2014/04/17

Experts, Club Owners Offer Insights at Tennis Owners & Managers Conference

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CHARLESTON, SC (April 10, 2014) — The inaugural Tennis Owners & Managers Conference (T.O.M. Conference), presented by the Tennis Industry Association April 3-4 in Charleston, S.C., brought together leading experts in club and facility management and programming to provide practical information and key “takeaways” to help tennis facility owners and managers become more competitive and profitable.

A capacity crowd of more than 100 attended the T.O.M. Conference, which was held at the Charleston Marriott. They heard from speakers and panelists that included top executives at national tennis and health companies, successful tennis club owners, experts in legal and financial matters, a promotion expert, a retail consultant, club membership and compensation experts, tennis programming and coaching professionals, sports research experts, and more.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Cliff Drysdale, an ESPN commentator, former pro player and 2013 inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Drysdale also owns a tennis management company, Cliff Drysdale Tennis, which now manages 26 locations. He hit on a theme that other speakers and attendees also addressed when it comes to managing a tennis facility: “The main challenge is getting the right people, the right professionals, the right leaders,” Drysdale said. “It takes a very special talent. You have to deal with the politics of the club, you have to be able to teach, and more than anything, you have to be a promoter.”

“The Tennis Owners and Managers Conference offered a full schedule of important topics that tennis clubs and facilities are dealing with today,” said TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “We were pleased to not only have such high-level presenters, but also to get a high degree of audience participation throughout the day-and-a-half conference.”

In addition, TIA “Software as a Service” business partners were on hand to speak with attendees about some of the latest technology available to help club and facility management. Conference participants also attended an evening session in the Legends Sky Suite at the Family Circle Cup women’s professional tournament.

De Boer said plans for a second Tennis Owners and Managers Conference in 2015 are being considered. “The feedback we’ve received for this inaugural conference has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “There clearly is a need for this type of information and networking among tennis facility owners and managers, to help them better compete in this business environment.”

For more information about the Tennis Industry Association, visit TennisIndustry.org. To see what attendees had to say about the inaugural T.O.M. Conference, visit TheTomConference.com.

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New Balance Launches Inaugural New Balance High School Championship, Presented by the USTA

new balance

new balance high school championship

 

(March 26, 2014) New Balance announced in early March the creation of the inaugural New Balance High School Tennis Championship presented by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), an event that will offer young tennis players a new level of competition on the national stage. The tournament will be held at the Beren Tennis Center at Harvard University in Boston, July 21-25, 2014.

“We think if you play high school tennis, you’re a tennis player for life,”  Bruce Schilling, General Manager of Tennis for New Balance told Tennis Panorama News.

“We want to acknowledge and pay attention to those athletes that don’t get the attention as other sports do.”

“We are also excited to build relationships with the high school state athletic associations through this new and exciting event and work with them to develop ongoing programs and services for individual players and coaches.”

New Balance developed the event with the goal of supporting and recognizing all high school tennis players and coaches and the dedication they bring to the sport. New Balance sought the USTA’s support for this event because of the strong alignment of both organizations’ goals to promote and develop the sport of tennis, as well as the USTA’s experience managing tennis events.

Boys’ and girls’ singles events will have a 64-player compass draw format, giving players the opportunity to play many matches. Winners of the New Balance High School Tennis Championship will be awarded wildcard spots in an International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior event held in the U.S. prior to the 2014 US Open Junior Championships.

To grow participation among high school players and the event, New Balance is collaborating with the High School State Associations to conduct outreach and work with athletic directors, coaches, and players to acknowledge the importance of the high school game. Other event supporters include Harvard, SJX, and Home Team Sports.

“The real goal of this is to get down into the state level and offer opportunities for every high school player,” Schilling said.

Outside of publicity and the tournament web site, New Balance is reaching out to potential participants in other ways. “We have made arrangements with a number of state federations and those federations are those federations are reaching out to high school tennis associations by reaching directly to the coaches of the kids that win,” Schilling said.

