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Photo Credit: Camerawork USA

Empire Upset Freedoms in Last Match of Season

True New Yorkers never call it quits.

If ever there was an adage to capture the New York Empire’s spirit for the 43rd season of World TeamTennis, presented by GEICO, this is it.

After suffering a series of setbacks, including a winless season at home, the Empire downed the first-place Philadelphia Freedoms, 19-15, in their final match of 2018 to end the season on a spectacular high note. Is it a sign of what's to come next year?

"We didn’t finish on court how we wanted to this season," says New York Empire GM Michele Cope, "but like true New Yorkers we own it. Our final match demonstrates we will not back down from a fight and we intend to return stronger than ever next season."

Dennis Novikov clinched the victory in a final-set tiebreak over the Freedoms’ Kevin King in men’s singles.

Novikov rallied from a break down in the set, which was suspended after three games as a passing downpour ravaged Court 17 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and forced the match indoors.

Despite the weather, and a 2-12 record to end the season, New York found the silver lining.

“It wasn’t the season we wanted to have, but it was nice to win the last two out of three [matches overall],” Novikov said after the match.

After losing mixed doubles to start the night, two dominant sets in women’s and men’s doubles helped the Empire build a 13-6 halftime lead.

Dennis Novikov rose to the occasion in the last match of the season. (Photo: Camerawork USA)

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and substitute Francoise Abanda topped the best women’s doubles team in the league, Taylor Townsend and Raquel Atawo, 5-1, before Novikov and Neal Skupski blanked King and Fabrice Martin, 5-0.

“You always have to keep it fun at the end of the day. We love playing for the New York Empire, and we were fighting for every match,” Skupski, who closed out his third year with the Empire, said. “We didn’t want to finish…with zero, 0-14, so it’s nice to finish the season [with a win].”

Novikov, who completed his second season of WTT, but first with the Empire, added: “[The experience] was good overall. The record didn’t show it, but we lost a lot of close matches with just a couple of points deciding each one.

"We could’ve had five or six wins if three or four points went our way. That’s the way tennis goes sometimes, and hopefully, next year will be better.”

Empire doubles star Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez gave a champion effort in her WTT rookie year. (Photo: Camerawork USA)

At the conclusion of the match, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez was named 2018 WTT Female Rookie of Year.

Congratulations Maria and congratulations team for your tenacious spirit from start to finish!

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