NEWPORT BEACH — Despite losing their best player, Zina Garrison Jackson, to a shoulder injury and putting up with a rather restless crowd of 2,000, opening night was a success for the Newport Beach Dukes, who defeated the Sacramento Capitals, 29-19, Saturday night at the John Wayne Tennis Club.
The Dukes raised their record to 3-0 by winning four of the five sets. Newport Beach will put their undefeated record on the line Tuesday at home against the Idaho Sneakers, coached by former Duke and UC Irvine Coach Greg Patton.
"We had to make it 3-0 so the General (Patton) could come to town and we could be 4-0," Newport Beach's Trevor Kronemann said.
New Dukes Coach Angel Lopez doesn't have a catchy nickname yet, but he's happy to be 3-0.
"We're just taking this a step at a time and staying with the moment," Lopez said.
Lopez probably would be happier if knew if Garrison Jackson would be ready to play Tuesday night. Lopez said Garrison Jackson was almost replaced Saturday night by alternate Tami Whitlinger, who was dressed to play.
"She's tough," Lopez said of Garrison Jackson. "She's a fighter. I had Tami ready to go. We hit some (Saturday). She saw the doctor and wanted to play."
Garrison Jackson played well for a set and four games before she was replaced by Larisa Neiland during a singles match with Debbie Graham. Garrison Jackson and Neiland won the first set, easily handling Graham and Kimberly Po, 6-3.
Garrison Jackson and Neiland teamed for the first time last month and won a grass-court doubles tournament the week before Wimbledon. They haven't stopped winning since, raising their team tennis doubles record to 3-0.
Graham and Po had a chance to get back into the set when they broke Garrison Jackson's serve to close the score to 4-3 Dukes, but Po was immediately broken at love. Neiland then held serve at love to close out the set.
Graham and Garrison Jackson were on serve at 2-2 when Neiland replaced her. Garrison Jackson said she injured her right shoulder Thursday night in Wichita and it never loosened up Saturday.
"The trainer felt Tuesday night would be better for it," she said. "Larisa was playing real well and I felt it would be better to get out on an even note."
Asked if the injury was serious, Garrison Jackson said, "I'm trying to get it before it gets serious."
Neiland went on to defeat Graham, 6-4, and give the Dukes a 12-7 lead. Graham, who grew up in Fountain Valley, has been sidelined since January with a broken right foot and her play definitely showed the rust.
"I'm trying to get back into the swing of playing," said Graham, who has not won a set in three matches with the Capitals (1-2). "It's hard to break in. You can't simulate matches in practice. It's hard not to get down on myself."
Graham said she wanted to play better in front of her home crowd.
"It's a little disappointing, but it can't get much worse than this," she said.
Kronemann and Jones widened the Dukes' lead to 18-10 with a 6-3 victory over Sandon Stolle and David MacPherson. Jones, playing in front of about 150 enthusiastic members of his home San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club, lost his first singles match of the season in three tries to Stolle, 6-5.
Kronemann and Neiland closed out the victory with a 6-3 victory over Po and MacPherson.
Lopez said he's surprised to be 3-0 at this point.
"All of us feel like we've got the chemistry to win (the championship)," he said. "We'll take the next match as if we really weren't 3-0."
Lopez hopes the next match brings a livelier crowd. It seemed the only time the crowd made any noise was when a Dukes player was ready to serve.
"The advantage some of these teams have is their crowd really gets into it," he said. "This is a different format and they're not really used to it."