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TEAMTENNIS : Connors, Undefeated Dukes Produce Performances to Remember


NEWPORT BEACH — A near sellout crowd of 2,487 at the John Wayne Tennis Club came to see the legendary Jimmy Connors for possibly the last time in a World TeamTennis match.

They were treated to a performance that brought back memories of center court at the U.S. Open, but they also got to witness history when the Dukes became the first WTT franchise to finish the season undefeated.

The Dukes crushed Phoenix, 27-17, Saturday night and won their 14th consecutive match. The Dukes (14-0) will play again Friday night at Sacramento in the WTT semifinals against the winner of a wild-card match between Idaho and either Charlotte, Phoenix or Wichita.

Before the match, Dukes Coach Angel Lopez said the perfect record was on the team's mind.

"We're looking to make a little bit of history (Saturday)," Lopez said. "We're looking forward to everyone playing their best."

Kelly Jones had been playing the best tennis of any man in the league, but he was cooled off by Connors, losing 6-3. After destroying Connors, 6-1, Friday night in Phoenix, Jones appeared tight in front of the big crowd. And Connors, who has played in front of much bigger crowds than Saturday's, was relaxed and playful.

Although he was coming off an 6-2 loss in men's doubles with Danie Visser to Trevor Kronemann and Jones, Connors took the first three games against Jones. Connors got most of his first serves in play, allowing him to dictate most of the points.

Jones held his next three service games, but he could never break Connors' serve. Late in the set, Connors and some of the louder and happier Duke fans began to exchange a few nasty barbs. To one obnoxious fan, Connors quipped, "If that's all your looking at, you're in trouble."

"I don't mind it as long as they're willing to give it out and take it," he said. "A lot of them can't take it though."

Connors said the difference Saturday in his matchup with Jones was the surface.

"It was a lot slower here and it gave me time to set up," Connors said. "He served aces Friday night and played really well."

Said Jones: "I set up a lot of my points, but I just couldn't come through. We played indoors in Phoenix and lights were a little better there. It's better for a serve and volley guy like me."

Still, Jones captured the men's singles championship over Connors by winning 80 games and losing 47.

Zina Garrison Jackson and Larisa Neiland gave the Dukes a 6-3 lead with a victory over Leila Meskhi and Mary Lou Daniels. Garrison Jackson then avenged her Friday loss to Meskhi with a 6-1 victory. Kronemann and Neiland clinched the perfect season with a 6-5 (5-2) victory over Visser and Meskhi.

"I'm ready to go 16-0," Neiland said. "No sweat."

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