2014/04/19

Hall of Fame rings presented to Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Ivan Lendl at World Tennis Day Showdon in London

 

NEWPORT, R.I., March 3, 2014- Tennis fans around the globe celebrated World Tennis Day at a huge array of special events on March 3, and a highlight of it all was the World Tennis Day Showdown in London, featuring Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, and Pat Cash. Between matches, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum hosted a special ceremony to present official Hall of Fame rings to Agassi, Sampras, and Lendl. All three former world No. 1′s have been enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of their tremendous tennis achievements and the Hall of Fame rings are a symbol of this success.

 

 

The rings were presented by Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser, ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, and Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Enshrinee Nominating Committee.

 

“Andre, Pete, and Ivan have accomplished all that one can dream of in tennis – they are former world No. 1′s, Grand Slam champions, Davis Cup champions, and Hall of Famers,” commented Clouser. “These one-of-a-kind rings are a symbol of all that they have accomplished and their legacy in the sport.”

 

In addition to the rings, the ceremony paid tribute to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which was announced earlier in the day. John Barrett, British tennis journalist and historian, and Chantal Vandierendonck, a wheelchair tennis champion and 5-time Paralympic medalist, both of whom were named to the Class of 2014, participated in the ceremony.

 

The personalized rings were introduced in 2011 and are being presented to Hall of Famers at tennis events around the world over the next few years as a special symbol of their Hall of Fame enshrinement. The rings bear a green stone set in gold, to complement the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s brand colors. In addition, the rings are etched with each honoree’s name and the Hall of Fame logo crest. Ivan Lendl, an 8-time Grand Slam tournament champion, was honored with Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2001. Great American tennis rivals Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were enshrined in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, John Barrett, Andre Agassi, Chris Clouser, Ivan Lendl, Chantal Vandierendonck, Pete Sampras, Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer

 

Photos by Dave Shopland

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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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James Blake on a Roll as the Champions Shootout Comes to Sacramento

(L-R Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)

(L-R Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)

By Kevin Ware

(February 26, 2014) World-class men’s tennis returns to Northern California tonight with the Champions Shootout: the next stop on the PowerShares Series 12-city tour.  Featuring a roster of tennis icons and legends, the PowerShares Series combines the best of competitive tennis and fan appreciation in a condensed format that’s fun for both the players and fans alike.

The last PowerShares visit to the Bay Area saw Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Todd Martin battling it out for supremacy (and rankings points) in San Jose. This time around, Sacramento is the battleground. And stalwarts Courier and McEnroe are joined by Pete Sampras and series newcomer, James Blake.

McEnroe currently leads the rankings, followed by Courier and PowerShares newcomer Andy Roddick. Blake, however, is quietly making a run for the top spot after picking up his first PowerShares title with a 7-6 (5) win over McEnroe in Salt Lake City.

It’s hard to believe that Blake only just retired from the pro ranks this past fall at the ripe old age of 28. Hard to believe, maybe, but understandable given the toll that injuries have taken on his body over the years.

After struggling in qualifying rounds through most of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Blake made his official retirement announcement at the 2013 US Open, after a first-round loss to Ivo Karlovic.

With pro tennis seemingly behind him, Blake looked ready finally enjoy some quality time with his wife and young daughter. But the lure of competition proved too strong, so five months later he’s back on the courts: hitting blistering forehands as though he never left, and having a good time with his old friends.

Blake’s first outing in Denver ended in a finals loss to Andre Agassi. His second was another finals loss to his good buddy Roddick in Houston. The third time definitely proved to be the charm, however, with his win in Salt Lake City. At this rate, McEnroe had better watch his back in Sacramento!

The Champions Shootout begins at 3PM with a special “Play with the Pros” on-court hitting session with Sampras and Blake, followed by a second session featuring McEnroe and Courier at 4PM. Semifinal match play begins at 6PM, with the winners advancing to the finals immediately afterward.

Kevin Ware is in Sacramento covering the Powershares event, The Champions Shootout as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Andre Agassi Beats James Blake To Win PowerShares Series Title In Houston

Agassi powershares

(February 21, 2014) HOUSTON –- Andre Agassi and James Blake played one of the most memorable U.S.
Open matches of all time in 2005, Agassi coming back from two-sets-to-love down
to win in a fifth-set tiebreaker in an epic quarterfinal. On Thursday night at
the Toyota Center, Agassi and Blake faced each other for the first time since
that U.S. Open classic, producing some familiar refrains from their defining
confrontation, albeit with considerably less tension, as Agassi again emerged
victorious 6-4 in the one-set championship match at the Camden Wealth Advisors
Cup, the sixth event on the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit.

Agassi, playing in his first PowerShares Series tournament of the year, won a
furiously-fought final game of the match, breaking Blake’s serve in a 12-deuce
game and clinching the victory on his sixth match point. On Agassi’s first match
point, he stepped around a forehand return of serve and went for a winner
up-the-line, the exact shot he took on the ad-side of the court when up 7-6 in
the fifth-set tie-breaker from their famous 2005 match. While Agassi’s forehand
landed on the line for a winner to close out his win in 2005, his first attempt
Thursday landed in the net, causing Blake to shout to Agassi “Why didn’t you do
that at the Open!”

Agassi tried the exact same shot on his second match point two points later,
missing it wide. After he missed one other forehand return-of-serve on a match
point, Agassi finally closed out the win 18 points later when Blake netted a
forehand. The win was Agassi’s sixth of his career on the PowerShares Series,
the U.S. tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30.

Following the win, Agassi explained to reporters his motivations for continuing
to play competitive tennis on the PowerShares Series, that features one-night
events with two one-set semifinals and a one-set championship match over a
six-week season.

“I like not having as much drama and being able to take it in and enjoy it,”
Agassi said. “I like the format because it allows you to balance your life but
come out for one good go and sort of not worry about the training and the
how-far-can-I-push-myself kind of thing. It’s a nice contained evening and being
around the guys who you fought with for decades.”

In the semifinals earlier in the night, Agassi beat Jim Courier 6-4. Blake beat
Andy Roddick 6-3 in the other semifinal, avenging his loss the previous evening
in the tournament final in Denver.

With the tournament win, Agassi earned 400 points in the PowerShares Series
rankings. John McEnroe leads the rankings with 1200 points followed by Courier
with 900 points and Roddick with 500 points. Agassi sits in a tie for fourth
place with 400 points with Blake, who earned 200 points with a runner-up showing
for the second straight night. Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl and Mark Philippoussis
each have 300 points to rank in a three-way tie for sixth place.

The PowerShares Series continues Tuesday, February 25 in Salt Lake City when
Pete Sampras makes his 2014 PowerShares Series debut, joining Blake, Courier and
John McEnroe in the field.

The remaining 2014 Power Shares Series schedule with field of players are as
follows:

Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete Sampras,
John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, Sleep Train Arena – Pete Sampras, John
McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Thursday, February 27, Portland, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim
Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl,
Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash

Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl,
Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash

Friday, March 21, Surprise, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd
Martin, Michael Chang

et capitalization.

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Andy Roddick Beats James Blake For PowerShares Series Title In Denver

(L-R Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)

(L-R Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)


(February 19, 2014) Andy Roddick and James Blake, stalwarts on the U.S. Davis Cup team for 
a decade, reunited Wednesday as rookies on the 2014 PowerShares Series circuit 
competing in the “Champions Showdown” in the mile-high altitude of the Pepsi 
Center. However, both American tennis standouts were not on the same bench 
cheering for each other against the tennis teams of the rest of the world, but 
playing in a championship match on this tour for legend tennis players over the 
age of 30. Despite being a full year longer off the ATP World Tour than Blake, 
Roddick was able maintain his certain level of supremacy over Blake, beating the 
long-time U.S. Davis Cup No. 2 by a 6-3 margin in the one-set championship match 
in front of an appreciative Colorado crowd.

“It doesn’'t seem like a rivalry because he has always been by my side,” said 
Blake of Roddick after the final. “He’s been leading the pack for myself, Mardy 
Fish and Robby Ginepri. We both held up American tennis on our shoulders, but he 
was doing the heavy lifting, I was kind of drafting behind him. I was so proud 
to be a teammate with him on the Davis Cup team.”

The two charismatic Americans famously ended a 12-year Davis Cup drought for the 
United States in 2007, leading their country to the Davis Cup title in Portland, 
Oregon with a victory over Russia. In all, Blake and Roddick were teammates for 
15 U.S. Davis Cup ties from 2001 to 2009. Roddick ended his sure-to-be Hall of 
Fame career at the 2012 U.S. Open, while Blake followed suit exactly one year 
later at the same event last summer. The two joined the PowerShares Series 
circuit together for the first time this season – Wednesday marking Blake’s 
debut event while Roddick was baptized last week in winning the title in 
Birmingham, Alabama.

“It’s not really fair,” said Roddick before the final of playing Blake. “He’s 
still skinny. He’s been retired for like six weeks? I got a head start on 
retirement. He’s much skinner, athletic and good-looking” later adding that 
Blake, who studied for two years at Harvard before turning pro, was also “more 
educated.” 

With strong serving and benefiting from errors from Blake, Roddick raced out to 
a quick 3-0 lead in the final and held a break point to take a 4-0 lead before 
Blake settled into the match and held serve to get onto the scoreboard. With 
Roddick serving at 4-2, Blake was able to capitalize on a few untimely Roddick 
errors and became more aggressive on Roddick'’s second serve to break back. 
However, Blake missed four forehands in the next game to again drop serve before 
Roddick served out the match.

“The conditions were tough with the altitude,” said Roddick. “I think everyone 
had a little bit of trouble adjusting. There were some easy balls missed, maybe 
the ball was carrying a bit. It happens in baseball. It was definitely happening 
a bit out there too.”

In the semifinals, Roddick defeated Mark Philippoussis 6-3 in a battle of 
bruising serves played just six days after their meeting in Birmingham that 
gained notoriety for Philippoussis hitting Roddick in the groin directly with a 
serve. Video footage of the incident, seen here: http://m1e.net/c?117624096-JSxlYww6XwA7Y%4076384989-nV51/ng95zl/Q 
quickly became viral and ended up on the tail end of the monologue for famed 
comedian Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” Tuesday night as seen here: 
http://m1e.net/c?117624096-Bp/Om9JLlTcsM%4076384990-bTR1M8cc0BYtY  Roddick was 
asked Wednesday in his pre-match interview with Tennis Channel’s Brett Haber if 
he was wearing body armor for his match with Philippoussis. Roddick laughed and 
said, “Playing Phlip, there is, apparently, a pretty good chance of getting hit 
in the schmeckle.”

