MANCHESTER— Are you ready to meet your Boston Lobsters?
With those words from Lobster’s emcee Steve Calechman, the Mylan World Team Tennis season officially kicked off at the Manchester Athletic Club’s Joan Norton Tennis Center and the first professional sports team to ever play its home matches on Cape Ann played its first match on its brand new home stadium.
With the New York Sportimes in town, the Lobsters and their opponent gave the several hundred fans in attendance a great match, won by the Lobsters 20-18 and a great atmosphere.
The match began with player introductions and Calechman poking fun at some of the new members of the Lobsters. Jill Craybas was announced as the woman who once beat Serena Williams.
“But that means nothing to her,” Calechman joked. “Because she has yet to play for the Boston Lobsters, until now.”
The Joan Norton Tennis Center also provided a family friendly atmosphere as players signed autographs for their youngest fans on the court following the match. Calechman kept the crowd into the match with his zingers and pleas to get the crowd behind the home team while Abigail Spears of the Sportimes gave the crowd a lesson in the “Cupid Shuffle” during the intermission festivities.
Fans in attendance also got to see a wide variety of tennis in a pair of men’s matches, a pair of women’s matches, and a mixed doubles match. It’s that variety that makes the league so special, according to its players.
“World Team Tennis is such a unique game,” said Eric Butorac, the senior player on the Lobsters with five years service. “It’s the best atmosphere to bring kids to and expose them to tennis. They get to see men, women, singles and doubles. You get to be really loud and cheer. I hope people walk away from this wanting to play tennis.”
Butorac was also excited to be playing his first match on the Joan Norton Tennis Center. The Lobsters previously played at the Ferncroft in Danvers and moved to the Manchester Athletic Club this season.
The tennis culture at the MAC is one of the reasons the Lobsters decided to set up shop there.
“It was great. The best thing is that we are playing at a tennis club,” said Butorac, whose wife used to play tennis at the Manchester Athletic Club. “They have a very active program with young players and the crowd was great today. This is why we play tennis, to have fun and perform in front of a nice crowd like tonight.”
The only thing topping the evenings festive atmosphere was the level of tennis being displayed on the court. Both squads boast a ton of talented professionals with impressive resumes. Competing on Sunday was a former Wimbledon doubles champion, a women who defeated Serena Williams, a former member of the Hungarian Olympic team, the No. 2 ranked player in Israel, a top five American doubles player and a former NCAA Division 1 All American.
The Lobsters (1-0) and Sportimes both showed off their skills on Sunday in a tightly contested, back and forth match. Overall the match featured seven lead changes and was not decided until the fifth and final matchup.
Newcomer Amir Weintraub started things off for the Lobsters and his men’s singles match against Sportimes’ Jesse Witten may have been the best match of the evening. Both Weintrab and Witten showed that they have both power and finesse in their games, which led to many long points. In the end, a tie breaker set was needed to decide the winner and it was Weintraub who got stronger as the match went on to take the 5-4 win and start the Lobsters off on the right foot.
Craybas and newcomer Katalin Marosi were up next in the women’s doubles match taking on Spears and Kveta Peschke of the Sportimes. This time it was New York’s turn to pick up some points as Spears and Peschke took the last three games to win the match 5-2, and give the lead back to the Sportimes.
That lead evaporated quickly as Butorac and Marosi picked up an impressive 5-2 win at mixed doubles over the Sportimes’ Peschke and Robert Kendrick to make it 12-11 Lobsters through three matches.
Spears would give the Sportimes the lead right back in a very competitive women’s singles match against Craybas. Neither player could take control and gain momentum because both were playing too well, but in the end Spears’ power was the difference in a 5-3 win and a 16-15 Sportimes lead heading into the fifth and final match, men’s doubles.
In the final match Butorac, a doubles specialist, and Weintraub took over looking like a pair that has been playing together for years despite the fact that this was their first match together. The Lobsters pair took the first two games of the match against Witten and Kendrick and didn’t look back en route to a 5-2 win, which sealed a 20-18 win for the Lobsters, who are looking to get back to the playoffs after missing out last season.
“We had just one practice together on Friday so no complaints on that performance,” Butorac said. “Amir has so many skills and I’m good tactically. He lets me call the plays and then he executes.”
The Lobsters hit the road the next two nights as they are at the Springfield Lasers tonight and at the two time defending champion Washington Kastles on Tuesday. They return to the Joan Norton Tennis Center on Wednesday to take on the Sportimes again.