Cook's error a theme

NEWPORT BEACH — Lester Cook had the set on his racket, running full-speed toward the net Wednesday night at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

Cook's men's singles set against Springfield's Rik De Voest had gone to a tiebreaker and it was 4-4 there, so the next point would win the set.

The Newport Beach Breakers' Cook, ever the showman, leaped into the air as he approached the net, ready for a vicious slam. Instead, as De Voest fell behind the baseline, the ball bounced off Cook's racket frame and flew into the air and way out of the stadium.

It was that kind of match in a 23-18 loss.

"I do that shot a lot," Cook said. "I wouldn't do it in the biggest point of the match if I knew I couldn't make it … I barely hit it. It was the bottom of the frame, almost grip. I just airmailed it. I heard him fall, I heard him yell, I heard his racket go across the court, all while I'm jumping in midair. It happened quick."

The Breakers might say the same about their season; their finale is tonight. Tennis legend John McEnroe will visit with his New York Sportimes, who are in first place in the Eastern Conference with an 8-5 record.

The Breakers expect more fans tonight than they got Wednesday night, which likely had low attendance – the grandstands were well less than half full – for a variety of reasons. There was no marquee player Wednesday night, and the match was originally scheduled to be played in Long Beach.

Those who did attend, though, saw a competitive match as Newport Beach (5-8) battled against first-place Springfield (9-4), the defending Western Conference champion. The Breakers did again fall in mixed doubles to open the match, 5-4.

David Martin and Marie-Eve Pelletier were edged by Springfield's Carly Gullickson and Martin Damm in the tiebreaker, by the same 5-4 score.

Pelletier thought she had the set-winner at 4-3, starting to yell "come on" before stopping as the ball clipped the tape and went wide. Then she hit a backhand into the net.

After Pelletier's serve was broken to open the subsequent women's doubles set, she was visibly frustrated. But she and Julie Ditty rallied for a 5-3 win over Gullickson and Chanelle Scheepers.

De Voest is the top men's singles player in the league, but Cook had him until the unlucky shank on set point in the tiebreaker.

De Voest had the set, and the match was tied 13-13 at halftime.

"It was a two-game swing, really," Cook said. "Going into doubles, it could have been a little different. I kind of feel responsible for losing that."

The Breakers have won just eight of 21 tiebreaker sets this year (38%).

"It's one of those things," Newport Beach Coach Trevor Kronemann said. "I think we need to be a little bit more aggressive on the bigger points. We've talked about it all season, both with the guys and the girls."

"Go to the body," Kronemann told Pelletier as women's singles started, but Scheepers took the set, 5-2, as Springfield grabbled an 18-15 lead.

De Voest and Damm, the top men's doubles team in the league, weren't going to give up that lead, and they didn't. They won the final set, 5-3, as Cook and Martin were unable to repeat their heroics from the night before. By match's end, that couple hundred people in the grandstand had dwindled to a couple dozen.

But McEnroe should provide quite a show tonight at The Tennis Club.

"He's fun, he's loud, he's John McEnroe," said Cook, who beat McEnroe in a singles set while playing for Delaware in 2007. "It's a privilege to play against him."

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