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For the first time in the team’s 23-year history, the Springfield Lasers have won the World TeamTennis presented by GEICO (WTT) Championship Final, beating the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms 19-18 and winning the King Trophy on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018.
Springfield came back from behind in the final set, men’s singles, which rookie Miomir Kecmanovic won 5-3, securing the victory.
The Freedoms, with a 12-2 season record, had been favored to win. They took the court in their home city with the stands full of fans — including team owner and tennis legend Billie Jean King, co-founder of the WTT league and namesake (along with her former husband, Larry King) of the King Trophy.
Springfield entered the championship final with an 8-6 season record, winning six of their last seven matches. Until the last day of the WTT regular season Aug. 3, Springfield was in the three-way tie for second place and the opportunity to advance to finals. Springfield beat the San Diego Aviators Aug. 3, thereby eliminating San Diego and the Washington Kastles.
It was Springfield’s sixth shot at the King Trophy, having advanced to the championship final in 2014, 2013, 2009, 2001 and 1999.
South African Coach John-Laffnie “JL” de Jager, has coached the Lasers for the last 12 consecutive seasons.
“Wow! What a great feeling to be the World TeamTennis champion coach of 2018, and lifting that King Trophy. We’ve waited a long time,” de Jager said after the match.
“We won a lot of close matches. We never lost faith in our ability that we could win this, and tonight was very special.”
Kecmanovic and Marcelo Demoliner started the match off strong for the Lasers with a 5-3 win in men’s doubles. Demoliner, from Brazil, was traded to the team early Thursday to replace Canadian doubles specialist Daniel Nestor, whose personal schedule did not allow him to participate in the final.
Vania King and Abigail Spears, both American players, followed with 5-2 in women’s singles, giving Springfield a five-point lead. Philadelphia crushed the Lasers 5-2 in mixed doubles, and 5-2 again in women’s singles.
Kecmanovic, an 18-year-old Serbian player who just turned pro in 2017, started the final set with the Lasers down 15-14. He slipped behind another two points before rallying and winning the match. After the match, Kecmanovic was named by the league as Finals MVP.
With the WTT season now over, the 2018 Lasers team members returned to their respective homes around the world and soon saw each other again at the US Open. De Jager returned to Springfield to teach at Cooper Tennis Complex for two weeks.
De Jager traveled back to Springfield with the King Trophy, which was displayed at Cooper Tennis Complex.
The Springfield Lasers were established in 1996 by the late Harry Cooper, who gifted the team to the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. The Lasers are one of the oldest teams in the WTT league. They are managed by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board and play home matches at Cooper Tennis Complex.
For more information on Springfield Lasers, visit springfieldlasers.com, or look for Springfield Lasers on Facebook or @SGFLasers on Twitter.
For more information on World TeamTennis, visit WTT.com
For media inquiries, contact Jenny Fillmer Edwards, Public Relations for the Springfield Lasers and Public Information Administrator for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, at 417-224-5510 (mobile).
(Photo: by Pamela Montanez, Springfield Lasers)