Already eliminated from World Team Tennis finals contention headed into the final match of the regular season, the Orange County Breakers still found a way to make news Thursday.
Before their finale with the Washington Kastles, the Breakers completed a trade with the Springfield Lasers. Marcelo Demoliner was traded to Springfield along with a third-round pick in the 2019 World Team Tennis draft. The Breakers received Daniel Nestor and a second-round pick.
Breakers general manager Allen Hardison said the Lasers sought to make the deal because Nestor was unavailable if the team made Sunday’s World Team Tennis finals at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Nestor, a 12-time Grand Slam doubles champion from Canada who has announced he’s retiring after this season, is competing next week at the Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto and a party in his honor will be held there Sunday.
Hardison said the Breakers will retain player rights for Demoliner for next season. Additionally, receiving the Lasers’ second-round pick in next year’s draft means Orange County has three of the top 11 picks, including the No. 2 overall selection.
“I think we all win in this situation,” Hardison said.
Nestor, a 45-year-old who helped the Lasers beat Orange County on Wednesday, stayed in Orange County for his final World Team Tennis match Thursday as part of the home team. This time, he helped the Breakers play spoiler.
Orange County defeated Washington 23-17 at Palisades Tennis Club, eliminating the Kastles from finals contention.
The Lasers won at San Diego by a 25-18 score on Thursday, and No. 2-seeded Springfield will play at the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms for the title Sunday at 11 a.m. Pacific time.
The defending league champion Breakers (6-8) failed to make the league title match, after doing so each of the previous three seasons. But at least they ended their season with a win over Washington (7-7).
Nestor played well for Orange County. He won in men’s doubles with Darian King, beating Washington’s Tennys Sandgren and Robert Lindstedt 5-4 in a tiebreaker. Then he closed out the match in mixed doubles, as Nestor and Jacqueline Cako topped Lindstedt and Nicole Melichar, 5-2.
“I haven’t won two [sets] in a match the whole season,” Nestor said. “I’ve been winning sporadically. I don’t feel like the worst player in the league tonight … I played well, but unfortunately, last year my rankings dropped. It’s just different now. Guys are getting better and better, and I’m going in the wrong direction.”
Orange County went in the right direction after King dropped men’s singles to Sandgren, 5-3, to start the match. King went down 4-0, including losing a trio of three-all points. But he fought back, winning three games before Sandgren held serve to claim the set.
“It didn’t look good at the start, but every game you get is so important in Team Tennis,” Breakers coach Rick Leach said. “Darian getting three games was huge. If he loses 5-0, we probably lose the match.”
The Breakers’ Yanina Wickmayer also beat Madison Brengle 5-3 in women’s singles, while Wickmayer and Cako handled Brengle and Melichar 5-2 in women’s doubles.
Leach said it could have been his team’s best match of the entire season, besides a 20-16 win at Philadelphia on July 19. That was the Freedoms’ only regular-season loss this year until Thursday, when Philadelphia lost a meaningless regular-season finale against the New York Empire.
“We’ve had a different lineup every night and had so many injuries,” Leach said. “I just have to say that everybody played really well tonight and fought hard, all the way down the line. That’s what it took, a total team effort to win. On paper, they looked like they would kill us, but we had good chemistry tonight and fought hard.
“I’m so happy with the way our team fought. We knew we couldn’t make the playoffs, but we knocked Washington out.”