Austin Aces provide fun atmosphere despite rough inaugural season

Nick Castillo

The Austin Aces’ inaugural season hasn’t exactly been a smash hit, but it has provided a new experience for many fans.

The Cedar Park Center, the Aces home arena, is filled with music, cheering and excitement during the nearly four-hour events. While the team may not sell out its games, Austin coach Rick Leach claims that it has the best fans in the Mylan World TeamTennis league.

“I’ve been so impressed with [the fans’] enthusiasm,” Leach said. “I’ve been seeing the same kids at the autograph line — great response and great crowds.”

Led by Austin resident and former Grand Slam champion Andy Roddick, the Aces have spent the past month participating in the league’s regular season against six other teams.

Unlike conventional tennis, Mylan league matches consist of five different sets — one set of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Each game won gives a team a point, and the first team to win five games wins each set.

The unique scoring system gives every team an opportunity to contend for a championship. The league’s scoring keeps matches from becoming exhibitions by ensuring competitiveness throughout the match.

“No team is ever out of it in World TeamTennis,” said league co-founder Billie Jean King at a luncheon in Austin on June 10. “The overtime and super tiebreaker always set up an exciting finish.”

The structure of the league is what makes coaching the Aces so enjoyable for Leach.

“I like TeamTennis because you have men and women playing together,” he said. “I just think it’s fun and exciting and fast-paced. I think they can root for the home team as much as they want.”

The league’s atmosphere is one of the many reasons Roddick and team owner Lorne Abony created the Aces organization.

“It’s kind of fun and funky,” Roddick said about the league. “Most people tell you to be quiet at matches; we tell you to be louder.”

While the atmosphere at games has been exciting, the Aces haven’t had the best season as they’ve gone through growing pains throughout their first year. The Aces are currently in last place in the Western Conference with a 4-7 record. Their struggles continued Saturday as they saw their playoff hopes get even smaller after a tough loss to the San Diego Aviators. Although Austin will likely miss the playoffs, Leach believes that the team will improve over time.

“I think we’ll keep getting better,” Leach said. “We lost some close matches. Unfortunately, some players came in with some injuries and Treat [Huey] got hurt when he got here. With only four players, it’s pretty tough on you.”

The Aces will finish the season on the road against the Texas Wild, Philadelphia Freedoms and San Diego Aviators this week.