“Harvard was one of the first programs we got involved with immediately, they are very close to our campus. It’s a spectacular venue at a prestigious institution and so there really couldn’t be a better partner.”

More than 355,000 boys and girls participate in high school tennis. At the collegiate level, approximately 20,000 varsity positions are available for top athletes, with intramural and club-level programs providing an additional 40,000 participants the opportunity to maintain their social and competitive connection to the sport throughout college.

For more information on the New Balance High School Tennis Championship: http://www.newbalance.com/NB-Tennis/exp-tennis-event,default,pg.html

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Fila debuts Sony Open Original Tennis with Sam Querrey & Grammy nominated producer & DJ Clinton Sparks

2014 SONY OPEN MIAMI

(March 22, 2014) Fila debuted the Sony Open Original Tennis shoe with Sam Querrey and Grammy nominated DJ and Producer Clinton Sparks this past weekend in Miami.

Clinton Sparks is a Grammy nominated producer, songwriter, radio & television personality and recording artist. He has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga, Rick Ross, Akon, T-Pain, Eminem, and Diddy.

Clinton spun the latest mixes on the Sony Open Entertainment stage in honor of the launch of the Sony Open Original Tennis. Sam Querrey stopped by to be the guest DJ with Clinton.

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Fila is the official supplier of the Sony Open in Miami, Florida, FILA heads back to its roots with a new edition of the Original Tennis. The official colors of the Sony Open are on display in a color combination of white, orange, and royal blue. On the back counter, directly below the color lining, the Sony Open Tennis logo is subliminally featured. In addition the F-Box dons the same colorway of the silhouette. The sock liner of the shoe is reminiscent of the color and texture of a tennis ball.

 

During this year’s Sony Open, Officials and lines persons will wear the shoes, along with matching jackets designed by the FILA team (Apparel available on site only).  The pairs, extremely limited in production, currently available on FILA.com, as well as onsite locations at the 2014 Sony Open Tennis.

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Charlie Pasarell Receives Hall of Fame Ring

 Left to right: Hall of Famers Mark Woodforde, Donald Dell, Butch Buchholz, Rosie Casals, Bud Collins, Roy Emerson, Brad Parks, Rod Laver, Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser, Hall of Famer Charlie Pasarell, Hall of Fame CEO Mark Stenning, BNP Paribas Open Tournament Director Steve Simon, Charles Pasarell, Sr., and BNP Paribas CEO Ray Moore. Photo by Billie Weiss


Left to right: Hall of Famers Mark Woodforde, Donald Dell, Butch Buchholz, Rosie Casals, Bud Collins, Roy Emerson, Brad Parks, Rod Laver, Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser, Hall of Famer Charlie Pasarell, Hall of Fame CEO Mark Stenning, BNP Paribas Open Tournament Director Steve Simon, Charles Pasarell, Sr., and BNP Paribas CEO Ray Moore. Photo by Billie Weiss

By Kevin Ware

(March 14, 2014) INDIAN WELLS – As tournament director and managing partner, Charlie Pasarell was instrumental in helping to build the Indian Wells tournament into the world-class event it has become. So it was more than fitting that he received his official International Tennis Hall of Fame ring last night on the Stadium 1 court, in front of an adoring crowd, before the start of the evening session.

Pasarell was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer. But the International Tennis Hall of Fame has a wonderful tradition of presenting the ring at a home location that affords the best opportunity for the inductee to be surrounded by as many family and friends as possible.

The stadium ring ceremony was a public affair. The celebration dinner afterward, emceed by Pam Shriver, was much more intimate; attended by some Pasarell’s immediate family, as well as his extended family in the tennis community.

Also on hand were several other Hall of Fame members, many of whom spoke glowingly about their friend and fellow-inductee. Those in attendance included Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, Donald Dell, Bud Collins (pants as colorful as ever), Butch Buchholz, Brad Parks, Rosie Casals, Billie Jean King, Roy Emerson, and Mark Woodforde.

