Explorers lose to New York in WTT title match

All Patrick Briaud wanted was to play one World Team Tennis match. The former Cal All-American ended up winning a championship. Briaud, a last-minute substitute this season, and Nathan Healey won the fifth and deciding set Sunday as the New York Buzz upset the top-seeded Kansas City Explorers 21-18 for the WTT title Sunday at Allstate Stadium at the Galleria at Roseville, Calif. The announced crowd of 1,777 included about 20 of Briaud's friends from Cal. The match ended bizarrely. On championship point, Kansas City's Dusan Vemic lunged to put away a high backhand volley, but his foot touched the net before the ball bounced twice. No part of a player's body or clothing may touch the net before the point is over. Game, set, match and championship. "I would have been happy to play one match," Briaud said. "I feel so blessed to be a part of this team and win a championship." The Albany-based Buzz (12-4) handed the Explorers (14-2) both of their losses and won its first WTT title. New York had lost in the final four times, including last year to the Capitals on the same court. Ever since attending a Capitals match two years ago, Briaud had dreamed of playing WTT. "As soon as I saw the format, I said, 'I want to be here.' I loved the atmosphere and the fact that it's never over. It's awesome how condensed it is," he said. Briaud entered the league's April draft but was not chosen. After losing in the first round of Wimbledon doubles qualifying last month, Briaud planned to retire at 25. But two days before New York's July 3 opener, Buzz owner/GM Nitty Singh called him. Vladimir Obradovic of Serbia had withdrawn because of a knee injury. Less than one month later, Briaud and his teammates were holding the King Trophy. "What a way to go out," said Briaud, a left-handed doubles specialist who's ranked No. 208 in the world after reaching a career-high No. 125 in January. "Not too many people can say they won their last match." Briaud said he plans to go into financial planning, his mother's profession, in Dallas but left open the possibility of returning to the Buzz next summer. "It's so hard to walk away from this," he said. Briaud was born and raised in college football country - College Station, Texas. He took up tennis because his French father, a civil engineering professor at Texas A&M, played it. Briaud chose Cal because of its engineering department, tennis program and beautiful setting. Did he suffer culture shock going from College Station to Berkeley? "In some respects, yes," said Briaud, who graduated in 2005 in industrial engineering. "You'd get on a plane and see 'Go, Bush' on roofs. Then you'd get off the plane and see bumper stickers saying 'Bush (stinks).' But my parents are from France and Canada, so I had a fairly liberal upbringing."