This season Washington Kastles Coach Murphy Jensen aims to carry on his team’s wild success.
“We have a mission,” former tennis pro and grand slam champion Murphy Jensen says of his Washington Kastles. “We want to be the best team in the history of World TeamTennis.” Since winning the 1993 French Open (in doubles with his brother, Luke), his playing days are long over, but Jensen has found success as an on-screen personality and a coach of the Kastles. And though the techniques he teaches—from slice forehands to baseline footwork—can get complicated, he has a simple objective for the upcoming season: to win.
The Michigan native, who serves as director of tennis at Georgia’s luxurious Sea Island resort during the off-season, loves DC, he says, for the people, the museums, the Redskins, but most of all, for the Kastles, one of seven World TeamTennis franchises. Local entrepreneur and Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein handpicked Jensen to helm the team prior to the 2009 season.
“Behind all of the Kastles’ accomplishments and historic achievements over the last five years, Murphy really has been the glue that kept it all together,” Ein says. “He has a unique ability to get our players fired up when it’s needed, but also to keep them relaxed when that’s required."
Jensen coaches Serena Williams in a 2011 TeamTennis match.
This season will be Jensen’s sixth as head coach, and his time in DC has been marked unparalleled and historic success. Under his leadership, the Kastles have won four MylanWTT championships in the past five years, boasted undefeated seasons in 2011 and 2012, and have broken the major US pro sports record for longest winning streak (34 matches). In 2013, Jensen was awarded his third successive MylanWTT Coach of the Year award. His coaching style and charisma are credited for luring marquee tennis names to the tour, including Serena and Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, and Anna Kournikova. “Murphy brings a ton of energy and has his own coaching style that the team responds really well to,” says Hingis, the two-time defending WTT Female MVP.
On Jensen’s website, a recurring theme is “dream big.” “All I ever wanted was to live a life that I would never forget,” he says. In his 45 years he’s certainly done that. The six-foot-four lefty and his ambidextrous brother, Luke, launched what they called “rock ’n’ roll tennis” in the 1990s, winning four Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) titles and making waves by their unforgettable run at Paris’s Stade Roland Garros in 1993.
Murphy Jensen also teaches at the Kids Clinic.
Jensen is quite gregarious—in person and even on the phone , his big personality and energy is evident. So it’s no surprise that he’s dabbled in showbiz, hosting a Tennis Channel show, living in LA, writing screenplays, meeting and starting a family with actress Robin Givens, and even landing a role in a feature film, Wimbledon, with Kirsten Dunst. His son, 14, lives most of the time with Givens in the LA area but comes to DC to cheer on Dad and the Kastles during the season, along with Murphy’s new wife, Kate Rennemo —the two married earlier this year. “Our games are an absolute tennis party, man!” he says. You can practically hear him grinning.
“I’m honored and fired up to coach some of the greatest players in front of the greatest fans in the world,” Jensen says. “Martina is in the Hall of Fame, Venus and Leander [Paes] are on their way, and there’s nobody in World TeamTennis like Bobby [Reynolds]. We’re going to have Venus and Martina on the same court playing doubles, which is a heck of a lineup.”
The Kastles kick off the season Monday, July 7, against the Boston Lobsters in Massachusetts. Their first home match will be on Wednesday, July 9, against the Lobsters as well.