Pasarell, with his father and son looking on, was just as moved by this moment as he was at his official induction in Newport. After an encore viewing of his video tribute, and hearing the touching tributes of his friends, it was obvious to see how touched he was by this moment.

Looking out at the familiar faces, his voice at times struggling to control his emotion, Charlie offered a simple, “Thanks to all my friends who are here today. I’m touched by all the support.”

Kevin Ware is in Indian Wells covering the BNP Paribas Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

Photos from the private party held before the ceremony.

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McEnroe Wins Nashville PowerShares and Clinches the Season Title

By Brad Hunter

(March 13, 2014) NASHVILLE – It makes cosmic sense John McEnroe clinched the PowerShares title in “Music City,” on Wednesday night. He loves his guitar playing and is married to rocker goddess Patty Smyth.  He’s also in amazing shape, and glides around the court like a current ATP Tour professional.  McEnroe defeated Pat Cash in the final set 6-3 after beating Jimmy Connors 6-4 in the semi-final. It was the first time in the last 12 years that McEnroe had played against Connors.  This event also gave the former greats of the game a chance to advocate tennis in an area where there is no professional tennis.  When asked about the current state of tennis in America before the matches, McEnroe said “…it’s a game that takes a long time to learn and it’s expensive. We’ve got to give more kids an opportunity… get into schools more, high schools, grammar schools…”

The evening started with Ivan Lendl facing off against Pat Cash.  From the get-go, Cash displayed a showman’s affection towards the crowd: tapping balls (and double-tapping after fans threw them back) into the crowd for fans to keep, giving a kid sitting courtside one of his checkered bandanas, taking his shirt off after a lady yelled “take your shirt off!” He also moved around the baseline and up to his favorite area of the court, the net, with agility reminiscent of his days on tour.  Lendl threw up numerous high lobs, and Cash hit most of them for winners with jumping, acrobatic overhead smashes.  Lendl, in fine form, also had fun with the crowd, but in his own way… confrontation with a smirk.  One man in the crowd was heckling him early on the set, and he stopped play to ask the man if he was drunk, and then asked him which lady he was sitting with was his date. (One of them looked like his wife, and the other looked like his daughter)… After the man replied something saucy, Lendl asked him to come down to the court.  The man wouldn’t oblige so Lendl said “I can’t help it if he has no balls!” The crowd seemed to enjoy the exchange and laughed… the heckler made no more comments to Lendl. The men stayed on serve until 5-all, when Lendl played an error filled game and double faulted to give Cash the break.  Cash had been dominant on his serve until he served for the set, and he proceeded to drop serve and send them into a tiebreaker.  Lendl had one match point which Cash saved with a high kicker service winner to Lendl’s backhand, and then Cash won the set 9-7 in the tiebreaker.

The second semi-final set pitted John McEnroe against longtime rival on and off the court, Jimmy Connors.  While McEnroe moved around the court like the old days, Connors kept his movement more controlled.  Connors has had 3 hip surgeries, but his footwork looked amazing and his feet kept moving during points.  This was Connors’ first match stop in the PowerShares Series tour and he said before the match “time to come back and hit a few, this is my first public appearance in about 3 years or so.”  McEnroe and Connors had quite a few long rallies, John seemingly happy rallying with Nadal-like topspin from the back court, and Jimmy comically huffing and puffing between points.  Connors also played in long pants “like Bill Tilden” which became a running gag during the match.  At one point someone shouted “I don’t need no shorts!” to Connors, which made him crack up laughing and prompted McEnroe to roll his own shorts up like they were daisy dukes.  Connors responded by putting two tennis balls up to eyes as if he were horrified by the sight of McEnroe’s exposed thighs.  Towards the end of the set, McEnroe increased the pressure on Connors and his own forays to the net and won the set at 6-4.

