NEWPORT BEACH — The grunts and groans heard at the Palisades Tennis Club Sunday night came from Monica Seles and the rest of the New York Sportimes.
The noise probably resulted from the 24-13 beating the Newport Beach Breakers issued in a World TeamTennis game that included the demise of Seles, the nine-time Grand Slam champion.
Seles looked a step slow in her 5-2 mixed doubles loss to the Breakers’ Nana Miyagi and Ellis Ferreira, and equally as slow in her 5-3 women’s doubles loss to Miyagi and Aniko Kapros.
Seles, who made her first return to competitive tennis in a year and a half due to a foot injury, looked downright tortoise-like in her 5-1 drubbing to Kapros in women’s singles.
“I haven’t played in a long time,” Seles said. “But [Kapros] was hitting every shot.”
Kapros dominated her singles match to remain undefeated in five matches this season.
“I was just honored to be on the court with her,” Kapros said of playing against her childhood idol. “I know that she wasn’t in top form, but it was great to be on the court with her.”
The fact that Seles was making her professional return against the Breakers did not rattle the Newport Beach team. It seemed to put the Breakers at ease.
“I was looking forward to playing against her,” Ferreira said. “It was important for us to get out to a fast start because it makes the rest of the team feel good. You never want to play out of a hole.”
The tandem of Miyagi and Ferreira raced out to a 3-0 lead in the mixed doubles. Ferreira put the set away with strong plays at the net, smashing point winners in the final game.
Kapros and Miyagi tried to exploit Seles’ time away from the court, hitting many balls to her instead of Bea Bielik, Seles’ partner.
“I was expecting [Seles] to come out and be fiery,” Miyagi said.
But it was Kapros and Miyagi that were on fire, taking the first two games while allowing only one point for New York (1-5). Kapros aced three of the four points in the sixth game of the set, and Miyagi finished strong to give Newport a 10-5 advantage for team points.
“I just wanted to come out and play some good tennis,” Seles said. “It felt good, but there was a combination of reasons why I was slow out there.”
Seles cited her foot injury, rustiness from time away from the court and conditioning as reasons for her out-of-sync play.
Ferreira credits his female teammates for the early success of the Breakers.
“Team tennis relies on the women getting a lot of points, and Nana and Aniko have been great,” he said. “Aniko has won, 5-2, 5-2, 5-3, 5-2, and now 5-1. She’s been great for us.”
The Breakers (4-1) have a road-and-away series with the Sacramento Capitols Tuesday and Wednesday, with the home Wednesday match being Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova’s lone appearance with Newport. She canceled her scheduled match for Sunday due to exhaustion.