Murphy Jensen: "Hopefully we'll become a title town for D.C."
The Washington Kastles' 2013 season -- more like a rocket fueled three-week touring sprint -- started out on July 8 with these talking points: the team maintaining their notable winning streak, at least long enough for a history and notoriety, and claiming a third straight World Team Tennis title.
One goal down, one match left to go for number two. Actually, number three, but really four.
The Kastles (13-2) chance for a three-peat comes down to Sunday's championship match against Andy Roddick and the Springfield Lasers (10-5) at Kastles Stadium on the Wharf. Comcast SportsNet has televised coverage starting at 5 p.m.
With a win, the Kastles, led by coach Murphy Jensen, will have won their fourth title in five years. The latest crowning achievement will have come during a campaign in which they capped a 34-game winning streak. The franchise celebrates the run as surpassing the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' mark of 33 straight victories for the longest winning streak ever by a major U.S. pro sports team.
"It's just an amazing opportunity that our team has, to win three in a row," Jensen said during a phone interview with CSNwashington on Friday while driving to practice with team stalwarts Martina Hingis and Leander Paes.
"Nobody would have imagined a perfect season, then back-to-back [titles] and then breaking the record for the longest winning streak in U.S. professional sports and then having another successful year.
"It's amazing, across the board. There is no other way to describe this team or this season but amazing."
No matter the sport or circumstances, amazing is a reasonable way to describe a 45-2 record over three seasons. Led by Hingis, a former world No. 1 playing her first season with the Kastles, Washington's latest triumph came Thursday, a 25-12 romp over the Boston Lobsters in the Eastern Conference finals.
"We played so well last night. We were able to step it up because we knew it would not be easy. We did our job," said Hingis, who was named WTT Female MVP for the second straight season before Thursday's match. Jensen picked up his third straight Coach of the Year award.
Picking up a third straight title means defeating one of the teams to hand Washington a defeat this season and the only visiting team ever to win at Kastles Stadium. With Hingis elsewhere - being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame qualifies as an excused absence - the Kastles lost to Springfield 22-15 on July 11. Six days later at the same site but with Hingis, Washington knocked off the Roddick-less Lasers 21-15.
For emotional and tactical reasons, Jensen doesn't deny the importance of playing for the title on the Kastles home court.
"It's a massive advantage to have the homecourt advantage," the excitable Jensen said. "We get to pick the [format] lineup. We also will be serving first in three of the five sets. Any break [of serve] that we get is going to be huge."
The Lasers emerged out of the Western Conference by thumping Texas 25-9 on Thursday.
"They've got a lot of firepower," said Paes of Sunday's foe. "We've got a tough team; we've got a lot of firepower here. "
Like Jensen, Paes has been with Washington during the entire five-year run.
"On our team, we always believe in doing what we do best. We take it to our opponents. We push them hard with every single weapon we got. ...That's a tough formula for any team to beat."
Besides strong depth, Washington best weapon is the 32-year-old Hingis, who has dominated opponents in singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles this season.
Paired with Paes, a noted doubles specialist on the ATP Tour, the veteran duo took the opening set of mixed doubles 5-2 against Boston.
"He's a genius," Hingis said adoringly of Paes. "He just takes care of me."
Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova quickly took out the Lobsters in the second set, winning 5-1.
"With Anastasia, we were able to play much better in the last two matches," said Hingis, noting improvement since the pair lost their women's doubles match in the previous meeting against Springfield. "Hopefully, we'll get our revenge."
The five-time Grand Slam singles champion then clinched Washington's win over Boston, prevailing 5-2 in singles. Hingis has won a league-leading 70 percent of her singles games this season.
"In singles, I just have to stay with my business," said Hingis, who will return to the WTA Tour this summer, but strictly in doubles.
History suggests that when the Kastles focus on their business, victories follow. For now, all Jensen and company need is one more.
"We've got the stars aligned, if everyone does what they are trained to do," Jensen said.