The final featured the two resident serve and volleyers, Cash and McEnroe.  McEnroe, while clearly having fun, also had his serious game face on and broke Cash early for a 2-0 lead. Cash was able to earn some break points down 2-3 in the set, but McEnroe saved them and served out the match to win 6-3.  There were a few calls in the set that McEnroe playfully objected to, but he did not display any of his true trademark tantrums.  “I played some good tennis most of the time and I’ve played some really tough competition” he told Jimmy Arias after the final.

Brad Hunter was in Nashville covering the Powershares Series Tennis. Follow his personal Twitter @BradHunter.

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Jimmy Connors Ready for PowerShares Series Stops in Nashville and Charlotte

JimmyConnors
By Brad Hunter

NASHVILLE – Jimmy Connors will be making his 2014 debut in the PowerShares Series in Nashville, TN on Wednesday, March 12th.  Connors last played the PowerShares Series in 2012.  For the stop in Nashville, Connors will be joined by Pat Cash, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.  To get ready for the event, PowerShares held a conference call with Connors and the media on Friday, March 7th.  Connors did play some of his junior tennis in the Nashville and Memphis area, but he has never played a professional or exhibition match in Nashville.

When asked about his current form heading into the event, Connors said, “The first thing I try to do is keep it inside the lines, keep the ball in play, try to have the same strokes and the same work ethic that I always did, even though it’s not quite as long as the old days. I still get the same pleasure going out and working for whatever I do, 45 minutes or an hour, getting a good sweat, putting forth that kind of effort as I did 30, 40 years ago.”

Connors said PowerShares gives the fans a chance to revisit the glory days of their tennis fandom and shows the club player a brand of tennis that is attainable for their own games. “To watch a Nastase, a McEnroe, Borg, even leading up to the Sampras, Courier, and Andy now, to see guys like that play, the kind of tennis they play, they feel they still can muster up that kind of energy to hit a shot like that once in a while, go back and say, Geez, I saw Borg or whoever hit that shot one time, and look at me, I can do that.”

Connors also fielded a question about the current intense rivalries of yesteryear compared to the cordial nature of the current men’s game.  “It would be very hard to believe that if Mack ever beat me in the finals of a major event that he’d come over and give me a hug.  I just don’t see that happening.”

Last year, Connors was let go of his coaching duties with Maria Sharapova after 1 match. He also worked with Andy Roddick in the past.  When asked if he would ever consider coaching again he responded with a humorous “no” and then explained “I say that laughingly.  I shouldn’t say that so quickly.  I would prefer to get a young kid that’s eager and willing to listen, has had no success.  That would be the ultimate, I guess.  As much as I enjoyed being with Andy, traveling around, he was a major champion.  When you hit that height ‑ Maria also ‑ things change, things are different, attitudes are different.  As much as you want it, it’s still a different way of thinking.  So for me to say it, I would rather find somebody young that’s moldable would probably be the best way to say it.”

Connors concluded the call with some thoughts about Nashville native and oft-sidelined ATP pro player Brian Baker, “But to stick to it like he did, to want to go through all that, still want to go out and play, man, oh, man, I’d like to find a 14‑year‑old about like that, that’s willing to do all that, and also listens.  Boy, oh, boy, that would be something. I hope he finds nothing but success in anything he does.  He’s not going to walk away from any fight, no matter what.  That’s pretty special there.”

Brad Hunter will be in Nashville covering the Powershares Series Tennis event for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal Twitter @BradHunter.

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Tennis Players and Celebrities Play Tennis for Charity at Desert Smash

 

(March 4, 2014) LA QUINTA, California – The 10th annual Desert Smash at the La Quinta Resort & Spa on Tuesday raised money for charity featured  actors Will Ferrell, Kevin Spacey and Rebel Wilson and tennis players Novak Djokovic, as well as the Bryan Brothers – Bob and Mike, Australian Open Champion Stanislas Wawrinka and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.

The two-day tennis and golf event will benefit Cancer for College, a 501c3, non-profit organization that provides college scholarships for cancer survivors. Since 1993, the charity has granted nearly $2 million to more than 1,000 cancer survivors.

