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Capitals hang with Chang on opening night

Former tennis champion returns to Roseville for guest appearance
By: Brett Ransford, Press Tribune Correspondent
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Michael Chang was back in Roseville Monday night as the Sacramento Capitals opened their 25th World Team Tennis season. 

 

The first of seven home matches at the Westfield Galleria Mall location welcomed some familiar fan favorites.

 

In a repeat of last year’s opener, Chang was the featured player as the Capitals hosted the visiting Newport Breakers. Sacramento lost the match overall as a team 26-14 in a combined score through five sets

 

Three tiebreaks in a five-set match make for exciting tennis.  The combined team score overshadows some serious individual and two-teammate tennis played throughout the night.

 

Chang had the only winning set for the Caps, taking three-time Texas A&M All-American Lester Cook to a tiebreak ninth game, 5-4.  Chang has just returned from a third place doubles finish at the French Open as part of the Senior Tour.

 

The 1989 French Open winner returned to the court and another tiebreak in Men’s Doubles at the end of the night. With new Capital Dusan Vemic as his teammate, Chang fell 4-5 after a hard-fought tiebreaker.

 

Of his return to the Roseville court Chang said he enjoyed it last year and even got a chance to see some local sights.

 

“ I’ve been traveling a fair amount so it’s refreshing to come here and be part of the Capitals and World Team Tennis,” Chang said. “I had a chance to meet the owners of Fat’s Asia Bistro and a lot of tennis enthusiasts.  Everyone was looking forward to coming out tonight.”

 

Prior to the match start Chang spent the day mingling with fans. ‘Hang with Chang Day’ began at noon with his tennis clinic at the Capitals Stadium and proceeded to Fat’s in Roseville for a meet and greet.

 

After the match he maintained his welcoming charm, surely running on fumes from two hard-fought sets.

 

“I think I was just kind of going on adrenaline there and fighting for every point at the end,” Chang said. “I thought I had that return because I saw [Cook] go there and cover it.  Hat’s off to them. They played well.”

 

Beginning with mixed doubles, Chang and Riza Zalameda dropped the first set of the night 5-2 to Marie-Eve Pelletier and teammate David Martin. Currently ranked at No. 81, Zalameda tried to shake off some rust in getting back into singles play.

 

“The first match is always about the nerves and everyone’s kind of rusty,” Zalameda said. “I haven’t played singles in months, but today was a nice time to play. As the season goes we’re going to get more relaxed and aggressive and we’ll give everyone a run for their money.”

 

Zalameda’s best result came in singles, a narrow 5-4 loss to experienced WTT player Julie Ditty.

The Caps played former NCAA Champion Christina Fusano in place of Vania King’s roster spot.

 

King is another welcome addition to a talented Caps team this year. Absent for the opener, King was the 2010 Wimbledon Women’s doubles champion along with teammate Yaroslava Shvedova. She rejoined the Caps Tuesday as they head to Newport for the second of a back-to-back against the Breakers.

 

Coach Wayne Bryan began his ninth season with the Caps. The three-time WTT Coach of the Year was in usual form, positive and excited to be coaching tennis.

 

“It was certainly great having the all time great Michael Chang play,” Bryan said. “He played tremendous against a very good Lester Cook. “It was also some of the most amazing men’s doubles I’ve seen and I’ve seen more men’s doubles than anybody alive. We were very happy with a good crowd on a Monday night. We’ve got some young players and some first-time World Team Tennis players and I was happy with the play of all the players tonight.”

 

The Caps were in Newport, and then off to the Midwest against the St. Louis Aces and the Kansas City Explorers before returning to the Roseville court on Friday, when the Caps host the Springfield Lasers at 7:30 p.m. The Sacramento Capitals stadium is located at the Westfield Galleria.

 

FYI:

Remaining Sacramento Capitals home schedule:

July 9: Tres Agaves Fiesta Night (vs. Kansas City Explorers)

July 13: Wine Tasting Tuesday (vs. Newport Beach Breakers)

July 14: Drop Shot Diva Night with Lindsay Davenport (vs. St. Louis Aces)

July 18: The Sacramento Capitals 25th Anniversary (vs. Philadelphia Freedoms)

July 19: Caps Kids Day sponsored by Westfield Galleria Roseville (vs. Kansas City Explorers)

July 22: Fan Appreciation Day (vs. Springfield Lasers)

 

Season and individual tickets are available online at www.gocaps.net, and at the stadium which is located at the Westfield Galleria at Roseville at the corner of Galleria Boulevard and Roseville Parkway next to Pier 1 Imports. Prices start at $15.

Tickets for the special Hang with Chang day are $75 and must be purchased by calling 638-4001.