadium against the Philadelphia Freedoms, the heat index was 115 degrees. What do you think it smelled like inside of Topspin and Slice’s mascot uniforms?
STUBBS: Oh gross! We all kept saying, ‘Oh Topspin and Slice must being dying, we better keep an eye on them, in case they start fainting.’ Troopers.
BLADE: Will you be back in 2012?
STUBBS: I would love to come back, but that’s again an eternity for me and I can’t say if I will be playing. I think it might be the perfect way to exit into WTT retirement, but we will see. But I can guarantee you, no matter in what capacity, I will be back to D.C. and the Kastles whenever I can. Maybe we can get a visit to the White House. Thank for all the community support. I love you guys.