Commentary

Mark Philippoussis gives Lobsters lift

Updated: July 15, 2013, 1:15 AM ET
By Bob McGovern | Special to ESPNBoston.com

MANCHESTER, Mass. -- Right after Mark Philippoussis launched a laser ace past the outstretched racket of Samuel Groth, he turned around and pumped his fist toward the Boston Lobsters' bench.

The legendary Australian power server felt right at home.

Riding the momentum of Philippoussis' men's singles set victory, the Lobsters defeated the Philadelphia Freedoms 22-19 in overtime in a World Tennis Tour event. It was Philippoussis' first home match as a member of the team.

"The crowd was really awesome. It was a good vibe, a good atmosphere, and of course it's a bonus to come out of here with a win," he said. "I felt good. I played good tonight, and this team wasn't easy. That was an important win tonight. It got tight at the end, but it was a good win."

Mark Philippoussis
Courtesy of Karen Draymore/Boston LobstersMark Philippoussis' men's singles victory set the tone for the Lobsters' win over Philadelphia.

Philippoussis came out strong against fellow Australian Samuel Groth, winning the men's singles set 5-2. The 2003 Wimbledon finalist fought power with power against Groth, who owns the world's fastest-recorded serve at 163 mph. During the second game, Groth put three consecutive shots in the net and exhibited his frustration by rocketing a tennis ball out of the Joan Norton Tennis Center.

"At the end of the day, if someone's got a big serve, you have to make them play. If he presses too much, you have to hang in there and make him play," Philippoussis said. "My natural game is serving big and being aggressive and putting the pressure on. No matter who I play, that's how I play, but you also have to pay attention to what your opponent does and try to change things around a little. When someone is serving big, I have to step back and give myself a little more room."

Philippoussis had three aces to Groth's four. He finished the day with seven.

"He brings a huge serve," Lobsters coach Bob Schultz said. "You know going into the men's singles that, if he can squeeze out a break & it's very unlikely that he's going to get broken, and then you're looking at a 5-2 set. It's nice going into the rest of the match knowing that you have a shot. It's great having him aboard. He's a really good guy, and he fits right into the team."

Later in the matchup, Philippoussis joined teammate Eric Butorac in the men's doubles set to defeat Groth and Jordan Kerr 5-4. Butorac, one of the world's top 50 doubles players, complemented Philippossis' power with a quick, aggressive approach. Philippoussis said he changed up his game a little to acclimate to the faster pace of doubles.

"Things are a lot quicker, but I had a good partner. We played solid," he said.

Jill Craybas lost 5-3 to Freedoms youngster Victoria Duval in women's singles. Duval, who is making her World Tennis Tour debut as an alternate, kept the Lobsters' veteran on her heels with impressive baseline quickness. Craybas appeared to have momentum after breaking the 17-year-old's serve to gain a 3-1 lead. Duval was visibly frustrated and received some sideline coaching from teammate Liezel Huber.

The encouragement worked as Duval won the next four games.

Schultz was impressed with Duval's athleticism on the baseline, but said he saw a hole in her game that he thinks the Lobsters can exploit the next time around.

"As long as she's running corner-to-corner on the baseline, she's fine. As soon as she had to move forward, there's a lot of inexperience," he said. "For a kid her age, we'd all love to have that skill set. She was impressive, but I'm liking my chances next time around with her."

Craybas redeemed herself later when she and Lobsters newcomer Katalin Marosi defeated Duval and Marosi 5-3 in the women's doubles set.

The Lobsters closed out the match in overtime when Marosi and Butorac took down Huber and Groth in the mixed doubles set. Huber and Groth forced overtime after winning 5-3 during regulation. The Lobsters' mixed team was able to finish the job during the first game of overtime.

"I actually think we played better than what the score ended up," Schultz said. "When you have an opportunity to put a game in your pocket, you have to close the game out right there and then."

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