Tennis Insider: Texas Wild well-prepared for its second season

06/20/2014 8:56 PM

06/20/2014 11:26 PM

As the Texas Wild gears up for its second season in Irving, owner Jeff Launius is feeling more at ease than a year ago.

Last year, Launius had moved the Mylan World TeamTennis franchise to North Texas from its longtime home in Kansas City, Mo. There was a new venue to construct, staff to train and a team to bring together. But most of all, he was venturing into virgin TeamTennis territory.

It took a match or two for fans to get a feel for their new team and the TeamTennis format, but once they did, they quickly embraced the team and made their presence felt during close matches.

“Absolutely, it’s been easier to get going this year.” Launius said. “Having a year under our belt makes it a whole lot easier. Last year, no one on our staff really knew what to expect and the fans really didn’t know what to expect, so we’re way ahead of the curve this year.”

Fans were treated to some quality tennis last year as the team made a late push to reach the playoffs. The Wild came within a match of making the World TeamTennis Finals.

The Wild opens its second season July 6 at Boston and July 7 at Springfield, Mo. The home opener is at 7:30 p.m. July 8 against the three-time defending champion Washington Kastles at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving.

The Wild will also play home matches July 11 against the Philadelphia Freedoms; July 13 vs. San Diego and July 15 against Springfield.

Texas will close the season with a stretch that will include three of its final five matches against the new Austin Aces in a battle for Texas bragging rights. A spot in the Western Conference playoffs likely will be on the line.

The Wild takes on the Aces in Irving on July 17, then travels to the Cedar Park Center outside Austin for a match the next day. After returning home for a match against Springfield on July 19, the Wild plays its third match against Austin on July 20 in Irving before wrapping up the regular season on the road July 22 in San Diego.

The Wild returns three of its four main players from last season — Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia, doubles specialist Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan and Darija Jurak of Croatia. Joining the mix is two-time French Open doubles champion and former No. 16 singles player Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain.

Garrigues has had a strong showing this spring on the WTA Tour in doubles, winning the Family Circle Cup on clay in Charleston, S.C., in March, then advancing to the semifinals in Madrid and Rome with partner Yaroslava Shvedova. Garrigues and Shvedova also won a hard-court tournament in Brazil in February.

“We expect Anabel to play women’s doubles, mixed doubles and singles,” Launius said. “We think she will be very good in this format. She runs everything down, but that being said, replacing Genie Bouchard is next to impossible. We really like Anabel’s versatility and she’s who we wanted. In this format, we think she will be outstanding.”

Also new this season will be tweaks to the stadium. The west grandstand has been elevated 2 feet, and the first three rows have been eliminated to enhance sight lines. A fourth section has been added on the north end. Concessions will be provided by Table and Tavern, formerly known as Sfuzzi, and there will be more promotions.

“We’re trying to upgrade the whole event,” Launius said. “We wanted to have something for everyone, and we think we’ll have some pretty good tennis, too.”

Individual tickets and ticket packages are on sale at texaswildtennis.com or by calling 972-823-9453.

Briefly

• Austin Aces marquee player and former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli pulled out of a grass-court exhibition in Liverpool, England, on Thursday with a shoulder injury. Bartoli was losing to 15-year-old Jodie Burrage 7-5, 3-2.
• Mitchell Krueger of Aledo has climbed 124 spots in the ATP ranking since mid-March. The 20-year-old is at a career-high No. 349 after reaching the the finals in four Futures events since March, including two clay-court finals during an Italian swing in the past month.
• The Challenger of Dallas at T Bar M Racquet Club recently announced that it has signed a sponsorship agreement with RBC Wealth Management and will change its name to the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas. The pro men’s indoor tournament is scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 7.
• The Sears Centre Arena in suburban Chicago has been selected as the site for the Davis Cup World Group playoff between the United States and Slovakia on Sept. 12-14. Tickets will go on sale July 17, daviscup.com/en/tickets.

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