Here are some photos from the event.

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Business Men

By Vito Ellison

(March 4, 2014) NEW YORK – The Bryan Brothers drew an error on the opening point of their match against John and Patrick McEnroe last night. After that came a volley winner from Bob, a smash off Mike’s racquet and ultimately a hold at love. The terse opening game was punctuated by a surly one-way Bryan chest bump and a glare across the net from the younger duo that would’ve made Victoria Azarenka drop her headphones. The teams were at Madison Square Garden to participate in the seventh annual New York exhibition commemorating World Tennis Day (nee Tennis Night in America). It was abundantly clear that despite the Bryans’ relentlessly positive demeanor; they hadn’t just come to town for the usual hit-and-giggle or even the appearance fee. They came to win a showdown.

“This one we’ve really been looking forward to,” said Mike Bryan of playing at the World’s Most Famous Arena. “We’ve been really kinda antsy to be out there. It felt good to walk on that court. It’s unlike any other arena, just the history, just to be a part of an event at Madison Square Garden.” While the Bryans were certainly inspired by the opportunity to play on the famed Garden floor, they without a doubt were also boosted by bulletin board material provided by the elder McEnroe brother.

In a December 2013 interview ahead of the Statoil (Senior) Masters event in London, John McEnroe made very pointed remarks about doubles and the players who currently specialize in the discipline, “Most doubles players, I hate to say, are the slow guys who were not quick enough to play singles,” McEnroe opined at the time, specifically calling out the Bryans asking “What do you think they are playing doubles for?” In the same conversation, McEnroe also called on the sport’s tournaments to ditch doubles and use the funds to help lower-ranked singles players afford the high cost of a pro career. “Why we are even playing doubles at this point is a mystery to me.” After three games, the World No.1s had earned 12 of the 13 points played.

Why a mercy rule wasn’t in effect might have been the bigger mystery to the audience at MSG, as the West Coast twins ran roughshod over the native New Yorkers. “At 7-0, we were looking at each other, feeling a little weird,” the Bryans noted. They appeared to tamp down the intensity before exiting with an 8-3 win.

The Bryans may have felt some twinges of empathy for their friend and longtime US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. “He’s a prisoner of war, he got caught in the middle,” laughed the Bryans in the post-match presser, while noting they weren’t alone in drawing McEnroe’s ire. “[Patrick] missed a couple of shots and Johnny Mac rolled his eyes, right from the beginning, you could see it in his face.”

Ultimately the McEnroes’ late rally did little to excite the crowd, who were perhaps stunned at the drubbing the Bryans inflicted in the early-going. While the Bryans seemed to be serving clear notice to the elder team regarding John’s comments, they insisted it was merely a matter of the teams’ respective levels. “There’s no bad blood,” the Bryans said. “I don’t know how Johnny’s gonna take it, but it is what it is. We’re in midseason form and we’re the No. 1 team in the world right now”

In the second match of the evening, World No. 2 Novak Djokovic defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a relatively straightforward encounter that saw the retired, reigning ladies champ Marion Bartoli briefly rally with Murray.

Vito Ellison was in Madison Square Garden covering the BNP Paribas Showdown for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal twitter @vblacklabel. and visit his site Blacklabeltennis.com.

 

 

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Agassi, Sampras, Lendl and Cash Participate in World Tennis Day with London Showdown

 

World Tennis Day – London

By Chris Power

Twitter @scoobschris

(March 3, 2014) LONDON – Monday March 3rd brought us the Second Annual World Tennis Day, with marquee events in Hong Kong, London and New York.  Designed to showcase and promote the sport of tennis from the grassroots to the very top of the professional game, this year, off the back of a successful inaugural event, The World Tennis Day got bigger still.