Blake defeated current U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier 6-3 in the other 
semifinal in the first professional meeting between the two American standouts.

With the tournament win, Roddick earned 400 points to tie Courier in the No. 2 
position in the PowerShares Series points races with 800 points. John McEnroe, 
who will return to the PowerShares Series next week in Salt Lake City, 
Sacramento and Portland, leads the rankings with 1200 points. Michael Chang, 
Ivan Lendl and Philippoussis each have 300 points to rank in a three-way tie for 
fourth place. Blake, who earned 200 points with his runner-up showing in Denver, 
sits in seventh place.

The PowerShares Series, the U.S. tennis circuit for legend tennis players over 
the age of 30, continues Thursday in Houston when Andre Agassi makes his 2014 
PowerShares Series debut, joining Blake, Roddick and Courier in the field. Good 
tickets for all PowerShares Series events are still available starting at $25 at 
www.PowerSharesSeries.com. VIP packages – including meet-and-greet and 
play-with-the-pros on-court opportunities - are also available here 
http://m1e.net/c?117624096-zNR./DYCNPSYo%4076384991-hMi8wCUjvRXeI by email to 
VIP@insideoutse.com, or by phone at 253.315.4299.

The remaining 2014 Power Shares Series schedule with field of players are as 
follows:

Thursday, February 20, Houston, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy 
Roddick, James Blake

Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete Sampras, 
John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, Sleep Train Arena – Pete Sampras, John 
McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Thursday, February 27, Portland, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim 
Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, 
Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash

Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, 
Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash

Friday, March 21, Surprise, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd 
Martin, Michael Chang
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Courier Beats McEnroe To Pass PowerShares Series Test In Oklahoma City

Jim Courier

(February 6, 2014)OKLAHOMA CITY - Despite playing in Wimbledon, U.S., French and Australian Open 
finals, Jim Courier will tell you he also gets pre-match jitters before playing 
on the PowerShares Series tennis circuit.

Admitting to some first-event nervousness in Wednesday’s PowerShares Series 
opening event in Kansas City that ended in a semifinal loss to Michael Chang, 
Courier recalibrated Thursday in beating John McEnroe 6-2 in the one-set title 
match to win the Champions Cup at the Chesapeake Arena, home of the NBA’s 
Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s all about wanting to perform at your highest level,” Courier said of the 
source of his pre-match feeling of unease. “All of us suffer from anxiety about 
(playing at a top level) because this is a test out here. You have test anxiety 
when you go in. This is a pass-fail out here. There’s no ‘A’s or ‘B’s. It’s 
either pass or fail. I passed it tonight and I’m happy about that.”

Courier did not look himself in Wednesday’s 6-4 one-set semifinal loss to Chang, 
misfiring on his trademark inside-out forehand – while also playing without 
wearing his trademark baseball cap. On Thursday, Courier’s blistering 
groundstrokes – and his baseball cap – returned in avenging his loss to Chang 
6-2 in the semifinals before defeating McEnroe in the title match by the same 
score.

Against McEnroe, Courier lost only one point on his serve in his first three 
service games of the set and broke McEnroe to take a 4-2 lead. McEnroe, however, 
sensed the urgency of the service break and immediately pressured Courier in the 
following game, maneuvering himself to a break-point chance at 30-40, only to 
have Courier stifle it with a hard-hit first serve to McEnroe’s forehand wing 
that the left-handed was unable to control. Courier was able to hold serve and 
punctured the McEnroe serve once again in the next game, winning on his fourth 
match point opportunity.

“I was in really good rhythm with my serve and my forehand,” said Courier. 
“Those are the two keys for me. I like to hit my backhand with topspin, but on 
this court, playing John, he doesn’t give you much of a chance to. I’m digging 
the ball off my ankles. I need to be aggressive with the forehand to push him 
back off the net. Everyone can see what he can do once he is able to get the 
racquet on the ball up there.” 

McEnroe, at age 54, was looking to dominate the first two events on the 2014 
PowerShares Series, his 20th year of playing “champions” tournament tennis. In 
the semifinals earlier on Thursday against Ivan Lendl, McEnroe continued his 
recent near-mastery over his Czech-born rival winning for the fourth time in 
five career meetings on the PowerShares Series – and for the second time in two 
nights by an identical 6-4 scoreline. But despite the final-round loss, McEnroe 
sits atop the PowerShares Series points rankings after the first two events with 
600 points. Courier’s title places him in second place with 500 points, while 
Chang sits in third with 300 points.

The PowerShares Series, the U.S. tennis circuit for legend tennis players over 
the age of 30, continues Thursday, February 13 in Birmingham, Alabama when Andy 
Roddick makes his PowerShares Series debut and will be joined by McEnroe, 
Courier and Mark Philippoussis. Good tickets for all PowerShares Series events 
are still available starting at $25 at www.PowerSharesSeries.com. VIP packages – 
including meet-and-greet and play-with-the-pros on-court opportunities - are 
also available here http://m1e.net/c?117624096-WxU4LiHCyytOE%4073478786-x0G4.jmTcc3.c 
by email to VIP@insideoutse.com, or by phone at 253.315.4299.

The remaining 2014 Power Shares Series schedule with field of players are as 
follows:

Thursday, February 13, Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention 
Complex - John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Bankers Life Fieldhouse – John McEnroe, Ivan 
Lendl, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Pepsi Center – Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jim 
Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Thursday, February 20, Houston, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy 
Roddick, James Blake

Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete Sampras, 
John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, Sleep Train Arena – Pete Sampras, John 
McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Thursday, February 27, Portland, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim 
Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, 
Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash

Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, 
Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash

Friday, March 21, Surprise, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd 
Martin, Michael Chang
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Ivan Lendl Holds Court with the Media on Powershares Series Tennis Conference Call

Ivan Lendl

(January 29, 2014) The following is the transcript of Wednesday’s PowerShares Series media conference call with Ivan Lendl to promote the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis tour.

RANDY WALKER: Thank you all for joining us today for our PowerShares Series
tennis conference call with Ivan Lendl. The PowerShares Series kicks off its
2014 season next Wednesday, February 5, in Kansas City, and will visit 12 cities
in all through March. Good tickets and terrific meet and greet and
play-with-the-pros on-court opportunities are still available, and you can get
more information on that at www.PowerSharesSeries.com

We want to thank Ivan for joining us today. He’s fresh off his trip to
Australia, where he was working with Andy Murray. Ivan’s playing career is
highlighted by three US Open titles, three French Open titles, and two
Australian Open titles. He reached 19 major singles finals in his career. Roger
Federer is the only man to play in more major singles finals, and Rafael Nadal
just tied him with his result in Australia. Ivan also won 94 singles titles in
his ATP career, which is 17 more than Federer and 33 more than Nadal.

Ivan will be playing in PowerShares Series events in Kansas City on February 5,
Oklahoma City on February 6, Indianapolis on February 14, Nashville, Tennessee,
on March 12, and Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 13.

In Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Indianapolis, Ivan is scheduled to face his
old rival John McEnroe in the semifinals, and with that I’ll ask Ivan to kick
off the call here, talk a little bit about his rivalry with John. You guys have
been jabbing at each other for 35 years now, and you’re going to be playing with
him in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and he’s going to be your Valentine’s Day
date on February 14th in Indianapolis.

IVAN LENDL: Yeah, we have played quite a few times starting in juniors. I think
the first time we played was in Brazil in 1977. So it’s quite a long time we
have played, and played a lot of matches, so that should be fun.

Q. I wanted to ask a general question if I could just about your life. You come
from Czechoslovakia, had your fabulous on court career and a really great
success in business and now in coaching. Aside from your family, what’s the best
part of being Ivan Lendl these days?

IVAN LENDL: Well, I haven’t really thought about it much. I think staying busy
and having something to do, something I like to do is always good, whether it is
being in tennis and working with Andy or playing some, or playing some golf
tournaments in the summer. All of that is fun.

Q. And obviously we have this trend now with great legends, great veterans
working with different players. Some have worked, some have clicked, certainly
you and Andy, others not to be mentioned are less so. What do you think the key
is in the coach and pupil relationship on the ATP Tour?

IVAN LENDL: I think the key, especially with the older guys who have played
successfully, is that, number one, what can that player or that coach offer to a
practical player, and also chemistry.

Q. And what’s been the key to your chemistry with Andy? Do you think in some
ways you guys are quite similar?

IVAN LENDL: Well, we had the unfortunate part we shared that both of us lost a
few majors before we won the first one, and we understood each other with that
quite well. I could understand how he was feeling, how frustrating it is, and so
on and so on. Also I think sense of humor, and enjoyment of sports.

Q. People view you as a pretty serious character, but talk to us about your
sense of humor off court.

IVAN LENDL: I would hate to ruin my reputation.

Q. I had the pleasure of talking with your daughters last year for the
Southeastern Conference golf tournament

IVAN LENDL: Which one did you talk to?

Q. Daniella well, the one was at Alabama, the one was at Florida.

IVAN LENDL: Okay.

Q. Talk to me a little bit about your play of tennis and your play of golf. I
get the sense that one is business and one is a pleasure/love. Am I overstating
it too much?

IVAN LENDL: Well, it depends how you look at it. I enjoy both, obviously. If I
didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it.

Q. I get the sense, though, that and obviously you are deeply into tennis, but
golf looks to be a real deep relationship that you’ve got with that particular
sport, something that you’ve really taken hold of and really held onto.

IVAN LENDL: Well, I enjoy competing, and once I stopped playing tennis, because
of my back I didn’t play for quite a while, I had really nowhere to compete, and
golf filled that part of my life very well, obviously on a much lower level than
when I played tennis, but I still do enjoy playing the senior state opens and
tournaments and so on.

Q. Do you see either of your daughters being able to make a run in golf like you
made in tennis?

IVAN LENDL: Well, I think it’s really up to them how much they want to do that
or whether they want to do it at all.

Q. Could you maybe discuss whether you feel like through the years McEnroe was
you had a lot of great rivalries, whether that was your number one rival, and
maybe just talk about how your relationship with him has maybe changed now that
you’re playing him in a different type setting.

