The Philadelphia Freedoms World TeamTennis squad is in the midst of a dominant season. They clinched the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, but no one is celebrating just yet. They’ve been in this position before.
In 2018, the Freedoms lost 19-18 to the Springfield Lasers in the championship after leading going into the final set. The Freedoms finished the regular season 12-2.
They compiled a 11-3 record in 2019 before being upset, 24-18, by the fourth-seeded New York Empire in the semifinals.
The 2020 record (12-2) is the same as 2018, and the playoff opponent is the same as 2019, but the Freedoms are optimistic that the end result will be different in 2020.
“I think we’re strong throughout everything,” Taylor Fritz said. " Sonya [Kenin] is the highest-ranked women’s player in WTT, I’m the highest-ranked men’s player in WTT, Taylor [Townsend] has been the MVP, Fabrice is amazing and then we have Caroline [Dolehide] and Donald [Young] who can fill in if we need to switch things up.”
The team is focused. Everyone knows what happened the last two seasons, but it hasn’t been discussed by head coach Craig Kardon or the players.
Kardon emphasized the main thing the Freedoms needed to do to win the King Trophy was have fun. They have taken advantage of the bubble-like experience at The Greenbrier and went out for team bonding events throughout the stay.
“[This team] is way more close-knit than my other experience playing WTT,” Fritz said.
The Freedoms will face the Empire for the third time this season Saturday at 2 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. New York gave the Freedoms their first loss, 25-17, in the first matchup and won all five sets. Philly won Thursday’s playoff preview, 23-17.
A big development in Saturday’s matchup will be Kim Clijster’s availability. She sat out the last four matches due to an abdominal strain. Clijsters was one of the four people who topped Sofia Kenin in women’s singles.
“[Clijster] beat her with serving,” Kardon said. “[Kenin] played one sloppy game. I fully expect Kim Clijsters to play Saturday.”
Freedoms team owner Billie Jean King said that if the Freedoms made playoffs, she would make her way to West Virginia. On Wednesday, King arrived at The Greenbrier.
“The fact that she is here supporting us is really special,” Kardon said. “Her presence during the matches will certainly be felt.”
If the Freedoms win Saturday’s matchup, they’ll face the Orlando Storm (10-4) or Chicago Smash (9-5) on Sunday at noon on CBS. The Storm gave the Freedoms their worst loss this season (23-13), and Philly beat the Smash twice in close matches.
Kardon called this year’s league the best from a competition standpoint he’s seen in his 18 years. Freedoms players have expressed their confidence in this being the strongest roster of their three-year run, but the same can be said for the league as a whole. Winning the King Trophy for the first time since 2006 will be a tough task.