Quiet American Tennis

By Jane Voigt (July 31, 2014)

Washington D.C. — Tennis can be a noisy game. Throaty or squeaky grunts, come-ons, and chinky smacks pierce the air when racquets are bounced. 

Not so with Vania King and Christina McHale, two quiet American women that went about their business on Grandstand Court 2 at Citi Open this afternoon.

A scattering of fans awaited them in the increasingly sticky D.C. air. The women walked on court with little fanfare, an appreciative applaud for their accomplishments.  

They put down their racquet bags and accessories, spread towels, grabbed a squirt of energy gel and sip of whatever liquid elixir their coaches had prepared to maintain proper levels of minerals et al. 

As the first set progressed neither made a sound, other than puffs when they struck the ball. Their racquets spoke, though. 

King scooped up serves and returns on the rise, slicing valuable time away from McHale’s preparation, one of her finer assets along with keen footwork. “I love her footwork,” one fan said, with a hint of adoration. 

King’s well-constructed points. Her aggressive position inside the baseline, sometimes by three feet, forced more errors from McHale. McHales forehand was a wreck, as was her serve … five double faults in the first set. King won it 6-1.

Lisicki vs. King  Family Circle Cup 2014 04 02 LB 0146

Vania King at Family Circle Cup, April 2014. Photo credit tennisclix.com

“I know Christina very well. She’s a great friend of mine, and a great tennis player,” Vania said. "I just tried to stay aggressive from start to finish.” 

McHale broke to start the second, a chat with her coach between sets obviously had lifted her tennis and altered her confidence. She steadied herself, cutting down on errors. 

The tennis was better … then King called the trainer. Something was wrong with her hip. 

"I had some pain in my [right] hip,” she said, after the match. "I don’t think it’s a serious injury. Hopefully with a good nights rest, it’ll get better. But I have withdrawn from the doubles.” (Vania was scheduled to play alongside Taylor Townsend later today.)

King played with her upper right thigh wrapped for the rest of the match, as McHale pressed.

Bang, bam, back and forth … a rhythm rising, fans holding their breath and cheering as points were won. How could King move so well? 

McHale held to 3-1 and a demonstrative ‘come on.’ It was a squeak, not a roar. 

It did little, though, to hinder King. 

McHale’s fate was sealed on an ill-advised drop shot on break point, the early break and hope to go three snapped up in the late afternoon sun. 

King closed it out  — 61 63 — with little fanfare other than smart serving and consistent shot placement. 

King’s happy to have advanced. She is calm about the prospect of healing quickly. Perhaps some of that is a reflection of her accommodation extended by friends just north of D.C. this week.

“I get the home life,” she said, smiling. "I don’t feel like I’m in the tournament scheme. I rented a car and drive back and forth, no tour bus.” She even went to see the movie Hercules, yesterday. She raved about the special effects, but didn't compliment the script. She’s into mythology. 

King travels by herself on tour, for now. Her former coach couldn’t commit to the week-in and week-out schedule. “In a way you have less stress without the coach. And you get more motivation on court because it’s on me.”

King wants the opportunity to meet Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals. 

“I played her last year at Rogers Cup. It was close. She’s obviously a good player. I have a game plan in my head, but I just want to go out there and play good tennis."

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013