IVAN LENDL: Well, I don’t know if he was my number one rival. We have played, I
believe, somewhere in the mid 30s, something like that, and I have played a lot
of matches with Connors. I have played quite a few matches with Wilander, Edberg
and Becker, as well. I think at one time, obviously, we were number one rivals,
and then I think it started shifting sort of mid ’80s to other guys, and Connors
was there at the same time as McEnroe, maybe a bit longer because after ’85 he
took some time off, didn’t play as much as before. I would say I had a lot of
rivalries with those guys.

Q. Has your relationship sort of changed with him now that you’re playing in a
different setting?

IVAN LENDL: Well, it’s obviously much less competitive than it has been when we
played in the US Open finals, but I think both of us still want to play well and
have fun with it.

Q. And just talk about this tournament coming to Indianapolis, the first stop
since the tour here, and I know that you

IVAN LENDL: Are you from Kansas City?

Q. No, from Indianapolis.

IVAN LENDL: Okay.

Q. And obviously I know you came here when it was clay and had a great match
with Becker when it was still clay and then back when it was hard courts. Talk
about your memories of playing there in Indianapolis.

IVAN LENDL: The first time I came in the summer to the United States,
Indianapolis was one of the places, and I could not believe how hot and humid it
was. It was quite a shock. I didn’t expect that. Obviously I didn’t know much
about it, otherwise I would have expected that. It was extremely hot. It was
extremely difficult to play in those conditions, and I was very proud when I was
able to overcome it and win there.

RANDY WALKER: Ivan and John played 36 times in their career on the ATP Tour.
Ivan led the series 21-15. Only Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played more
times in the open era history of the ATP Tour. Novak and Rafael have played 39
times to Ivan and John’s 36 times. The No. 3 rivalry of all time in men’s tennis
in the open era was Ivan and Jimmy Connors. They played 35 times, and Ivan led
the series there 22-13. And then in PowerShares Series history, John leads the
series over Ivan 2-1.

Q. A lot of people say this is a little similar to the Champions Tour, or the
PGA Senior Tour. What’s the fun in this? You’re not as competitive as the old
days, but you obviously still want to win this match. What’s it like for a crowd
to witness one of these?

IVAN LENDL: Well, I don’t know, I’ve never been in the crowd, but I can tell you
what it feels like as the players. It’s always fun to see the guys. It’s fun to
interact with people more. It’s a bit lighter side of the players, but yet, as
you said, it’s still competitive that the guys want to play well.

Q. And along those lines, just the atmosphere. It’s a different setting, but it
sounds like it’s something that’s really picking up steam and a lot of people
are having fun with it and it’s gaining more and more momentum. How do you see
this moving forward the next five years or so?

IVAN LENDL: Well, wherever we have played, it’s usually very well received, and
I have played in Europe, I have played in Asia, I have played in Australia, I
have played obviously in the United States and Canada. It’s very well received
and people seem to enjoy it very much. As far as where it’s going to go in the
next five years, I don’t know. I’m not involved in the business part of it.

RANDY WALKER: You’re also playing in events in Nashville and Charlotte, and
those matches are going to be the exact semifinal rematches of the Super
Saturday at the US Open September 8, 1984, when you beat Pat Cash in a fifth set
tiebreaker and John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors in a five-set semifinal. If you
could talk a little bit about that day; you hit a pretty good forehand topspin
lob down match point against Cash in the fifth set. Talk a little bit about that
match and that day and rekindling your match with Pat in Nashville and
Charlotte.

IVAN LENDL: Yeah, it was an extremely difficult day, obviously, when you play
five sets and you have finals of the US Open coming up the next day. But I think
it’s a special day in tennis. That Super Saturday was special for many, many
years. They went away from it either last year or a couple years ago. But I
always have nice memories of that, and I’m looking forward to recreating it as
long as I don’t have to play five sets.

RANDY WALKER: It’s one set semifinals and one set finals on the PowerShares
Series.

IVAN LENDL: We can start in the tiebreaker then.

Q. We are from New York, and we always see John, always practicing, and he takes
tennis very seriously. He has fun, but he’s still competitive. How do you train
for this PowerShares Series?

IVAN LENDL: Well, I do some conditioning. I try to do something every day for
conditioning, whether it is biking or rollerblading or do some weights and so
on. I play tennis about three times a week.

Q. Also something a little bit about Andy Murray because we spoke to Andy today,
and he’s going to be here in New York in Madison Square Garden. He said that you
had great things to say about New York. Do you remember when you played here at
Madison Square Garden?

IVAN LENDL: I always enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing at Flushing Meadows, I
enjoyed playing at Forest Hills, and I absolutely loved playing at Madison
Square Garden. All three places at that time, I had a home in Greenwich,
Connecticut, so I could stay home, which was always a big advantage, at least in
my mind, that you stay home and have home cooking and stay in your own bed. I
think the results showed how much I enjoyed it because when you feel comfortable
somewhere, you usually play pretty well.

Q. And also, again, about Andy, coming back from back surgery, he had a pretty
good run at the Australian Open. Were you guys somehow surprised how well he
played? Unfortunately he lost to Roger, but what’s your assessment on that?

IVAN LENDL: I think it was sort of realistic what he achieved at the Australian
Open. I think he was very close to doing better. I wish he had done better
because that match was the beginning of the fourth set; anything could have
happened after he served match point and Rocha was serving for the match, if
Andy got ahead in the fourth I think he had an excellent chance of winning, but
unfortunately he got behind.

Q. And with respect to you again, you have been a great champion, have so many
fans around the world and such a pleasure that you’re going to join the
PowerShares Series. How do you feel because it’s more relaxed in a way, but at
the same time it’s competitive. I’m sure there’s still the love for the game out
there for you, right?

IVAN LENDL: Yeah, I enjoy playing, and I enjoy going to places I have never been
to, and I never played in Oklahoma City, so I’m looking forward to that one.

Q. My question regards your last couple of years traveling with Andy,
participating in Grand Slams and other tournaments. In addition to you imparting
your wisdom and expertise to a young player like Andy, what have you gleaned
from him and his play and his training, his mental challenges, if you will? I
know you’ve helped him with that regard and helped him of course win Wimbledon
last year. But what have you learned from him and perhaps some of the other
players like Rafa and Djokovic, Roger, et cetera? What have you picked up over
the last couple years that you’ve been exposed to these top global players on a
regular basis?

IVAN LENDL: Well, you learn how much the game has changed, how much more
complete players they are than the players in the past. You see how everybody
trains and how they prepare. But most of the time you just not that you learn,
but you confirm your beliefs in how things are done and what’s the best way to
go about preparation and competition.

Q. Sticking with the Australian Open for just a quick second, it was a great
final between Rafa and Stan. Anything that you saw that either led you to
believe or surprised you in that final, especially with Stan playing so strongly
that first set?

IVAN LENDL: I didn’t see the final. I was in the air from Melbourne to Los
Angeles, and I learned the result when I landed in Los Angeles, and I still
didn’t have time to watch it.

Q. You and Connors, great rivalry, and I know after you retired from playing on
the regular tour, both you and Jimmy, it seemed like you both picked up golf.
From what I can tell you’re a little more fervent about it than he may be, but
have you ever considered getting on the course and reconstructing a rivalry on
the course, or maybe you’ve done that and we don’t know about it?

IVAN LENDL: No, I haven’t played with Jimmy. I wasn’t even aware that he plays
much. It can always be done.

Q. The Wimbledon final was incredible, and obviously

IVAN LENDL: You’re talking about 2013?

Q. Yeah, and all the pressure on Andy, obviously, and the last game to close it
out. Sitting up there in the friends’ box, when he closed it out, what went
through your mind?

IVAN LENDL: I was very pleased for him. I knew how much pressure Andy went
through in 2012 playing Roger, and I was also aware of how much pressure there
was in 2013, how much he wanted to win, how hard he worked for it, and what
obstacles he had to overcome, so I was extremely pleased for him.

Q. And also at Wimbledon, Jack Nicklaus was there, and he said that tennis was
tougher mentally than golf. Could you talk and just compare the mental
requirements, mental toughness of the two different sports?

IVAN LENDL: Well, I think they’re both mentally tough. I think in both sports
you rely on yourself and you don’t have teammates to pick up your slack where if
you mess up something or if it’s not your best day, that somebody else steps up.
You really get all the credit, but you also get all the blame if you want to
call it that way. I think the main difference between tennis and golf is that in
golf if you have a bad half hour or 45 minutes, you’re out of the tournament. In
tennis you can have a bad 45 minutes and be sitting a break down and you can
still win in four sets. In that part, you would have to say that maybe tennis is
a little bit easier mentally because you can have little lapses and get over it,
but it’s definitely tougher physically.

Q. In terms of John back in the old days, he was pretty a lot of rough edges,
came at you pretty strong. Did he piss you off? What was your take on John?

IVAN LENDL: Oh, I think I could handle it all right.

Q. But did you have anger towards him, or did you view it as it was pretty much
just part of

IVAN LENDL: I think if you play with anger, you don’t play with a clear mind. I
think you have to play with a clear mind.

Q. And finally, if I could just ask you to just talk about pretty much the
incredible history of Czech tennis. So many outstanding players and now back to
back Davis Cups, but some problems recently in terms of winning Slams. Could you
talk about the heritage of Czech tennis and on court the beauty of the Czech
game?

IVAN LENDL: Yeah, I think I have a quiz question for you then at the end if you
want to talk about Czech

Q. Wait a second, all right.

IVAN LENDL: But it’s a great question. You will enjoy it. I think the history is
there for a long time. You can go I’m not a historian, but you can go all the
way to the Second World War and afterwards, and there is great history, men’s
and women’s. And now in the team competitions, two Davis Cups in a row, before
that two Fed Cups in a row, I believe, and Berdych is very close and Kvitova has
won Wimbledon. It’s great, great history and present of Czech tennis. The
question I have for you: Who is the only person to be a world ice hockey
champion and a Wimbledon champion?

Q. That’s a good question. I know Ellsworth Vines won ping pong and tennis.

IVAN LENDL: I didn’t know he won ping pong.

Q. I know you were part owner of the Hartford team.

IVAN LENDL: Not true, but I was on the board, yes.

RANDY WALKER: I think I might know the answer to that. Drobny?

IVAN LENDL: Correct.

RANDY WALKER: What do I get?

IVAN LENDL: Another question. Who is the only person with an African passport to
win a Grand Slam?

RANDY WALKER: Drobny. I am the publisher of the Bud Collins History of Tennis.

IVAN LENDL: That would be why.

