MANCHESTER, Mass. -- Tucked just behind the east bleachers of the Joan Norton Tennis Center is a sign acknowledging every World TeamTennis champion since the league's inception. Absent from that list is the Boston Lobsters, who, despite having an outside shot at the playoffs, likely will have to wait until next year to make their mark.
Boston ended its 2013 home schedule with a 23-15 overtime loss to the Springfield Lasers.
"It's disappointing. We came out tired and cranky right from the get-go, and that changed the way we played," Lobsters coach Bud Schultz said. "We came out early today and worked on some doubles things, so it was disappointing that we didn't get a little more yield out of that."
The Lobsters will hit the road in the midst of a three-way race for the Eastern Conference's second and final playoff spot. Despite losing to the Washington Kastles on Sunday night, Boston was able to tread water as both Philadelphia and New York lost their respective matches. The loss to the Lasers hurts their chances, but the Lobsters still can sneak in with two straight wins.
"Everyone has got to bring it," Schultz said. "We have to win these next two matches. We still have a chance to make the playoffs, as crazy as that may sound at this point."
If Boston is able to clinch the final playoff spot, it will have to travel to Washington, D.C., to take on the Kastles, the league's best team. The Kastles clinched home-court advantage throughout the tournament with their 19-18 win over the Lobsters.
Amir Weintraub, Boston's singles specialist, took on Springfield's Rik De Voest and lost 5-4 after a tiebreaker. De Vost jumped out to a three-game lead and kept Weintraub busy on the baselines with a ranging attack. Weintraub broke the South African's serve and used a dose of power to win three consecutive games.
Weintraub earned a mid-set standing ovation when he raced after a floating De Vost backhand and sent it back with a turned-around, between-the-legs effort. Despite losing the point after a brief rally, Weintraub rode the momentum to win the game, forcing a tiebreaker.
"It was pretty cool, we do that a lot in practice, but it was really cool to see it in a game," the Lobsters' Eric Butorac said.
Both players voiced their frustration with calls during the tiebreaker. Weintraub approached the stand with his arms raised after falling behind 2-0, and De Voest dropped his racket in disgust when a ball, clearly out of play, was called in. De Vost eventually won the set when Weintraub returned a ball out of play.
Jill Craybas and Katalin Marosi faced Springfield's Vania King and Alisa Kleybanova in women's doubles and fell 5-1. King and Kleybanova have been the top doubles team in WTT this season, with a 55-31 record.
Kleybanova, who once was considered a top 20 player in the world, is in the midst of making a comeback after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, which kept her sidelined much of the past two years. Recently, she was denied a wild card entry to Wimbledon, a decision that drew the ire of British media.
She said the WTT has given her a great opportunity to make a comeback.
"This means a lot to me because we play mixed doubles and we play doubles – it also helps with singles too. There's more variation, and I get to see different speeds and at times return a guy's serve," she said. "I think it's great that I get to play all three different things. So far, I feel great, and I hope we finish the season strong."
In women's singles action, Kleybanova defeated Craybas, 5-1.
In men's doubles, Butorac and Weintraub lost to De Voest and Jean-Julien Rojer, 5-4, after a tiebreaker. Rojer and De Voest are considered two of the better doubles players in the WTT and lead the league in winning percentage.
Rojer, considered a top 15 doubles players internationally, is pretty familiar with Butorac. The two played on the same doubles team for a couple of years on the ATP tour and won titles in Tokyo and Stockholm.
"It's interesting in the fact that I think we both really overthink our strategy because we both know what we like to do on the court, where we like to serve and the plays we like to use," Butorac said. "We're extra conscious to do things differently, but it's always fun."
The Lasers' King and Rojer finished the evening with an overtime victory over the Lobsters' Butorac and Marosi in mixed doubles. The Lobsters were able to force overtime after winning the mixed doubles set, 5-2.
"In my mind, Butorac and Marosi are the best mixed doubles team in the league," Schultz said.