No Breakers comeback

NEWPORT BEACH — It was just one of those nights Friday at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

As Samuel Groth of the Kansas City Explorers kept pounding huge first serves in the very opening set, Newport Beach Breakers Coach Trevor Kronemann could only shake his head.

The match had only just started, and already Groth and his wife, Jarmila, were putting on a show in mixed doubles. As the Breakers huddled after the set, Kronemann tried to offer encouragement.

"They played as well as they can play," he told his team.

Problem was, not much changed as the match progressed.

The Explorers won the first four sets of the match and dealt the Breakers their first loss of the season, 25-15, in overtime.

"It was kind of surprising," said Kronemann, whose team began the night as the only undefeated team left in World Team Tennis. "It felt like every set we just couldn't get the wheels turning, couldn't get them moving. They were just getting all the lucky breaks. We had our chances to sneak in the door, and it just didn't happen for us. Maybe they play that well [tonight when the teams rematch]. I'd be very, very surprised."

It wasn't the way the Breakers wanted to start a span where they'd play five matches in five nights. They fell a half-match behind St. Louis in the Western Conference.

After the Groth duo topped Marie-Eve Pelletier and David Martin, 5-2, in that opening set, Jarmila Groth kept the pressure up in women's doubles with Kveta Peschke.

Pelletier and Julie Ditty began the night as the top women's doubles team in the league in terms of game percentage won. They still are, but it didn't matter Friday night as Jarmila Groth and Peschke cruised in the second set, 5-0.

Newport Beach was down, 12-2, and gasping for air. And the Breakers (2-1) weren't getting any breaks, either, against the Explorers (2-2). The first four times a game went to the three-all game point, the home team lost every one.

Samuel Groth and Ricardo Mello continued Kansas City's run by winning men's doubles, 5-4 (also 5-4 in the tiebreaker), over Martin and Lester Cook.

Groth won 17 of 20 points on his serve, including 13 of 14 on his big first serve.

"We try to sort of manage his serve," Kansas City Coach Brent Haygarth said. "He's just been hitting bombs, but we've been trying to get him to mix it up so the bomb is even more effective. He did that great tonight. Even his sort of 'mix-up' serve is huge, and he brings a lot of intensity to the team."

The next set, women's doubles, also went to a tiebreaker, and the feisty Jarmila Groth won that as well, 5-2 in the 'breaker.

By then, the Explorers were doubling up the hosts, 20-10, making Cook's 5-4 victory over Mello (5-1 in the tiebreaker) in men's singles largely irrelevant. The match went to overtime, but Cook would've had to win nine straight games to send it to a super-tiebreaker.

"Isner-Mahut!" Martin yelled at his friend and doubles partner in encouragement, referring to John Isner's victory over Nicolas Mahut at this year's Wimbledon, the longest pro tennis match in history.

The crowd was enthusiastic about Cook in the extra session as well, but Mello won the opening game to end the match.

The Breakers are at Kansas City tonight for the rematch, and at Springfield on Sunday before returning home Monday for their third match against the Sacramento Capitals.

"Now all the fun stuff happens," said Kronemann, whose team will venture out of California for the first time this season. "The traveling, all the stuff that we haven't had to take part in this year. We play eight of the next nine nights. We'll be hopping on planes, trains and automobiles."

Zac Tsai, who recently finished his senior year with UC Irvine men's tennis, served as a Breakers alternate along with Anteaters women's assistant coach Vana Yamamoto.

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