Q. I was wondering how you get along with the players on this series, if you get
a chance to hang out away from the court and if you play pranks on each other or
if you have any interesting stories.

IVAN LENDL: We do. We do clinics together. We do meet and greets together. We
travel together. We get along very well.

RANDY WALKER: We want to thank Ivan for joining us today, and we will see him
starting on February 5 in Kansas City.

 

The full 2014 PowerShares Series schedule with field of players are as follows:

Wednesday, February 5, Kansas City, Missouri, Sprint Centre – Ivan Lendl, John
McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 6, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Chesapeake Energy Arena – Ivan
Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 13, Birmingham, Alabama, BJCC – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick,
Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Indiana, Bankers Life Fieldhouse – John
McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Colorado, Pepsi Center – Andy Roddick, James
Blake, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Thursday, February 20, Houston, Texas, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim
Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake

Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Utah, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete
Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, California, Sleep Train Arena – Pete
Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Thursday, February 27, Portland, Oregon, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John
McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Tennessee, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe,
Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, North Carolina, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe,
Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Friday, March 21, Surprise, Arizona, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim
Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang

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Andy Roddick Talks to Media Before PowerShares Series Tennis Circuit Debut

AndyRoddick

(January 15, 2014) With the  2014 PowerShares Series “legends” tennis circuit to begin next months, Andy Roddick spoke to the media via conference call on Wednesday. Here is a full conference call transcript of Roddick’s conference call:

 

RANDY WALKER: Thank you all for joining today. We’re happy to welcome to the PowerShares Series tennis circuit in 2014 and to our call today Andy Roddick. Andy is going to be making his PowerShares Series debut on February 13th in Birmingham, Alabama, and will be competing in tournaments in Denver on February 19th and Houston on February 20th.  The 2014 PowerShares Series starts its 12 city tour February 5th in Kansas City.  For more information, including players, schedule and ticket information, you can go to www.PowerSharesSeries.com. Before we open it up to the questions for our participants, I’m going to ask Andy a question about playing in the PowerShares Series. Andy, since you were playing in the juniors, you’ve always been a very competitive guy,and Patrick McEnroe was talking on the Australian Open broadcast last night about how you were such a competitor and fought your guts out in every match you played. What is it going to be like on the PowerShares Series this year where you’re going to be able to fire up those competitive juices again?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I’d like to say that I’ll be able to be mature enough to kind of put it in perspective that it’s not what we do every day now, but I’d probably be lying to you. Even when I play these charity expos now, I kind of have to contain myself.  I certainly have my share of, I guess, quasi embarrassing moments that come from being so competitive and a little too intense. I think when you get guys who are programmed from when they’re young to have a goal of trying to win something, I don’t think that goes away easily, and I’m sure when we get between the lines… listen, if there’s an option of winning and losing, you want to win. That’s just human nature.

 

Q. Talk about playing in Houston. You’ve had some great memories in Houston. You won your second ATP title there. You clinched the year end No. 1 there at the Tennis Masters Cup. Talk a little bit about what it’s going to be like playing in Houston.

ANDY RODDICK: Well, it’ll be great. I feel there’s so much in the early part of my career over at Westside, from the tournament to Masters Cup to we played a Davis Cup tie there, so I played there at the same club clay, hard and grass, which doesn’t happen very often. But just a lot of good memories, and it’s always a place that I certainly enjoy playing. It’s a short drive to my home in Austin, too, which is a great thing, and I’m looking forward to it.

 

Q. Andy, I know you’re coming to Denver, and I know you can speak on all sports; I’ve seen you on the show. Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady, two large sports personas going up against each other; does this remind you of any great rivalries in tennis or even other sports?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think so. I think Manning and Brady kind of have all the makings of a great rivalry. They’re so similar in so many ways as far as their preparation and kind of their will to win, and like any great rivalry, I think it needs to happen over time so we can get a little nostalgic about it. But at the same time there are distinct differences. Peyton can be self deprecating on Saturday Night Live, and Brady is this unbelievably good looking guy married to Giselle that has all the cool stuff in press conferences.  So there is enough difference to make it very interesting. It’s just fun.  It also is getting to the point where you don’t know how many more times you’re going to see it, so you start reflecting and appreciating it each time.

 

Q. In your opinion what’s the greatest tennis rivalry of all time?

ANDY RODDICK: Oh, man, that’s hard. It’s tough going generation versus generation. Obviously in my kind of era, it all happened around Roger and Rafa. But again, it had the same sort of underlying they’re different enough personalities to make it interesting. Stylistically they matched up in an entertaining way, and they both went about it the right way and had a certain level of respect, which is probably different than the ones you saw in the ’80s with McEnroe and Connors where they just flat out didn’t like each other. There are different ways to have a great rivalry.

 

Q. And with Peyton versus Brady, is it one of those things like must see TV; you can’t miss it if you’re a sports fan?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think so. I think the funny thing is these guys have been running the ball the last couple weeks, so it’s all about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but as the weather has been colder, I think I saw a stat today the Patriots ran the ball 62 percent of the time last week, which was their highest total since like 2008 against Buffalo, and Moreno was a factor, also. So we’re building up this whole game around these great quarterbacks because it looks like they’re running the ball in the cold weather, so we’ll see how much they actually air it out.

 

Q. What’s the best barbecue in Austin, Texas?

ANDY RODDICK:  It has to be Franklin’s. Any time people are waiting two hours for lunch, it’s got to be pretty good.

 

Q. Andy, playing in Denver you’re going to be matched up in the semifinals against Philippoussis, and the other semifinal is going to be Jim Courier against James Blake. Talk about playing Philippoussis and also playing in altitude and what that does to a tennis ball up in Denver?

ANDY RODDICK:  Well, that’s a bad combination for me, Philippoussis and altitude. This is actually the first I’m hearing about it. Mark and I have been friends for a while. The thing is his service motion is so technically sound that, from what I’ve heard, he really hasn’t lost much on his serve since he was playing, which I wish the same could be said for me. It’ll be tough, but I’m just excited to get out there and play. It’ll be fun. I like all those guys who are there. Jim and James are two of my closest friends. I’d love to be able to get through Mark and play one of those guys in the final.

 

Q. I know there’s a lot to talk about here. I wanted to ask a couple quick questions about the topic of the day in tennis, since I know you’ve been through this so many times. These guys are suffering in the heat. I know you always liked the heat to a large degree, even though you sweat a lot, and I was just curious how you feel about where the extreme should be, what you’re seeing or hearing. Is it too much? And also, would you talk a little bit about there’s a lot of discussion in sport now about the fact that we shouldn’t have a World Cup in big heat. What’s your feeling about all that?

ANDY RODDICK: Well, part of me finds it entertaining that every time we go down to Australia we act surprised that it’s hot outside. It’s funny, the guys who have the reputation for being prepared aren’t the guys keeling over. You’re never going to see Roger outwardly showing heat. You’re not going to see Rafa doing it. You’re not going to see Novak anymore; you’re not going to see him doing it. Frankly I hated it when they closed the roof. I felt like I was prepared. I felt like it was a different tennis tournament once they put it indoors. They do have a system in place where if they deem it’s too hot, and there’s a pretty distinct number system that they have used there in the past, and they do have the ability to call it. Do we need to make extreme things because guys are struggling in the heat?  I don’t know.  Personally I don’t think so. I think as athletes we push our bodies to do things that aren’t normal, and frankly that’s what we get paid for. I can’t feel it. Listen, when you play there, it’s brutal. It feels like you’re playing in a hairdryer, but that’s all part of it. Each Slam presents its own unique set of challenges and you kind of have to attack it accordingly.

 

Q.  Is it desirable in your opinion that we keep putting these sporting events in situations like this where it could happen at this extreme level, or is that not a problem?

ANDY RODDICK:  I can’t speak to the World Cup. I haven’t been there. I haven’t experienced it. It seemed like there were other viable options that maybe didn’t have that. But you’re not going to take the Slam out of Australia. It’s too good of a venue.  They have built indoor courts, and like I said, they do have a system in place that they have used before. It’s not as if…I was reading something where the humidity levels weren’t as bad so they didn’t use it. There is thought put into it. It’s not like they’re just going rogue with throwing people out there. They’ve set the precedent for being smart about it, and they have done it in the past. I don’t think they should just close the roofs because people are writing about it.

 

Q.  And the last thing from me, what’s the most key thing about preparing yourself for that? I know you’ve lived in hot weather parts of the States, but you used to go to Hawai’i to train before the Open. What’s the critical thing?  Is it the adaptation? Is it good genetics?

ANDY RODDICK:  Well, I don’t know that there’s one thing. I spent four weeks doing fitness in Austin, and then when I started really hitting balls, I put myself in heat for two weeks before I even went down to play the first event there. By the time we got to Australia, I had been in similar heat for three or four weeks. Frankly it’s stupid to train indoors in cold weather the whole time and then expect to go to Australia and not to have your your body is not going to adapt that quick. But it will adapt. And frankly I don’t know that Australia is as extreme as Florida in the summer or the hottest days in Cincinnati in the summer. I think you’re seeing guys play three out of five, and it’s become a more physical game, so you’re kind of seeing the toll of that.

 

Q.  Someone was telling me that you back in the day played tennis against Drew Brees. Are you relieved we don’t have him on the tennis tour today?

ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah. It’s funny, every time he plays a playoff game on national television, this story comes up again.  He played he actually beat me the first two times.  I think he was 12 and I was 9, and he was kind of like an after school tennis player who was better than all the guys who actually practiced like me, and then I beat him and he started playing other sports.  So who knows how far it could have gone. But I think it just kind of lends itself to discussion of what a good athlete he actually is.

 

Q.  There were moments during your playing career that you didn’t like media. Now that you’ve got a radio show, do you view the folks on the other side with a little bit more empathy?

ANDY RODDICK:  No, I don’t.  The only time I had an issue with the media is when I felt like they weren’t prepared with their questioning or they were asking irresponsible questions. You know, listen, I’m not going to have someone who covers tennis once a year coming into the local market, coming into a press conference and using the wrong terminology for our sport. So no, I never had a problem with media when they were well thought out, asked smart questions, and seemed to actually care as opposed to just being there because their boss was taking attendance, frankly.

 

Q.  Bernard Tomic was booed by fans when he retired after one set with Nadal. Have you ever been in a situation like that where you were booed by your own fans?

