By Amy Fetherolf
(November 2, 2012) PHILADELPHIA – Tennis stars took over Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Friday night in a PowerShares Series event featuring John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Patrick Rafter, and Michael Chang. Rafter picked up the title in his first PowerShares Series appearance since 2009, defeating McEnroe, 8-4 in the final.
The four participating players combined for 14 Grand Slam titles during their illustrious ATP careers, and they showcased some of their old magic in a fan-friendly exhibition format.
To start the event, Courier took on McEnroe. The 53-year-old McEnroe, 11 years senior to his opponent, nevertheless displayed the finesse that earned him seven Grand Slam singles titles.
Down an early break in the set, and as shouts of encouragement, “Hey, Johnny!” and “Johnny Mac!” rang through the court, McEnroe clubbed a forehand down-the-line to break back, raising his arms in victory.
The crowd reveled in McEnroe’s occasional temperamental outbursts. He slapped at the net with his racquet after pushing a passing shot long, and chucked the racquet onto the tennis court so hard that it bounced off the rubbery playing surface.
Courier hit his trademark compact forehands with aplomb, but McEnroe outfoxed him with cleverly placed drop shots and deep returns that earned him the necessary break of serve. McEnroe took the one-set match 6-4.
Next, Rafter took on Chang for a chance to take on McEnroe in the final. Rafter’s serve-and-volley style against Chang’s defensive prowess made for an intriguing match-up on paper. But Rafter hardly looked like he’d missed a day on the ATP Tour. He breezed through the match, 6-2, hitting incredible volleys in the process.
In the final, it was mostly one-way traffic for Rafter. He and McEnroe, two of the sport’s greatest volleyers, battled each other for the edge up at the net. Rafter showed off his effortless backhand overhead volley, a shot that delighted the crowd.
Broken once, Rafter was able to break McEnroe’s iconic lefty serve three times to win the match.
“I’ve haven’t played too many competitive matches in awhile, but I moved really well, I’ve been doing a lot of fitness work back home, so I guess it all paid off,” Rafter said after the final. “You want to come out here and still play well. I’m still at an age where I feel like I can hit the ball okay, so I want to enjoy it while I can.”
“John puts me under a lot of pressure on my serve, and I felt it all the time. I always find him very difficult to play against. He’s unreal, he’s amazing.”