WASHINGTON — Oh, the audacity. A World TeamTennis club is challenging the Los Angeles Lakers for all-time winning streak supremacy.
The Washington Kastles began the WTT season riding a 32-game winning streak, following back-to-back unbeaten championship seasons. They liked to tell anyone who would listen that they were second only to the Lakers among the “longest winning streaks in major U.S. pro sports history.”
That changed Monday night when they won their season opener against the New York Sportimes — in front of a sellout crowd that included first lady Michele Obama — to tie the Lakers’ mark of 33 from the 1971-72 season. Another win Tuesday against the Boston Lobsters would break the record.
Saying the Sportimes, Lobsters and Lakers are on a level playing field might make some chortle — but not the Kastles.
Leander Paes said he cried — yes, cried — when he had to leave the Kastles for a few games last year to represent India at the Olympic Games. He was fearful that his absence might cause the team to lose.
“I hurt for it,” Paes said. “To me, playing the Olympics last year was huge. But leaving the Kastles to go for the Olympics and give it a chance to break the streak, I walked off the court in tears that day.”
Still, it’s a tough sell — Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain taking a back seat to a team that plays its entire regular season in 17 days.
Most fans don’t consider WTT to be a “major” sports league. The matches have more of an exhibition feel, with the sport’s top players making only featured appearances on certain nights. It would look more like the majors and less like Triple-A if, say, Roger Federer and Andy Murray were playing every match.
Nonetheless, these are professionals who are trying to win. And, in the Kastles’ case, they keep doing it. Coming out on top 32 times in a row isn’t easy in anything.