ANDY RODDICK:  Listen, I’ve been booed because of the way I’ve acted. I don’t know that I’ve been booed because of a perceived lack of effort. Bernie is in a tough position now because he’s developed a little bit of a reputation of giving less than 100 percent effort now, so he might have had a groin injury the other night.  Had it been someone like Lleyton, who has built his career and at least gained the trust from the fan base as far as putting in effort, I don’t think the boos would have been there. Bernie has a certain process ahead of him where he has to kind of earn the respect back as far as being a competitor. It was an unfortunate situation because by all accounts he is actually hurt, but I feel like the booing is maybe more of a snowball effect from some of the past performances.

 

Q.  Talk a little bit about making your debut event in Birmingham. It’s going to be at the same arena where you played Davis Cup against Switzerland. Talk a little bit about that tie against Switzerland and what it’s going to be like to be back in Birmingham.

ANDY RODDICK:  Well, I’m excited. We obviously had a great Davis Cup tie back there in I think it was 2009, and we enjoyed everything about it. It was one of those rare Davis Cup ties where everything went mostly according to script.  We got out with a W. I played a good match the last day against Wawrinka. The court was fast; the crowd was into it.  We were able to lean on him. You know, I enjoyed playing there. I’m sure it’ll bring back some good memories when I’m back.

 

Q.  No doubt about it, you gave so much to the game. You thrilled, you entertained the sports fans for a decade.  How much will this new arena, this venue, allow you to entertain even more as you’re playing?

ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah, I mean, I think it certainly provides that opportunity. There’s no way to replace playing in front of a crowd and kind of the feeling that gives you, and I have a lot of other interests right now which are very fulfilling, but nothing will ever replace being able to play live sports. Yeah, I didn’t expect it to.              But this is a chance for me to do it, I guess, more in a little bit of a part time scale. I’m looking forward to it.  You know, it’s always fun to play with guys that have been so accomplished in the sport, as well. I’m looking forward to it.

 

Q.  Any good one liners you’re working on these days?

ANDY RODDICK:  You know, if I previewed them they wouldn’t be as funny that day, would they?

 

Q.  You gave your life to Davis Cup during your career. What would it mean to be part of Davis Cup again in some capacity down the road?

ANDY RODDICK:  Oh, I don’t know. Frankly I see Jim being the captain for a very long time. I think he does a great job.  All the guys love him. I was able to play for him for a couple of ties, so that’s Jim is a great friend of mine. Honestly that’s something I hadn’t really thought about much.

 

Q.  I wasn’t trying to usurp his job for you, but if you were brought in as a coach, as a motivator, someone that could really relate to the players, what would that mean to you?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, again, I wasn’t insinuating that I was going to be captain, either. I was just saying I think Jim can do all those things. Basically any skill set that I would apply, he’s done it all and more.  He’s done a great job with the crew. Honestly I don’t see what value I would add with Jim at the helm right now.

 

Q. Playing in Houston, how about you and your friend, your buddy, Bobby Bones? Do you have anything planned?  I know you can’t talk about it, but are you excited to be working this with him in some capacity?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, we’ve had a really good relationship. We’re great friends. He’s done such a good job now with country radio being pretty much the guy for country radio nationally. I’m proud of his career path.  I certainly admire his work ethic. He gets after it, and he wants to do everything. It’s always fun to kind of watch his career progress.

 

Q.  As a barometer, when you were in Miami playing Murray, you played well. I know he was coming back, but how strong of a barometer is that for you? You can still do it, I guess.

ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah, I mean, listen, I wanted to… I’m retired. I can still play a little bit. I won two out of my last five events on tour. When I do practice with guys who are currently playing, I can hold my own. It was never a I’m fully confident the guys I played against my whole career, a lot of them are Youzhny is 14 in the world; Lopez is 20 in the world. There’s a lot of guys who I played for a long time. For me it wasn’t a matter of could I still be good on tour. The question was can I win a Grand Slam, and once I didn’t think I could, that was enough for me. I certainly feel like I’m capable of playing a high level tennis still.

 

Q.  What is it like being a part of this series with all the great names that you’ve been around, and now you guys are involved again?

ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah, I mean, listen, it’s certainly a big list of names and personalities. It’s almost as if every night it’s almost a history lesson of the last 30 years of tennis.  It’s really cool. I was a tennis fan long before I was a player, and so it’s surreal for me to be involved with these guys. I don’t think I’ve ever fully gotten used to, let’s say, participating in the same night as a Pete Sampras or a Jim Courier.  Those guys were my heroes growing up. But it’s always fun to get together with those guys again and be around them and to play against them. It’s always been a blast for me.

 

Q.  For fans who will be buying tickets to watch your event, what would you tell them about what they can expect to see perhaps?

ANDY RODDICK: (Laughing) Anything, really.  The thing about our group of guys, not a lot of us have been accused of being shy out there. I think we do understand we all want to win. But at the same time I certainly understand it’s a show, and I couldn’t always interact as much as I wanted to while I was playing on tour, but I’m going to have a good time during these matches. That’ll show through. I think we want fans to come out and really actively participate in the matches. You want it to be interactive. You want it to be fun. You want to give them a good event on top of the tennis.

RANDY WALKER:  We want to thank everyone for joining us today. We want to thank especially Andy, and we’ll see you starting in Birmingham next month.

The full 2014 PowerShares Series schedule with field of players are as follows:

Wednesday, February 5, Kansas City, Missouri, Sprint Centre – Ivan Lendl, John
McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 6, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Chesapeake Energy Arena – Ivan
Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 13, Birmingham, Alabama, BJCC – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick,
Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Indiana, Bankers Life Fieldhouse – John
McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Colorado, Pepsi Center – Andy Roddick, James
Blake, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Thursday, February 20, Houston, Texas, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim
Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake

Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Utah, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete
Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, California, Sleep Train Arena – Pete
Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Thursday, February 27, Portland, Oregon, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John
McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Tennessee, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe,
Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, North Carolina, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe,
Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Friday, March 21, Surprise, Arizona, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim
Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang

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Agassi, Sampras, Cash and Lendl to play Earls Court on World Tennis Day

AgassiSamprasPostMatch

(October 31, 2013) LONDON – Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl will return to London to recreate two historic Wimbledon finals when they play in the World Tennis Day Showdown at Earls Court on Monday, 3 March 2014. Cash will play Lendl to open the evening followed by Agassi renewing his rivalry with Sampras.
Agassi, Sampras, Cash and Lendl combined to win 224 singles titles during their professional careers, including 31 Grand Slam titles. These four players also combined to hold the World No. 1 ranking for a total of 657 weeks.
“I am looking forward to coming to London to play against Pat next March,” said Lendl who has reconnected with the London fans through his coaching of Andy Murray. “The London fans have always been knowledgeable about tennis and, through Andy, I have developed a closer relationship over the past two years so this will be a special night for me.”
The event will be part of a series of World Tennis Day Showdown’s on March 3, including matches in Bangkok, Hong Kong and New York City. In addition to the tennis at Earls Court, these four superstars will serve up a treat for VIP patrons as they combine with London’s premier chefs to provide an exclusive culinary experience.
“We are excited to be bringing World Tennis Day to London,” said Jerry Solomon, President and CEO of StarGames, Inc., the event promoter. “With the rich history of tennis in the UK, an iconic venue in Earls Court and a field of players that has thrilled the London audience for years, the Showdown should provide memorable moments for the spectators and make Earls Court the place to be on March 3.”
Agassi and Sampras played each other 34 times during their professional careers, with Sampras winning 20 of those matches. Two of their encounters came at Wimbledon, with Sampras winning both the 1999 final and a 1993 quarterfinal over Agassi.
In 2011, Agassi and Sampras played each other in the World Tennis Day event at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York City. Sampras won that match 6-3 7-5.
Agassi claimed 60 titles during his career and spent 101 weeks ranked at No. 1. One of just two players to have won a career Golden Slam, the first of Agassi’s eight career Grand Slam titles came at Wimbledon in 1992. Today he is developing programmes in cities around the United States to offer affordable private education through his Andre Agassi Foundation for Education.
Sampras is a seven-time Wimbledon champion. Overall, he claimed 14 Grand Slam titles while totaling 64 tournament wins in his career. He was ranked World No. 1 for 286 weeks, a record that stood until Roger Federer surpassed it last year.
Cash and Lendl met eight times on the professional tour, including in the 1987 Wimbledon final that was won by Cash. Overall, Lendl won five of his matches versus Cash.
Cash’s Wimbledon win was one of the six titles he won during his career. Today Cash is involved in a number of media ventures, including as host of CNN’s “Open Court” programme.
Lendl spent 270 weeks ranked No. 1 in the world while winning 94 career singles titles, which stands as the second-most in the Open Era. Today Lendl serves as coach of Britain’s Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon champion and 2012 London Olympic Games gold medalist.
Lendl is the first player to have participated in three different World Tennis Day Showdown events. Both of his previous appearances have been against John McEnroe, coming in New York in 2011 and Hong Kong in 2013.
World Tennis Day was created in 2013 as a cooperative venture between StarGames and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to promote participation in the sport through high-profile Showdown events with professional players on the same day as grassroots participation events at clubs and courts around the globe. In its first year, World Tennis Day saw 55 nations participating by hosting events.
Each player in the four Showdown events in Bangkok, Hong Kong, London and New York City is an active or former professional who has either been ranked World No. 1 or reached the final at a Grand Slam tournament, if not both. The pervious events in Hong Kong and New York City have also hosted exclusive cocktail parties around the matches that have drawn over 1,000 guests each year.
Tickets for the World Tennis Day Showdown at Earls Court Two will go on sale on November 25. For more information about tickets, corporate hospitality and sponsorship, visit www.worldtennisday.com.
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Andre Agassi, James Blake and Jim Courier Talk to Media About 2014 Powershares Tennis Circuit

2014 PowerShares QQQ Tennis Tour Rings The NASDAQ Stock Market Closing Bell

2014 PowerShares QQQ Tennis Tour Rings The NASDAQ Stock Market Closing Bell

 

(October 24, 2013) Andre Agassi, James Blake and Jim Courier spoke to the media on Thursday and discussed the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit, the 12-city tour featuring legendary tennis champions also including Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors.

Agassi will be competing in the Camden Wealth Advisors Cup in Houston on Feb. 20 and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships in Portland, Oregon on Feb. 27.

