Coco has advantage at home

NEWPORT BEACH — Coco Vandeweghe lives just down the street from The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

The professional tennis player said for the past year and a half she's lived full-time in the Big Canyon community of Newport Beach. So Thursday night was like a home match for the 19-year-old, even though she was playing for the visiting Boston Lobsters.

Vandeweghe made sure she didn't disappoint her large contingent of friends and family in attendance. She played mixed doubles, women's doubles and women's singles.

The Lobsters won all three sets, part of a 22-14 victory that secured their spot in Friday night's Eastern Conference Finals in Charleston, S.C. They'll play undefeated Washington.

Newport Beach finished a tough World Team Tennis season with a 4-10 record.

Vandeweghe's mother, Tauna, was one of her loudest supporters Thursday. Tauna won Olympic silver medals in swimming (1976) and volleyball (1984). Coco's uncle, Kiki, and grandfather, Ernie, both played in the NBA.

"[I had] family members, friends, and Jan-Michael [Gambill] also had a big group with him," Coco Vandeweghe said. "We made it kind of a Boston crowd even though we were at home in Newport Beach. I live just down the street, and I have a big family. They're loud and noisy, because they grew up in basketball and in arenas. They come out full-force."

The Lobsters' Gambill has family that lives in Tustin. It added up to a large amount of Boston supporters. They saw the Lobsters rally after Newport Beach's Lester Cook defeated Gambill, 5-2, in men's singles in the opening set of the night.

Gambill and Eric Butorac came back to defeat Cook and Travis Rettenmaier by the same 5-2 score in men's doubles. Then Vandeweghe, who is coached by Palisades Tennis Club pro Robert Van't Hof, did her part.

Vandeweghe and Butorac defeated Rettenmaier and Marie-Eve Pelletier, 5-3, in mixed doubles. Then Boston (7-7) poured it on, as Vandeweghe and Mashona Washington defeated Pelletier and Anne Keothavong, 5-1, in women's doubles.

Vandeweghe had the spotlight in the final set, and she defeated Keothavong, 5-1, in women's singles.

"I looked at the schedule and I saw Newport Beach," said Vandeweghe, who is headed to qualifying for the Stanford tournament this weekend. "I said, 'Pick which half of the season you want me to play, the first or second half, but I'm playing Newport Beach. I wanted to play here since they haven't drafted me yet, even though I live here. I've given [Coach] Trevor [Kronemann] a little bit of crap about it."

The league decided who played on the Breakers this year, not Kronemann. But a player like Vandeweghe might prove useful to the Breakers, though statistically their first overall pick in this year's WTT draft — Keothavong — was their best player. Women's singles was the only set the Breakers finished over .500 for the season, in terms of games won.

The statistics also didn't paint a pretty picture for the Breakers in terms of crucial three-all points, Kronemann said.

"If we had any Achilles heel this year it'd be three-all points," Kronemann said. "I think you saw that tonight. We were all sitting there talking about it. We just couldn't win those big points for some reason. There's no real excuse; it's just what it comes down to."

The Breakers have now missed the playoffs in four of the last five years. Kronemann said he hopes to continue to be involved with the team moving forward.

"It's never too early [to look at next year]," Kronemann said. "We want to get right back on promoting the team and finding a way to make it better. That starts [Friday], for me anyway. It's a passion I have and something I find just as important as my everyday life of being a college men's coach [at UC Irvine].

"It's tough not to be disappointed. You want to win; you want to go to the playoffs. I want to be on the plane going to Charleston. Obviously for me it's a huge disappointment, but I think it is for everybody involved. You know, disappointed is a strong word. We worked hard and did the best we could, and that's just how it goes. I understand there's more to it than winning and losing, and that's hopefully what these guys have learned from me and moving forward."

On the final night of their season, though, the Breakers shared the spotlight with Vandeweghe. She couldn't feel too bad about beating her hometown team after helping Boston clinch a playoff spot. If the Lobsters had lost, the New York Sportimes would have made the playoffs.

"I love World Team Tennis," said Vandeweghe, ranked No. 99 in the world. "It gives you the opportunity to have a lot of matches, where you'd have to be in Europe still playing to get matches right now. I just did my first European swing of Wimbledon and the French Open, and I was two months away from home. So, I'm like, 'I'm staying home and playing World Team Tennis.' It's a great venue, and I get to do things I don't normally get to do."

The St. Louis Aces earned the top seed in Saturday's Western Conference Finals and will play against Sacramento.

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