 

Whether by accident or design, this year’s the star-filled showdowns evoked the theme different eras.  The Hong Kong gathering suggested the future, based as it is in a region where tennis is growing rapidly in popularity.  Li Na from China headlined, a current Grand Slam champion who is leading the explosion in interest, but it seems inevitable that she will merely be the first in a line of legends from the region of Asia.  She was joined by other stars of the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, as well as Tomas Berdych.

 

Meanwhile, the showdown in New York City showcased tennis in the present, with Novak Djokovic and Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray squaring off in Madison Square Garden, as well as the current doubles world number one team, the Bryan brothers, who faced off against the McEnroe brothers in a sibling setpiece.

 

London therefore reminded us of tennis’s past, with rivalries of the 80s and 90s brought back to life in the present day by four unique and iconic players – Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.   Cash and Lendl competed on numerous occasions throughout the 1980s, but perhaps most memorable was the 1987 Wimbledon final, won by Cash in 3 straight sets.  However their overall H2H in their playing days was 5-3 in favour of Lendl, indicating the Czech usually found a way to neutralize the attacking style of Cash, at least away from the grass.

 

Perhaps more compelling still was the matchup between two Americans with diametrically opposing game styles and personalities, in the shape of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.  These hall of famers *were* 90s tennis, though their mutual respect never risked developing into friendship, and their post-retirement relationship has been famously prickly, culminating in uncomfortable scenes at a charity tennis exhibition at Indian Wells a few years back.  They competed in 34 pro matches against each other, with Sampras edging it 20-14, but dominating 4-1 in their Grand Slam finals.  They tended to divide the fan base – the charismatic, extroverted yet more erratic Agassi tended to win over the crowds, but the disciplined, quiet winning machine that was Pete Sampras won over the purists with his classic serve-volley style, poker-faced demeanor and insatiable appetite for success.

 

In their pre-event news conference, the players were relaxed and joking, offering thoughts on playing pro tennis then vs now.

 

Sampras, on playing Agassi: “If I wasn’t on my game, if I wasn’t serving well, I felt like it was going to be a long day for me.”

 

Agassi: “He was the only guy I ever played where I felt like if I actually played my best tennis I actually still could lose.”

 

Pat Cash lamented the general slowing down of playing conditions in this era, feeling that hitting good groundstrokes and particularly good volleys, is just not rewarded anymore.  Lendl felt that the strings as much as court speed were responsible for this change – the amount of spin a player is able to impart on a pass or return makes volleying such a dangerous proposition.  Asked if he had any interest in joining the band of ‘celebrity coaches’, Agassi expounded on his current life being a barrier to the level of commitment required, but didn’t rule it out in the future – though his target would be a player not reaching full potential rather than a top player who already has all the tools he needs.

 

Ivan Lendl struggled to answer the question which player he most enjoyed beating, but eventually settled on Brad Gilbert, to the amusement of the other players on the panel.

 

With a few photo opportunities to round off the press conference, things wrapped up, setting the stage for a fascinating and entertaining evening.

 

Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl got proceedings underway with a super set match – first to 8 games.  Both players showed off the sort of tennis that took them to the top of the game in their heyday.  Cash fired down the big serves and followed up with some deft touches at the net, while Ivan Lendl demonstrated his back-court skills – finding sliced passing shots, delicate lobs, and some chipped backhands to make Cash’s life at the net very difficult.

 

The match was played in good humour, with plenty of banter between the two players and the near capacity crowd to keep it light.  It was a nip-tuck affair until 6 games all, when Lendl threw in a poor service game, with a double fault and some unforced errors to hand Cash the crucial break.  The Australian duly served it out, and remarked after the match how nice it was to play Lendl again.  The Czech reciprocated, and revealed that his charge Andy Murray revealed after Acapulco that he’s feeling the best he has so far since the back surgery, eliciting a cheer from the audience.

 

After a demonstration of wheelchair tennis in the interlude between matches, with World #3 Gordon Reid showing off his impressive skills that look likely to see him to the top of the wheelchair game, it was time for the main event.