Blake, who will make his PowerShares Series debut in 2014, will be competing in events in Denver (Feb. 19), Houston (Feb. 20), Salt Lake City (Feb. 25), Sacramento (Feb. 26) and Portland, Oregon (Feb. 27)

Courier will be competing in events in Kansas City (Feb. 5), Oklahoma City (Feb. 6), Birmingham (Feb. 13), Indianapolis, (Feb. 14), Denver (Feb. 19), Houston (Feb. 20), Salt Lake City (Feb. 25), Sacramento (Feb. 26), Portland, Oregon (Feb. 27) and Surprise, Ariz. (March 21).

The following is the ASAPSports transcript of Thursday’s media conference call to promote the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis tour:
POWERSHARES SERIES MEDIA CONFERENCE

October 24, 2013

Andre Agassi

James Blake

Jim Courier
RANDY WALKER:  Thanks, everybody, for joining us today on our PowerShares Series conference call.  We’re excited to have Andre Agassi, James Blake and Jim Courier on the call today.
Last week we announced the full schedule for the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit featuring legendary tennis players over the age of 30.  The series kicks off February 5th in Kansas City and runs through March 21st in Surprise, Arizona.  All event dates, venues, players fields and ticket information is available at PowerSharesSeries.com.
General public ticket sales kicked off on Tuesday of this week, and we can report some brisk early sales.
Before we open it up to questions, I’m going to start off with a question for each of our participants.  We’ll start with Andre.
Andre, you’re scheduled to play in Houston and Portland this year.  You, James and Jim are in those fields.  Can you talk a little bit about those venues and potentially playing against Jim and James.  You and Jim have been battling it out since the Bollettieri days.  You and James had that epic US Open quarterfinal from a few years ago where you won 7‑6 in the fifth.  Talk a little bit about that.
ANDRE AGASSI:  Absolutely.  First of all, this has been a great platform for me to stay engaged with the game of tennis.  It’s been a very high priority in my life, tennis has given me a platform to do so many things.  I’ve struggled to find ways to stay involved that don’t take too much time away from my family and the balance of life.
What Jim has created with this PowerShares Series, he’s created an opportunity for guys like me and James and others to be able to get out on the road for a night and prepare for this, have an excuse to stay in shape, have an excuse to stay involved in the game, and go to these places and enjoy that level of engagement.
I can’t say I’m looking terribly forward to James with this because he still moves like the wind.  Nevertheless, the memories will come flooding back for me.  I love the feeling of engaging with people that have been a huge part of my life.  James and Jim have certainly been two of them.  Going to places where tennis really should be and isn’t.
RANDY WALKER:  James, you played your last ATP career match at the US Open this year.  Who are you most looking forward to playing and what are your expectations on this PowerShares Series this year?
JAMES BLAKE:  Well, after Andre’s comment, I don’t know if I should be offended or complimented (laughter).  I totally understand.
It’s funny because I was just thinking about it the other day.  My whole life on tour seemed to go by so fast.  I was the young guy on tour.  Before I knew it, I was the grizzled veteran.  Now I’m off tour and I get to be the young guy again on this PowerShares Series again.  That’s exciting for me to be the young guy in any situation.
It should be a lot of fun.  I’m excited to start a new chapter in my life that doesn’t have tennis be the first, second and third priority, as I’m sure the other guys understand.  When you are on tour, it’s a bit selfish.  We have other things involved in our lives.  I know Andre has his family and foundation.  Jim has so many business ventures and a family as well.
It’s going to be a little less stressful than that match I played with Andre at the Open, but maybe I’ll sleep a little better tonight if I can get a little revenge on the PowerShares Series.
ANDRE AGASSI:  Let the record show that it was a compliment.
RANDY WALKER:  Now we’ll turn it over to Jim.  Jim is playing in the kickoff event in Kansas City on February 5th, returning to where he and Andre had an important Davis Cup win in 1991, 22 years ago, over Germany.
Jim, talk about the PowerShares Series this year, 10 new cities, including a lot of cities that don’t have ATP or WTA events.
JIM COURIER:  Sure.  It’s going to be great to be going back to a city like Kansas City that I haven’t played in since ’91, since Andre saved my bacon when I lost the fourth singles match.  Who did you come out and beat?  Was it Steeb?
ANDRE AGASSI:  Steeb, yeah.  You took care of him the first day, I had to take care of him the last day.
JIM COURIER:  It’s going to be fun to go back to Kansas City and be out on tour with James and Andy Roddick, who are two newcomers this year.  A little bit like Andre said, be careful what you wish for.  It’s great to have these guys out with us, but it’s going to make it that much tougher to win.
But I love the challenge.  Obviously it’s great to have those guys out joining me and Andre and some of the other great champions that are a part of the circuit.
There’s going to be a lot to look forward to as we get going in February and March.  I think January is going to be a pretty hectic time trying to get ready for these guys, too, trying to build up the body to take on these young bucks.
It’s going to be a good circuit.  A lot of great cities that I’m looking forward to playing in for the first time.  I haven’t played in Salt Lake, Sacramento, among many others.  It’s going to be definitely a good challenge and some new travel for me, which will be great.
RANDY WALKER:  Now we’ll turn it over to the media for questions.

 

Q.  A quick Rafa/Federer question.  Rafa is at 13 majors now.  If he wins the Australian and/or the French, he’s at 14, 15, tying or passing Pete.  Do you think it’s inevitable that he’s going to pass Roger?  If so, does that make him the greatest?  With regard to Roger, do you think he can win another major?
ANDRE AGASSI:  As far as titles go, I don’t think that’s inevitable.  I do think he’s capable of it.  I would make argument he doesn’t need to pass Roger in quantity to have him be arguably one of the best of all times.
I also think getting to 14 slams and tying Pete doesn’t suggest that Pete is in his category.  I think Pete dominated his generation and won 14 slams but was never a factor during the clay court season.
You have to put in a bit of variety as part of that analysis, see what Rafa has done on every surface that he’s won at least a couple times, and in some cases eight times, then see what Federer has done winning multiple times, not winning the French many times because of Rafa.  I think these two guys are in a class of their own.
I do think without Rafa winning one more major, you could make the argument that he’s the best of all time.  He does have a winning record over Fed, although a lot of those wins come on clay.  He has beaten Federer on other occasions on other surfaces as well.
You can also make the argument this guy doesn’t have a losing record against anybody in the top 30 in the world, and once Davydenko is gone, you can probably move that number to the top 80 in the world.
If I’m sitting at a dinner table, and I’m Rafa, and made a statement about the best of all time, I would choke on my food a little bit.
It’s an amazing time in men’s tennis to be looking at two guys in the same generation that have a legitimate claim to that title.  That’s also forgetting about the fact that Djokovic is one win away from entering not necessarily this all‑time conversation, but certainly accomplishing a win at every slam.  So now you got three guys potentially in one generation who have done something that only five guys have done over five decades.
I think it’s a golden age in our sport for sure.  I think we’re better off for it.  I hope everybody appreciates what it is we’re watching.
JIM COURIER:  I think Andre covered it pretty well.  Obviously, the biggest question mark for Rafa at the moment is his ongoing health.  Those of us that care about the sport want to see him stay healthy and challenge the numbers.
It’s a fun dinner conversation.  I’m not sure you can convincingly say that one guy is the greatest right now.  I certainly wouldn’t want to omit somebody like Rod Laver who did so much and missed so many opportunities because he turned professional.
It’s a fun party discussion, for sure.  I just hope that in 10 years’ time we’re able to look back and see what Rafa and Novak and the current guys did in the rearview, put it in proper perspective.
Lastly, with Federer, I would not be surprised whatsoever if he were to win another major.  I think anybody that counts him out right now does it at their own peril.

 

Q.  Andre, you and Steffi are arguably the couple who have been the most involved in charity matters.  You’ve spoken at great length about your education work.  Could you take a moment and talk about what you’ve seen through Steffi’s work with Children for Tomorrow.
ANDRE AGASSI:  What she’s chosen to take on is nothing short of Herculean and quite honestly heroic in my mind because I do believe that it takes a unique strength to deal with the trials and tribulations of the wounds that exist in children that you can’t tangible‑ize.  That’s the reality of her work.
For me, it’s about providing a high standard of education for kids that society has failed or society has written off.  For her it’s about somehow solving something that you have to first prove really exists.
It’s remarkable the stuff that she’s made, remarkable what she’s done.  She’s built kindergartens and counseling centers all across the world, from Kosovo, to Eritrea, to Hamburg, Germany, and other places.
I see how it affects her.  I see how committed she is.  There’s not one time that she does anything tennis related that she doesn’t give literally 100% of it to her foundation.
She makes me feel like the devil with her generosity.  I look at her and I think, Why are you putting yourself through this?  She puts herself through it and then comes home and writes the check to her foundation.
She doesn’t need fanfare with it.  She doesn’t advertise it.  Most of the time she’s not that thrilled to talk about it publicly because it brings her to tears in a hurry.  She just chooses to live it.
I’m amazed at what she does.  I get to watch her live her values every day.  I try to do the same.  I pale in comparison.  She beats me at everything.  At the end of the day, I still get to learn so much how she chooses to live.  Her foundation is right up there with the highest of what there is to respect about her.

 

Q.  You three guys have dedicated your lives to the game.  Aside from changing the schedule, if you could change just one thing, what would that be?
ANDRE AGASSI:  I would change our narrator calling you Mr. Simons instead of Simmons.
JAMES BLAKE:  You hit the nail on the head with the first one, the schedule.  If I had to go to a second one, I actually think I would like to go sort of back to the way it was when Andre and Jim were playing in terms of the surfaces.
I feel like the surfaces have become a little homogenized.  It’s a surface that lends itself, in my opinion, to the domination you’re seeing with Roger, at times with Novak and Rafa.  Like Andre said about Pete, he didn’t really factor in in the clay because I think the clay was so different from the grass back then.  The grass was strictly a serve‑and‑volley game until Andre showed his returns were better than anybody else’s volleys.  It was a time when you had to change your game a little bit to be effective on each surface.  I think that added a little bit more variety to the styles of play, to the tournaments themselves.
I would like to see that change a little bit.  It may change the rivalries, the Roger/Rafa dynamic for years where they were clear‑cut the two best players in the world.  You could talk about who is better on what surface, a fast court, a slower court like we used to have in Hamburg, Germany.  I think that would help the game, in my mind, to have variety.
ANDRE AGASSI:  I don’t know what I would change.  It’s been a while.  I think James is probably your best look at clarity on the subject.  He’s the most recently removed from the game, sort of has lived the realities of it in a very intimate and specific way.
When I look from the outside, I remember playing Wimbledon towards the end, and there’s no question, I agree with James, it is not the same kind of court that it once was.  I can also speak to the fact additionally guys are stronger and moving faster and so forth.  But the spin that’s in the game today, even if the court was faster, the spin generated off those racquets doesn’t serve anybody to move forward in the court, at least not without being 100% sure.
I love watching it.  I didn’t have to live it.  I wasn’t terrorized by it, except for once last year that I had to go through it.  James has come off some fresh runs of having to face what the game has become.  I think as a result, he can probably speak to it more comprehensively.
I don’t know what I would change except to make a general statement.  That is the Association of Tennis Professionals by definition is designed to look out for the interest of all players.  I don’t think any bureaucracy can move the game forward effectively if you’re trying to go all directions at once.  You turn into a swamp.  The game needs to be a river.  It needs to be moving in one direction, which means a price needs to be paid by someone somewhere for the betterment of the game.  This isn’t politics.  This is about what a sport needs to do.
Generally speaking, I would love to see somebody have a position that at least allows them the responsibility and accountability of making decisions on behalf of the game.  That’s what I would like to see.

