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Venus Finds Team Tennis Glory

After beating Coco Vandeweghe in a last-game tiebreaker, Venus Williams led her team, the Washington Kastles, to their second straight undefeated World Team Tennis championship. They beat the Sacramento Capitals, 20-19, adding to her list of recent achievements: winning double gold at the London Olympics with her sister, tennis star Serena Williams.

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Before the Kastles improbably went 16-0 in 2011, no team in 35 years of World Team Tennis had ever completed a perfect season. And no one could have ever anticipated that the second perfect season would come the very next year from the very same team. The Kastles have now won seven matches by one game during its notable 32-match winning streak, which is one victory away from the longest winning streak in major U.S. pro sports history – when the Los Angeles Lakers won 33 consecutive games during the 1971-72 NBA season.

Though the team remained unbeaten, the triumph proceeded after a long, hard season for Williams, who had to learn how to compete while living with Sjrogen’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease that kept her out of the game from September 2011 through last March. “I just felt I needed to stay positive,” Williams said, “sometimes you make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean that they’ll keep coming.”

Before making history, the 2012 Kastles found themselves tied with their opponents entering the final set, for a second straight night. And though the win may have seemed expected, it took a lot of work. Sacramento led, 11-10, after three events, winning the men’s singles and men’s doubles with the help of 6’ 8” South African Kevin Anderson, the ATP’s 35th-ranked player. As a response to the defeat, Williams and Leander Paes won the mixed doubles competition that tied the teams at 15. Vandeweghe broke Williams' serve to lead 3-2, but Williams broke right back and the match eventually went to the WTT's best-of-nine-point, super tiebreaker. Vandeweghe quickly led 2-0 when Washington called time out. After a few words with Peas, Williams turned the game around by winning the next five points and winning the game. Just as she did in the Eastern Conference Championship match on Saturday, Williams won the women's singles match to clinch the Kastles' victory, 5-4 tiebreak wins over Coco Vandeweghe in the final set of the contest.

Though she did not win a singles title in 2012, being named the WTT finals MVP and leading her team to victory was enough to make Williams proud. “It was stressful,” she said with a laugh. “To be honest the stress of trying to win not just for yourself but your team is a whole other feeling. Now I think that I’ll go into my matches in singles relaxed, much more relaxed. But it’s also a high that you can’t compare, it’s an amazing feeling. And motivating.”