MANCHESTER, Mass. -- Eric Butorac dropped his racket and then his head.
After putting the Boston Lobsters on his back, the doubles specialist slowly walked off the court as the reality of defeat settled in. Butorac dominated during mixed doubles play and sparked a comeback that saw the Lobsters go wire-to-wire with the league-best Washington Kastles in a Mylan World TeamTennis event.
“It's a magical thing when an athlete is tuned in like that,” Lobsters coach Bob Schultz said. “There are people in the stands who play tennis, and they know how good he looked today. Losing is tough, but Eric really played well tonight.”
Butorac and Lobsters newcomer Katalin Marosi pulled the Lobsters into overtime by winning the mixed doubles set, 5-2. Butorac, who was hoarse from yelling after several game-clinching shots, said he felt like a "magnet" and that everything was going his way.
"If I knew how that worked, I would do it every match," he said.
The Lobsters took the men's singles, men's doubles sets and the mixed doubles match, but the Kastles, paced by Martina Hingis, won the match, 19-18, after a super tiebreaker, which the Kastles won 7-3. Hingis, who was recently inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, helped take two sets for the Kastles and clinched the match during the super tiebreaker.
"She is one of the most malleable tennis players I've ever seen," Schultz said, indicating that Hingis changed her style numerous times during the match. "She's a great player, and she's really hard to play against."
After rebounding from a slow start to the 2013 season, the Lobsters are in a dead heat with the New York Sportimes and Philadelphia Freedoms for the final playoff spot in the the Eastern Conference. Whichever team separates itself from the pack will face the Kastles in a one-game playoff. The winner of that match will face the Western Conference champion for the WTT crown.
Washington, which recently lost two matches after a record-setting 34-game win streak, already has clinched a playoff spot. With the win over the Lobsters, the Kastles secured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Schultz admitted he and the team are going to be doing a little scoreboard watching.
"We're absolutely paying attention to what Philadelphia and New York are doing," he said. "We have three games left, so our fate is still in our hands."
In order to extend their season, the Lobsters have to get past the Springfield Lasers at home Monday before hitting the road to face the Freedoms and Kastles on consecutive days. Schultz said being on the road doesn't concern his team.
After a road-heavy start to the season, they're used to it.
"At this point in the year, we barely know where we are from day-to-day," he said.
Amir Weintraub, who handles the men's singles set when Mark Philippoussis sits out, took out Bobby Reynolds, 5-4. Weintraub and Reynolds held serve until the sixth game, when Reynolds forced an error to break Weintraub. Reynolds had a few bad bounces in the seventh set and had his serve broken, prompting him to pelt a tennis ball out of the Joan Norton Tennis Center.
Reynolds lost the tie-breaking game, 4-2.
In the women's singles set, the Lobsters' Jill Craybas lost to Hingis, 5-2. Craybas started strong, broke Hingis' serve and proceeded to take a 2-0 set lead. However, the former No. 1 player in the world regrouped, swept the third game and broke Craybas' serve to tie the set at 2-2. Hingis kept the pressure on and took the final three games.
Craybas has had trouble with Hingis this season. During her last match against the former Wimbledon champion on July 15, Craybas lost 5-3.
Butorac and Weintraub took on the Kastles' Frederik Nielsen and Reynolds in the men's doubles set, winning 5-2. The Lobsters took the first three games, dropped one, then took the fourth after a frenzied rally in front of the net. Butorac spiked home the game winner, eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd.
Both teams held serve, and the Lobsters took the set on a Butorac ace.
Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova swept Craybas and Marosi in women's doubles to give the Kastles a 16-12 lead.
Nielsen joined Hingis in mixed doubles and fell to Butorac and Marosi, 5-2. After falling behind 2-0, the Lobsters won five consecutive games.