 

Q.  Andre, why did you decide to play the Portland tour stop?  Did the cancer treatment center sponsorship or Nike have anything to do with that?  Secondly, McEnroe is your foe that night.  How much game does John have left?
ANDRE AGASSI:  Well, I wanted to play in Portland first of all, yeah, because of what cancer research does.  I’ll always support that.  That factors into it to some degree.  Personally I’ve grown really attached to Portland.  It’s a way for me to make most use of a very delicately balanced life.
Again, the tour has been designed to facilitate this opportunity for us and for tennis fans in a way that allows it to be successful, enjoyable, and achievable.
My relationship with Nike has a lot to do with that, no question.  But, again, everybody really looks for multiple overlaps, your time away, business or foundational, you have to make the most of that time when you’re away from the family.
John is remarkable.  I think all of us on the phone would sign up to be in his shape, and certainly his talent.  Given his age, I’d sign up for it right now, to be doing what he’s doing.
I know just being the age that I am, every year brings additional challenges.  It’s not going to be as easy for him every year moving forward, just like it won’t be for us.  What he’s done up to now is pretty darn impressive.  He can neutralize a lot of power.  He can make someone very uncomfortable, especially in conditions.  For example, in Salt Lake, if he plays James, James will be surprised he can make the match play awkward.
He has a passion for the game that’s almost unparalleled.  He brings that intensity to the court, sometimes against my wishes.  I wish he could enjoy it more.  But maybe that is his way of enjoying it.  But he still has more tennis in him, for sure.
RANDY WALKER:  James, any comment on going to Portland?  You had a big win there in 2007.
JAMES BLAKE:  Yes, 2007 we won the Davis Cup.  One of my fondest memories to be a part of that team, guys I had a ton of respect for, still do, still am friends with.  That was extremely special to me.
The support we got in the Portland community was really second to none, as well, the excitement we felt in that stadium.
The biggest part for me in Portland was the fact that it was really a team effort.  Andy got it started.  I got the second win.  Then the Bryans clinched it on Saturday.  We all contributed to winning in the finals.  That’s to me the perfect ending to the journey we started in 2001 with Patrick.
I’m really looking forward to going back there.  I had a great time there.  Can’t wait to have some more memories there.

 

Q.  Andre, I want to know what you think about whether you can compare players of back‑to‑back eras?  If so, how would you compare the era you played in with Sampras and Courier and Rios, Kuerten, compared to the era that Federer played in which was probably Hewitt, Safin, Roddick?
ANDRE AGASSI:  I think some generations back‑to‑back are more realistic to compare.  It’s when the game takes a leap forward that you are no longer talking about the same equation.
What Roddick brought to the table was obviously the dominance of his ability to hold serve and to make life really uncomfortable all day long because you felt like every time you were playing on your own serve, you felt like you’re serving to stay in the set.
Others had that.  Pete had that, gave you that feeling.  Hewitt, his movement and his defensive skills, were like many that I’ve played before.  Lightning fast, redirect the ball.  He did four or five things that I found in a lot of players throughout my career.
But when you start talking about guys like Djokovic, Rafa, Fed, possibly Murray, you’re talking about guys who have literally changed the rules of engagement.  Whenever you’re talking about that, you cannot, in my opinion, compare generations.
Somebody who played in an era where there wasn’t that kind of spin, there wasn’t that kind of ‑ I don’t know how you want to put it ‑ but where the rules of engagement change that dramatically, impossible to do.
There’s no way a serve‑volleyer, a Rafter, can come forward on every point and get to your ball early.  Covering the line at the net is fine, but you can’t reach the ball because it’s 15 feet over your head, coming down with margin, it’s like a drive forehand topspin lob winner.  Certain things are just above and beyond.  And I would say in this generation, that’s changed the game.

Q.  Jim, as a person who has put this tour together, you have a couple guys in his early 30s, a guy in his mid 50s, somebody in their early 60s.  How do we view these matches, more as competition or exhibitions?
JIM COURIER:  I think if you look at each of the individual tournament draws, as far as the generations that are playing, you’ll see some logic to them.  We’re not going to certainly put Andy Roddick against his former coach, Jimmy Connors, because that certainly isn’t going to be that competitive.  Not that Jimmy isn’t a great player and champion, but obviously the age is significant when you put James or Andy, who are fairly fresh off the tour, into that environment.
You’ll see a very competitive night of tennis no matter where you are on our tour.  We’ll have some cross‑generational matches for sure.  But Johnny Mack, as Andre pointed out, is going to make things difficult for anybody he plays, no matter what generation, because of how he’s able to play.
I think we have a terrific lineup all across the board when I look at all 12 of these events.  I see nothing but great matches and great competition.

 

Q.  Andre and James, you both played Nadal in 2005.  He was a teenager.  What was your first impression of him then?  When you look at his evolution, the revisions he’s made to his game, what have been most important to his evolution?
JAMES BLAKE:  2005 was the first time I got to play him.  I actually had the benefit of getting a great scouting report from Andre who played him a couple weeks earlier in Canada.
My impression of him then was he was a clay courter playing on hard courts.  He was playing with a lot of topspin, hitting the ball heavy, but not attacking the ball, not moving forward at all.  He sort of counted on his defense and his movement to win a lot of matches.  He did it exceptionally well, obviously.  He had already won the French Open at that point.  He was the best clay courter in the world at that point.  He hadn’t translated that into his best hard court game yet at that point, I don’t think.
Andre gave me a great scouting report that I needed to attack him, make him feel uncomfortable.  I was able to do that that way.  Since then, he’s become much more aggressive.  He worked on his serve.  When I played him in ’05, he served over 90% to my backhand.  He was looking to hit that clay court serve where he hits it to the player’s weakest side instead of using it as a weapon.
We saw this year at the US Open how easily he held serve.  His serve is much more of a weapon than it was.
I also remember specifically, I had never even hit with him before I played him, the first couple balls in warmup, he hit the ball so heavy, I actually thought I was in trouble from the start.  Once the match started, he was hitting the ball shorter and playing with a lot of margin and not being as aggressive.  That to me gave me the opportunity to play my game.
As I’ve seen him now and practiced with him much more recently, that guy is gone.  He’s so much more effective with being aggressive, with taking his game and imposing it on me, like I said, being more effective with his serve.  He’s still one of the best movers, moves so well side to side.
He actually has improved his volleys.  He used to be pretty, in my mind, uncomfortable at the net.  Now he looks comfortable.  He’s not going to be Patrick Rafter at any time.  He gets up there, looks comfortable, feels okay up there, can finish points at the net.
I think he’s improved everything he needs to to be aggressive and still keep the game that got him to be the best clay courter in the world, too.
ANDRE AGASSI:  That was a hell of a breakdown of his game.  The only thing I could add to it is my impression of him the first time I played him, I didn’t have the luxury of James’ speed.  The one thing I knew I had to do, I just didn’t have it.  James had the option.
I used to play lefty clay‑courters and pound the backhand cross‑court.  They would try to fight it off deep.  I would step inside the baseline and just control the point.  I did it in the Canadian Open final the first point we played.  Everything went according to my game plan.  The next time I came from backhand cross‑court to his forehand, he went so high and so short, in order for me to do anything, I had to commit so far in the court, I was exposed on the next shot.  I hit that shot.  He came in, made an adjustment, hit it at my feet, laughed at me when I tried to make the volley.  The next thing I knew, there’s no chance against this guy unless you have the ability to move exceptionally well, get up in the court, get back, or like James does so well, which is get around that short ball no matter where it’s bouncing and jump on the forehand knowing he has all that real estate he can cover if he doesn’t hit the forehand exactly the way he wants.
Nadal went from a guy that maybe I had a chance against that year, right surface, right circumstance, to a guy I see from my couch that I’m pleased to be watching from my couch.

