The Philadelphia Freedoms played the New York Empire twice this season and split the matchups, but Saturday was the biggest matchup of them all.

The No. 1-seeded Freedoms faced the fourth-ranked Empire in the World TeamTennis semifinals for the second consecutive season, and the result was the same.

A 5-1 loss in mixed doubles put the Freedoms in a hole that they couldn’t get out of and they fell to the Empire, 22-18.

It was the Freedoms’ third consecutive season entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and failing to bring home the King Trophy.

”We played like we had everything to lose and they played like they had nothing to lose,” Freedoms coach Craig Kardon said. “We were just a little tight, and they are a very good team.”

Taylor Townsend and Fabrice Martin were the mixed doubles in the starting lineup. The duo had been reliable all season, but Saturday wasn’t one of those days.

Trailing, 9-8, is when the Freedoms dropped the crucial mixed doubles set. The only game won came after Kardon subbed Taylor Fritz for Martin.

“Fabrice was struggling, and we needed to get a game in there,” Kardon said. “I probably waited too long. I think I should’ve put [Fritz] in after one game. Sometimes you just have a bad day. We wouldn’t have been here without Fabrice.”

Fritz was the Freedoms’ last hope in men’s singles. The 2020 WTT men’s MVP, Fritz built a 3-2 lead but couldn’t break serve against Jack Sock.

The Freedoms are still searching for their first King Trophy since 2006. Before the season, Philly added 2020 Australian Open singles champion Sofia Kenin, Fritz, and the third-highest ranked American women’s doubles player, Caroline Dolehide. The roster had more star power on paper than ever, but the end result left little to be proud of, despite a dominant regular season.

“I told them that they’re all champions, they have a lot of class and integrity, and we just lost to a better team,” Kardon said. “To have the best record is really positive, but the playoffs are a completely different animal.”