On the eve of the US Open, South African tennis ace Raven Klaasen played a key role in The San Diego Aviators defeating the Orange County Breakers 25-14 to win their first Mylan World TeamTennis (WTT) championship on Friday in the Mylan WTT Finals at historic Forest Hills Stadium at The West Side Tennis Club in New York, USA.
Raven Klaasen (doubles, mixed doubles), Darija Jurak (doubles, mixed doubles) and Shelby Rogers (women’s singles, doubles) each won two events to lead the top-seeded Aviators.
However it may have been Ryan Harrison who had the most impressive feat of the day. For Harrison, the league’s Male Most Value Player (MVP), it was a double victory, as he also qualified for the US Open earlier in the day, dismissing Henri Laaksonen to earn a spot in the main draw. He then made the short drive across the borough of Queens to contribute to Coach John Lloyd’s team in winning the King Trophy.
Klaasen, ranked No. 10 in doubles on the ATP World Tour, was named the Mylan WTT Finals MVP for his performance. Klaasen, who was presented with a 1 carat diamond after the match, teamed up with Jurak and Harrison to post a pair of 5-2 wins in mixed doubles and men’s doubles.
“It feels really nice to get the MVP award but it feels a bit undeserving because our whole team played very well,” said Klaasen who credited team chemistry with their success. “We were apart for four days and when we saw each other again last night, it felt like we had been apart for a year. Our team chemistry has been great. We will be friends for the rest of our lives.”
Jurak and Klaasen began the afternoon with a 5-2 mixed doubles triumph over the Breakers’ Alla Kudryavtseva and Scott Lipsky. Then Rogers and Nicole Gibbs battled it out in women’s singles, with Rogers upending Gibbs, 5-2, for a 10-4 Aviators advantage.
Next was men’s doubles, with the duo of Harrison and Klaasen extending the Aviators’ advantage to a commanding 15-6 with another 5-2 set triumph, over Scott Lipsky and Dennis Novikov. Women’s doubles was next, with Rogers and Jurak teaming to topple Gibbs and Kudryavtseva by that same 5-2 score.
Men’s singles completed the day, as the Breakers’ Dennis Novikov salvaged the only set win, 5-4, to keep Orange County alive, Harrison then closed out the championship by winning the second Extended Play game. League co-founder Billie Jean King and South African born Mylan WTT CEO/Commissioner Ilana Kloss presented the Aviators, including team owners Fred Luddy and Jack McGrory, with the their first King Trophy.
Winning the title at Forest Hills Stadium was also special for Lloyd who was named as the 2016 Mylan WTT Coach of the Year earlier this month. “It brings a lot of memories back; I played back in the US Open when it was on grass and clay,” added Lloyd, in his second year at the helm of the new champions. “In fact on this court I lost to the great Bjorn Borg. It was nice to play on this beautiful court. To come back and win this title was great.”
During the on court prize giving, Billie Jean King joked saying it would take a South African in Raven Klaasen playing many thousands of miles away from home to win a South African diamond in the final.
Klaasen now focuses on the US Open where he is seeded 7 in the men’s doubles with American Rajeev Ram.