 

Q.  If you look at the guys under 24, Raonic, Nishikori, Dimitrov, Janowicz, who do you think has the hugest upside?
ANDRE AGASSI:  James has played them.
JAMES BLAKE:  I played all those guys.  I didn’t play Dimitrov.  I practiced with him plenty, though.
I would say Dimitrov has a ton of talent.  Raonic, that serve, that’s the most uncomfortable to play.  Out of those four guys, I’d least like to play Raonic because of that serve.  It takes you out of your rhythm, which I know it sounds weird for me to say, because I do that with my forehand, try to get them out of their rhythm.  He definitely makes it so you don’t feel comfortable.  It could be a set and 3‑all in the second set, you don’t feel you’re into the match because he’s won so many free points off his serve, he’s missed a lot of balls on the return game, and he hasn’t given you anything to really feel like you’re into the match.  That to me makes it uncomfortable.
Janowicz is a little bit the same.  He really hits the ball hard and flat.  He can make a lot of balls in a row, which can give you some rhythm.  I had success against him.  I feel like he kind of sticks to patterns a little bit.  I just happened to be playing well that day.
Nishikori I think is continuing to improve.  It’s a tougher battle for him because he’s not a big guy.  That’s another thing that’s changed about the tour, is guys have gotten so much bigger.  I think it’s tough for him to compete against really big guys, even though he hits the ball better than a lot of them, moves better than a lot of them.  It’s tougher for him to stay healthy and compete with the big boys.
Dimitrov, practiced with him a lot.  I think he has a huge upside.  If he stays healthy, he has a live arm, huge serve, even though he’s not one of the huge guys, 6’6″, 6’7″.  He moves well.  Looks like he’s comfortable hitting any shot.  Just a matter for him of putting it all together.
If I had to say one guy that the game actually excites me, it’s did Dimitrov.  Raonic is the most uncomfortable to play, but I don’t get quite excited watching a guy serve 25 aces and win a match 6‑6.
ANDRE AGASSI:  It’s funny you say that because when I watched Federer play Pete for the first time at Wimbledon, I said, There’s no way he’s going to beat Pete.  You can’t play like Pete and beat Pete.  He was too similar to Pete to beat him.  Obviously as I was wrong with Pete.  He’s gone down as one of the greats ever.
I look at Dimitrov, and I think, You can’t play like Federer and be better than him.  I’ve seen it before.  He excites me, as well.
JAMES BLAKE:  Exactly.
RANDY WALKER:  Andre, you’re playing on Thursday, February 20th in Houston.  Can you talk about your past experiences in Houston.  You played at the clay courts many years, also the year‑end championships.
ANDRE AGASSI:  I really enjoy Houston for a lot of reasons, mostly because of the relationships I had there.  The McIngvales were not just big supporters of my foundation, they were a huge asset to the sport of tennis.  I think it’s one of the great crimes that we haven’t nurtured them more profoundly in our sport because they were really making a difference with our game.
There’s so many tennis enthusiasts in Houston.  The standard of club players there, it’s very high.  The education in the sport is very high.  You felt it from a fans’ perspective with them watching you.
Clay was never something I looked forward to playing on at that stage in my life.  Going there and playing on clay wasn’t ideal for me.  But when I played the World Championships there on the hard courts, it was one of the great experiences in the World Championships that I’d ever been through.
Three‑set matches to make it to the semis, having two match points on Federer in the third‑set breaker, beating Ferrer in three, beating Nalbandian in three, coming back and beating Schuettler in three on Saturday, only to have to face Federer again in the final.
It was a great week of tennis.  It will bring back a lot of memories for a lot of reasons heading back there.

 

Q.  Could you share with me who your tennis heroes were when you were kids.
JIM COURIER:  My tennis hero was really Bjorn Borg, the guy that first sort of got me excited about the sport.  I wasn’t allowed to cheer for McEnroe or Connors because of their behavior in my house.  I probably would have cheered for them, but my parents instructed me firmly that Bjorn needed to be my idol and my hero.  That was my guy.
ANDRE AGASSI:  I always rooted very hard for Bjorn as well.  He was easy to like, easy to root for.  I tried to imitate a little bit of everybody’s game.  I did that with Bjorn.  I did that with John.  I did that with Jimmy.  But Bjorn, when it was head‑to‑head, it was easy for me to root for him.
I didn’t like Mack and Connors because of certain behavioral things.  As I got older, I learned to like Mack.
JAMES BLAKE:  I actually had a few.  I kind of picked out different reasons for them.  Arthur Ashe I learned about as I got older.  He wasn’t in the generation I was growing up watching.  Everything I learned about him made me respect him so much more and idolize him for his education, values, his humanitarian efforts inside and outside of the game.
I would say the two guys I grew up watching and finding certain things I enjoyed were actually ones on this call, Jim Courier for the work ethic.  When I was a kid, everybody talked about his work ethic.  You could see when he stepped on the court he felt like he out‑worked his opponent.  That was something I looked up to and tried to emulate.
The other was Mats Wilander, a guy who in my opinion showed a ton of restraint.  I know obviously to get to the level you’re at, the competitive fires are always going, and I was a bit of a brat as a kid.  I watched Mats competing in the highest of highs of the competition, keeping his cool in every situation.  To me that was the most impressive thing I could see because I had no idea how to do that at 14 years old.  I’m still trying to learn how he was that cool under pressure at all times.
I got little things from each person and tried to emulate all of them.  Failed miserably at all of them, but did my best.

 

Q.  Jim, the day before the ’91 French Open final, you said of Andre, We don’t spend any time together and in the past we didn’t even speak to each other.  Could you and Andre tell us what your rivalry and your relationship was like in the early ’90s.  Did you want to beat each other more than anyone else?
ANDRE AGASSI:  Our relationship was strictly platonic.
JIM COURIER:  Andre and I grew up playing together and against each other at Bollettieri’s.  From my perspective, I was fighting for attention down at Bollettieri’s.  I took exception to Nick prioritizing Andre, as he should have done.  In my adult years now looking back on it, I totally understand it.  Obviously I get it at a new dimension now than when I was in the heat of battle back then.
I used what I thought was a slight from Nick Bollettieri to fuel my fire in whatever circumstances I needed to be in.  Andre and I, he was the guy in our generation that got up to the top first, and Michael Chang, Pete Sampras and myself were all trying to keep up.  I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in competition with him for major titles in my 20s.
At that time in my perspective I drifted further away from

all of those Americans that I was competing against almost out of necessity to be able to hold down the emotions of the moment.  We’re all trying to take each other’s lunch money at that point in time.  The thing we care about most is what we were fighting for.
It’s hard to separate what you know to be true, which is these are good guys you’ve known since you were a kid playing tennis.  There was nothing caustic necessarily about it.  It’s more a function of what you’re trying to achieve.
Now that we’ve obviously gone on and become full‑fledged adults, are not in as serious of competition, I think we’ve been able to put it in proper perspective.  I certainly have.  I’m closer to Andre than I am to anyone else in my generation.  We probably spend more time together as a result of that on and off the court.
There were certainly times when I looked across the net and I wanted to beat him as badly as I wanted to do anything in my life.  I’m guessing, and he’s about to tell me, that was the way he felt, too.  Andre, too, was also always the better player as we were growing up.
Andre, you’re surprised that I was even on the other side of the net in the big moments.
ANDRE AGASSI:  I remember we grew up competing against each other, 11, 12 years old, Jim was always a good draw in about the second round.  It wasn’t until three years later that I realized, because he played a bunch of different sports, and tennis is just a quarter of his season.  When he put his full attention to tennis, his rate of improvement spoke to his talent and athleticism.
I simply was a guy that wasn’t easy to like if you were around me in the teenage years, nor did I feel Jim liked me, and I didn’t like anybody that didn’t like me, I didn’t like them.  I feel my own sensibilities were skewed during those years.
When you step onto the world stage, you’re playing against somebody for titles and dreams, it doesn’t serve you to expose yourself to a friendship, let somebody understand what makes you tick, what’s really going on inside.  I certainly had a lot of weaknesses that I felt the need to hide, even from myself.
But going through all that, I think we found ourselves with a deep respect of both our work ethics and our abilities and the way we handled our own survival.  Today I think we respect one another for not just those things but also for a real deep sense of loyalty, not just to one another, but also to the people in our lives.
It’s been a full‑circle relationship, one I think that speaks most comprehensively, at least in the hub of my life, to how far somebody can travel in any given journey.
RANDY WALKER:  Jim, we had some folks on the phone from Alabama.  If you could talk about the field that’s going to be there.  Andy will be making his debut there, played a big Davis Cup match against Switzerland.  John McEnroe and Mark Philippoussis are in that field.
JIM COURIER:  I attended the Davis Cup match that James played as well with Andy and with the Bryan brothers against the Swiss a few years back.  It was an absolutely packed crowd, completely enthusiastic.  I’ve never had a chance to play in Birmingham.  For me, this is going to be very exciting to get to go down there and be on the court instead of in the stands which I was for the entire weekend when I proudly watched our American team take the Swiss out.
Welcoming Andy onto the tour, a place that he obviously is going to carry fond memories into the battle there, I think it’s going to be a great way for him to get started.  That’s going to be a pretty fiery night.  Mark Philippoussis and Andy Roddick would most likely play there, and I will play John McEnroe.  You can look for some fiery matches on all levels there.

Q.  A question about the ATP World Tour Finals.  Who do you think will be the final three to qualify?  Regarding the event itself, do you think it should go back to a rotating locations like it did with the Masters Cup or do you think London is a great spot for it?
ANDRE AGASSI:  I have no idea who is in contention for the spots.  I can’t help you there.
Do I think it should rotate?  It seems to me from a distance, maybe James could tell you the turnout is remarkable.  I think the top eight deserve that kind of platform.  I love what I’ve seen there.  I think this event would be big in any part of the world, but they’ve certainly earned the right to at least keep it in the short‑term.
It reminds me of the days it was at the Garden, a remarkable venue that always turned out a full stadium.  It felt like you were in a prime‑time fight.  That’s the way it appears to me in London.
I haven’t seen anything close to Madison Square Garden since we left there.
JAMES BLAKE:  I agree with Andre about it.  They’ve earned the right to keep it in the short‑term.  I didn’t get to play in London, but I’ve seen the crowds.  I’ve heard from the guys that it’s an amazing venue.  As long as the guys are happy and the fans are happy, they’ve definitely earned the right to keep it in the short‑term.
As far as the five through eight, six through eight, the last three guys, I don’t know exactly who has qualified already, but I’m guessing Berdych, Wawrinka will probably qualify.  As I said earlier, Raonic was always uncomfortable for me to play.  I think he’s got a good chance to qualify.  I’m not sure the other guys in contention, probably Tsonga, Gasquet.
JIM COURIER:  Federer.
JAMES BLAKE:  Federer hasn’t qualified yet?
JIM COURIER:  No.
JAMES BLAKE:  Then I’ll take him.  Just about any time, I’ll take him.
JIM COURIER:  The top three guys right now that look like they’re going to qualify are Federer, Wawrinka and Gasquet.  They’re the next three guys in.  But I think Tsonga playing at home also in Paris next week, I think he has a really good chance to qualify.  It’s going to take a lot for Raonic to get in.  But one good week is worth 1000 points.  A lot can change.  Certainly indoors looks pretty good for somebody like that.  Even Tommy Haas, if he were to sprint out in Paris, he could make it.  It will be an interesting week next week for sure.
RANDY WALKER:  Everybody, thank you for participating in our call today.  I want to thank Andre, James and Jim for their time and great answers today.  Appreciate all the media for calling in.  We appreciate the attention to the PowerShares Series.  We invite you to go to PowerSharesSeries.com for all the venue, player fields, ticket information.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

 

The PowerShares Series will kick off on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 in Kansas City and will conclude March 21 in Surprise, Arizona. General public ticket sales began Tuesday. Tickets prices start at $25 and can be purchased at www.PowerSharesSeries.com.

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