| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
American Mardy Fish looks to bring his veteran presence back to the Empire in 2020.
Photo Credit: Lee Seidner

 

Last summer was a special one for the New York Empire. The city’s World TeamTennis franchise put together the best season in its history en route to reaching the league’s championship match.

The Empire earned a trip to Las Vegas for the league’s playoffs, beating theirarchrival and top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms in the final match of the year (21-16) to qualify, then beating them again in the semifinals setting the stage for the finals against the defending WTT champion Springfield Lasers. Despite the difficult, 20- 19 loss to the Lasers, it concluded what was a magical summer for the Empire.

“I just love the way we fought, I love the way we played,” said Luke Jensen, who was in his first year as head coach of the Empire. “It came down to losing by one game. What an amazing opportunity to be in this arena, this league, this atmosphere.”

Prior to the finals, the Empire took out the Philadelphia Freedoms in a thrilling 24-18 victory. The team received a clutch performance from Ulises Blanch, who filled in for an injured Mardy Fish to earn a key win in the Men’s Singles match.

“I just tried to focus and when I stepped on the court, I knew a great part of it was mental and I just tried to deliver,” said Blanch.

Those types of performances symbolized the type of season it was for the Empire, and one it hopes to duplicate in 2020.

The Empire will look to return to the league’s championship. Helping push the Empire towards its goal of a title will be the addition of International Tennis Hall of Famer and six-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, who is making her return to professional tennis this year. Owner of 41 singles titles, Clijsters retired for the second time in her career in 2012, and after a seven-year hiatus, returns to the pro ranks this year in what will be her third season competing in WTT.

Joining Clijsters in the lineup is Neal Skupski, the league’s Male MVP from last year and a member of the Empire since the team’s inception. American Mardy Fish also returns to the team in 2020, marking his fourth season with the Empire and 11th in the league overall. A former Top 10 player, Fish won six singles titles and eight doubles titles during his time on the ATP World Tour, and in 2019 was named captain of the United States Davis Cup team.

2019 Male MVP Neal Skupski returns to help lead the Empire back to the WTT finals

Making her debut both for the Empire and WTT will be German Sabine Lisicki. The 30-year-old lefty reached the finals of Wimbledon in 2011 and has won four career titles on the WTA Tour. Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic rounds out the team’s roster as she enters her eighth career WTT season. Peschke is a former world number one ranked doubles player who captured the 2011 Wimbledon Women’s Doubles title, one of her 34 career doubles titles.

In charge of meshing all of these pieces together is second-year head coach Luke Jensen. As the Director of Racquet Sports at The West Side Tennis Club, the 1993 French Open doubles champion now calls New York home and will look to guide the Empire back to the playoffs for another chance to bring home the King Trophy.

The WTT season is set to begin on July 12 with all of the matches taking place at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V.

See below for the New York Empire's schedule. For the full WTT schedule and ticket options, visit WTT.com

2020 New York Empire Schedule

Date Opponent Time
Monday, July 13 Washington 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, July 15 Philadelphia 3:00 p.m. 
Thursday, July 16 Orlando 7:00 p.m.
Friday, July 17 Chicago Noon
Sunday, July 19 Springfield 8:00 p.m.
Monday, July 20 Orange County 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 21 Springfield Noon
Wednesday, July 22 San Diego 11:00 a.m.
Friday, July 24 Las Vegas 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, July 25 Chicago 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 26 Washington Noon
Tuesday, July 28 Orlando 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, July 29 Orange County 3:00 p.m. 
Thursday, July 30 Philadelphia 9:00 a.m.