NEWPORT BEACH — As the Newport Beach Breakers began their quest for a World Team Tennis title, the woman who put the "King" in King trophy was in the house Tuesday night at The Tennis Club.
It was Ladies Night, which meant a pre-match tennis clinic for women featuring WTT co-founder and Breakers co-owner Billie Jean King. Once the match actually began, King wasn't on the court, but she yelled encouragement to the Breakers players from the corner of the stadium.
The St. Louis Aces' scheduled marquee player, former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, was missing. The Aces' women still didn't miss their opportunity, winning a key doubles set as St. Louis took control.
Lester Cook took it back. Big time.
The Breakers' men's singles player won the final set then a dramatic super tiebreaker, helping the Breakers come from behind to win, 19-18.
Davenport will not play in the league this summer. She is pregnant and was placed under travel and activity restrictions by her doctor, the WTT announced Tuesday.
The Breakers trailed, 17-13, after the Breakers' Marie-Eve Pelletier and Anne Keothavong fell, 5-1, in women's doubles. But Cook took a 5-1 victory over St. Louis' Roman Borvanov. He sent the match to a super tiebreaker on a blistering backhand passing shot down the line.
"I knew that was the play, and that's what I wanted it to come down to," Cook said. "I knew I was going to be steady, get the ball back, and if he had [a shot] he was going to come right to my backhand. I knew it was coming. I was just lucky enough to hit it perfectly. I just hit it clean.
"It felt good," Cook added, laughing. "It felt really good."
Breakers Coach Trevor Kronemann wasn't surprised Cook could come back. That's why he put Cook in the last of the night's five sets, just like last year.
"This is why I have the hairline that I have," Kronemann said, "but he's been in that situation before. I tell him, 'It's Cook time. Just go out and play your game and work at it.' Sure enough, he came back and got into that super tiebreaker. Then I felt comfortable he was going to pull it out.
"He's just so quick, makes a lot of returns, makes you play. I think Borvanov missed a couple key volleys and we held on."
The Breakers opened the match well. Pelletier and Travis Rettenmaier defeated Liezel Huber and Jean-Julien Rojer, 5-4, in mixed doubles. Then the Breakers' Anne Keothavong, making her WTT debut, defeated St. Louis' Maria Sanchez, 5-3, in women's singles.
But St. Louis, coached by former Breaker and Newport Beach resident Rick Leach, stormed back. Borvanov and Rojer defeated Cook and Rettenmaier, 5-2, in men's doubles to even the score at 12-12.
"Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones began to play, and King nodded her head in approval.
"Oh, I love the Stones!" King told someone.
But the Breakers got no satisfaction as Sanchez and Huber won the aforementioned women's doubles set, putting Newport Beach in a hole before Cook came to the rescue.
The Breakers got on a red-eye flight to head to Springfield, Mo., for their match Wednesday night against the Springfield Lasers. They're also at St. Louis on Thursday and at Kansas City on Friday before returning to The Tennis Club for their second home match Saturday, against the New York Sportimes.
"It's obviously huge," Kronemann said of Tuesday's win. "We have three matches on the road before we're back here Saturday night. We're going to spend all night on the plane tonight. It's better to go into Springfield with a win than dragging in with a loss."
Saturday's match will feature tennis legend Pete Sampras playing for the Breakers. Former world No. 1 Martina Hingis is scheduled to play for the Sportimes.