| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo Credit: Sidney Beal III/LI Tennis Magazine

 

The New York Empire begin its third season in World TeamTennis presented by GEICO as the franchise returns to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this summer, looking to build off a 2017 campaign which saw it come one match away from the finals.

“There were so many close matches, we lost a couple of tight ones including some third-set tie-breakers, so it could have gone either way,” said Empire Head Coach Gigi Fernandez. “One match could have put us in the finals. So we just have to do what we did last year, and hopefully be a little better.”

Fernandez, along with WTT Co-Founder Billie Jean King and WTT Commissioner Ilana Kloss, held court for Empire Media Day at the National Tennis Center to kick off the upcoming season.

 

King discussed the importance of there being a WTT franchise in New York:

“You have to have a New York team,” King told reporters. “It’s such a great market. You have every culture; over 145 languages are spoken here. It’s really important. I played the majority of my WTT career in New York, first with the Sets at Nassau Coliseum, and for the Apples at Madison Square Garden. The reason I live in New York now is because of WTT. I loved playing for this city … those are very important years to me.”

The Empire hope to make an even bigger leap in its third season, and has the goal of competing for the King Trophy, which is presented to the WTT champion.

In the draft, Fernandez said the primary focus was to enhance the doubles teams. Since three of the five sets played are doubles (Men’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles and Women’s Doubles), making sure you are successful in doubles is of great importance.

“The girls we had last year didn’t gel like we hoped they would,” said Fernandez. “Doubles is important in World TeamTennis, so we emphasized getting doubles players who would work well together.”

 

To address that in the draft, the Empire selected Germany’s Tatjana Maria and Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, both of whom will be competing in their first season in WTT. The two will join Neal Skupski, who will be competing for the Empire for the third straight year, and draft pick Denis Novikov, as well as marquee players John Isner, Eugenie Bouchard and Mardy Fish.

“It’s great. Having them is awesome,” Fernandez said of the returning marquee players. “They are established players and bring the fans out. The excitement when they’re playing is palpable.”

Special Themed Nights Highlight Empire Home Schedule

The season gets underway on Sunday, July 15 at 5:00 p.m., when John Isner will look to help lead the Empire to a season-opening victory. Featuring live entertainment, games, food trucks and face-painting, the team will welcome guests of all ages for Family Fun Night. Festivities will begin at 3:30 p.m. and the action on the court will begin at 5:00 p.m.

On Wednesday, July 18, the New York Empire will honor women who inspire today’s youth, as Billie Jean King and the Women’s Sports Foundation participate in “Empower Her Night” when the Empire host the Philadelphia Freedoms. Hundreds of young girls will be treated to one of two tennis clinics sponsored by Empire BlueCross BlueShield or the Women’s Sports Foundation as part of Empower Her Night. Participants in both clinics will receive a complimentary racket, interact with the New York Empire roster, take a photo with Billie Jean King, and Head Coach Gigi Fernandez will also make an appearance. A special ceremony will take place at halftime to recognize those in attendance.

The Empire will “Play for Puerto Rico” on Friday, July 20 against the San Diego Aviators. Head Coach Fernandez will be raising funds and awareness for her native Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria last September. A live auction will take place at halftime featuring a bidding opportunity to play in Arthur Ashe Stadium for one hour later this summer.

Mardy Fish, former American number one, will take Court 17 on Monday, July 23 when the Washington Kastles make their second visit to the National Tennis Center as the Empire host “Unity in the Community Night.” The night will feature a salute to our military service members, veterans and first responders. Any tennis fan who attends in uniform or shows their military or service identification card will receive complimentary admission to the night’s match.

 

On Wednesday, July 25, the Empire will celebrate and showcase the multi-cultural fabric of Queens on “International Night.” Live music, international cuisine and on-court performances will highlight the evening.

The Orange County Breakers come to Court 17 on Thursday, July 26 when Genie Bouchard and Fish will help host “Volleys Against Violence.” High school students are encouraged to rally together and join the evening that will feature a pre-match pizza party with local police officers and on-court contests.

The Empire will close out its season on Thursday, Aug. 2 against the Philadelphia Freedoms with Fan Appreciation Night. Promotional giveaways will be featured throughout the evening and the first 500 guests will receive a special gift. One lucky fan will win a raffle for 2019 New York Empire season tickets.

2018 New York Empire Home Schedule

Tickets start as low as $10 for children ages 16-and-under and $25 for adults. The New York Empire offers both reserved box seats and general admission seating, along with hospitality packages, which include food and beverage service and the opportunity to meet the team. Group tickets and various hospitality packages are available by calling the New York Empire Office at (844) 5-EMPIRE (844-536-7473) or by visiting NYEmpireTennis.com.

Marquee players are subject to change. All home matches will be played on Court 17 of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The 2018 WTT regular season will take place from July 15-Aug. 2, with the number one-seeded team hosting the championship match for the King Trophy on Sunday, Aug. 5. Below is the New York Empire’s 2018 home schedule:

Date Time Opponent
Sunday, July 15 5:00 p.m.    Washington Kastles 
Wednesday, July 18 7:00 p.m. Philadelphia Freedoms
Friday, July 20  7:00 p.m.  San Diego Aviators
Monday, July 23 7:00 p.m.  Washington Kastles (featuring Mardy Fish playing for the Empire)
Wednesday, July 25 7:00 p.m.    Springfield Lasers (featuring Mardy Fish playing for the Empire)
Thursday, July 26  7:00 p.m.   Orange County Breakers (featuring Mardy Fish and Eugenie Bouchard playing for the Empire)
Thursday, August 2 7:00 p.m.    Philadelphia Freedoms