 

Agassi and Sampras were introduced to the crowd to a rapturous ovation, and quickly got down to business.  Andre started much the brighter of the two, racing out to a 3-0 lead as Pete struggled with all aspects of his game.  Soon enough, though, the booming Sampras serve, looking none the worse for wear for 12 years off the tour, was firing missiles, and Agassi was struggling to make much of an impression on the return.  However, while Pete’s serve and forehand slowed many flashes of their former excellence, the backhand continually misfired throughout the match, and Andre, never slow to spot a weakness to exploit, began to target that wing with regularity, reaping dividends.

 

Agassi duly served out the first set 6-3, and was beginning to rasp winners off both wings with his trademark style, taking the ball early and thumping it flat over the net out of reach of his opponent.  Pete would need to respond if he had any expectation of winning.   He did raise his game in the second set – the serve held Agassi at bay throughout, but his return game continued to let him down, as Agassi dragged him into baseline exchanges that would end with a flashing winner from the Las Vegan, or a Sampras error.

 

The pattern of the second set resembled so many of their matches of old, as both held serve, and the crowd waited for one or the other to betray a moment of weakness.   It took a tiebreak to separate the two, but once there, Agassi ran away with it, racing out to a 5-0 lead, hitting searing winners off both wings but particularly the stunning backhand, and taking the match 63 76(2) on a Sampras double fault.

 

Although the loser of the match, Sampras pronounced himself well satisfied with his efforts, and his enjoyment at being back on court in London was clear.   For his part, Agassi seemed somewhat surprised at how well grooved his ground game proved to be, and thanked the fans for their support of the players, and the World Tennis Day initiative.

 

Posing with commemorative bottles of champagne, the two players took a lap of honour of the court, and handed the baton over to New York City for the last of the World Tennis Day showdowns.

 

For London’s part, the past came back to visit, and it was a welcome visit indeed.  May there be many more.

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Showdown in Hong Kong for World Tennis Day Sees Aussies Win

 

 

By Natalie Ho

(March 3, 2014) HONG KONG – The second annual BNP Paribas Showdown in Hong Kong, part of ITF’s World Tennis Day initiative, was concluded in lighthearted fashion with the participation of four star players – Li Na, Sam Stosur, Tomas Berdych and Lleyton Hewitt. The evening turned out to be a good one for the Aussies as Former US Open winner Sam Stosur beat reigning Australian Open champion Li Na 6-4, 6-3 in the opening match, while former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt defeated No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-5 in the second match of the evening.

This year the event was moved to the newly opened Hong Kong Velodrome where a tennis court and bleacher seats were built especially for this showdown. Those lucky fans with tickets to the temporary bleachers were literally court-side. They were treated to an intimate setting with the only disadvantage being the chance to get hit by serves. However, spectators in the upper section were separated from the action by a cycling track which was quite a distraction and might explain the lack of atmosphere especially at the beginning.

Missing Li last year due to injury, the crowd was happy to see her finally but Stosur also had very vocal support. The ladies traded service breaks multiple times but in the end it was Stosur, the more solid player in the match, who prevailed. The men’s match was, in contrast, more exhibition-like. Berdych was quite a crowd pleaser while Hewitt’s competitive drive was visible even in an exhibition. The crowd really got into the match towards the end and was shouting “third set, third set”. However, it was not to be as after some tussling Hewitt was able to close out the match.

Earlier in the day the players participated in a news conference to kick off the event.

Lleyton Hewitt, asked about the International Premier Tennis League, said Asia is a massive growth area for tennis so being an Aussie he’s excited to take part.

Tomas Berdych was asked about hiring a star coach. He feels this is not a must and that a star coach may not work well within a team.

Sam Stosur is happy to be working on different things with her new coach Miles Maclagan and plans to play more doubles this year.

Li Na naturally received the most questions. Between more GS & #1 she wants both. #1 is a goal as she’s now on her career high ranking. She also revealed a funny team dynamic: her husband would tell Carlos his ideas so Carlos would say them. Otherwise she wouldn’t listen.

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