2014/10/20

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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Sorana Cirstea: Focused on Improvement and Full of Belief

Cirstea Press

By Brodie Elgin

(August 8, 2013) TORONTO – When people refer to the “power game” in women’s tennis today, they often base it off of their experience with women’s tennis in the 1990s or the serve and volley days of the 1980s and prior. Not only are the racquet technologies of today different, but players are more fit and strong, and most women play their games from the baseline. It has been a gradual upward correlation between big hitting and big success.

 

While some of the top players in the game, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Maria Sharapova hit the ball with incredible pace, ripping the cover off the ball isn’t an exclusively top 5 trait. Sorana Cirstea is known for her big ground strokes. Her blistering forehand is even more impressive courtside, so much so that it often leaves fans unfamiliar with her oohing and aahing at the sight of her first few big shots.

 

Back on her beloved hard courts for the first time since Miami, Cirstea made an impressive run to the Stanford semifinals and then lost in her quarterfinal match in Washington before heading to Toronto. Her impressive form from Stanford has continued in Toronto as she won two of the biggest matches of her season, defeating two former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic in under 24 hours to reach the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank.

 

After saving two match points against Wozniacki, Cirstea reeled off 15 straight points, including the second set tiebreak to love. “I kind of started to take charge, you know, and be in control of the points.” She looked primed to control the third set with chances to hold and consolidate a break to take a 1-4 lead. However, she was eventually broken and quickly found herself locked at 3-3. Instead of letting frustrations boil over, she took a walk to the backboard, put her hands on her hips and gave herself a talking to. It worked, and holding twice she eventually broke Wozniacki to love as the Dane served at 4-5, and Cirstea took the match 5-7, 7-6(0), 6-4. “I’m proud of the fact that from the first moment until the last moment that I had the belief in me.  I feel I earned that victory.  I fought very hard for it.”

Sorana Cirstea

Eventually getting back to the hotel early Thursday morning at 1:30am, Cirstea was faced with the difficult task of taking on Jelena Jankovic, a short 16 hours later. She frustrated Jankovic by going for big winners when the time arrived, and the Serbian failed to effectively counterpunch Cirstea’s overwhelming power. Jankovic became particularly frustrated in the second set, and Cirstea moved on into the quarterfinals, winning 6-3, 6-4. “I think I made a huge step forward today by backing up the win from yesterday, because I think this was one of the issues in the past.  I would have a good win but then couldn’t really back it up.”

After Wimbledon, Cirstea spent two weeks in Las Vegas with the Adidas Player Development Program including Steffi Graf and her husband Andre Agassi, as well as his long time fitness coach Gil Reyes. The fitness training appears to have helped.” I actually woke up, and I was very surprised nothing was hurting, nothing was sore,” Cirstea said about the morning after her Wednesday night marathon match, “so I was like, “oh, this is a new feeling.” The fact that after playing three hours yesterday, today I was actually fine, and I knew Jelena is a tough player and she’s going to make me run a lot.  I was like, Okay, I have no problem.  That’s why I’m here, no?”

 

Sorana Cirstea and Ana Ivanovic at 2012 BNP Paribas Open Players Party

Sorana Cirstea and Ana Ivanovic at 2012 BNP Paribas Open Players Party

The opportunity to hit with Steffi Graf was not just a fun opportunity, but somewhat of a daunting one as well. “I started tennis because of Steffi Graf, so of course the first time I met her I couldn’t even talk that’s how nervous I was. Even now, every time she comes I’m so nervous,” Sorana laughed. “Every time Steffi comes in, the rhythm that she plays [with], so 45 minutes with her feels like an hour and a half. She’s so professional, still so fit, even now. She’s my idol, and my biggest example. I think I’m quite lucky to interact with them and learn.”

 

While hitting big has never been a problem for the Romanian, Cirstea is hoping to take her game to the next level through improved fitness and mental maturity on court. This is already the ninth time she has won this year after dropping the first set. “Everyone knows that I start a little bit slow. This year I’ve been trying to change a little bit of things, and for me to actually start better from the beginning, and try to get ahead. But right now, I never lose my belief. If you’re better than me, you have to beat me.” The Romanian has looked particularly composed on court this week, with few outbursts towards her coaches, and often catching herself to walk to the back board and tap her racquet on it as a mental reminder to stay focused.

 

While big hitting players can often gain a lot of hype as potential top 10 players, Cirstea insisted she’s more focused on improving the parts of her game that she wants to work on than focusing on a specific ranking number goal. “I’m enjoying more, and I’m learning more things about myself.  I think I grew up and matured along the way.  I have been through great times, tough times, and I’m happy that I had all those, because they helped me be stronger and just be a better person and also athlete.”

Brodie Elgin is the writer of mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News, follow @TennisNewsTPN for updates.

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Rafter Rallies Past McEnroe To Win NASDAQ Indexes Cup in Madison Square Garden

(November 5, 2012) NEW YORK, NY– Two-time US Open Champion, Australia’s Patrick Rafter won his second PowerShares Series title in four days by defeating hometown boy John McEnroe, 8-3 in the championship match of the NASDAQ Indexes Cup Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Rafter won last Friday’s event I Philadelphia. Rafter, down 1-3 in the final, won the next seven games to take the match.

 

“It’s just a thrill for me to be back out here competing in front of the fans again,” said Rafter. “I had never played in this building, so what an added thrill, and a dream come true for me. I can’t thank the fans enough for coming out tonight to watch us play, in light of what this part of the country has been through lately. I hope we were able to provide some good entertainment.”

Rafter who promised before the match that he would serve and volley on every chance he could, used his aggressiveness to take down Pete Sampras 6-3 in the first semifinal of the night. Sampras was sporting knee-high socks due to a calf strain.

 

In the second semifinal, New York’s own John McEnroe, zoomed out to a 4-0 lead over Andre Agassi. Agassi eventually gained back the two service breaks to draw even on serve at 4-5, but McEnroe broke him to seal the match 6-4.

 

For Rafter, this was his first time playing in Madison Square Garden. “I’m excited,” he said before the matches began. He said that had attended the Knicks game on Sunday and it made him very nervous. He said that he’d hope to play well and that he did.

The win moves Rafter into a tie for third in the 2012 PowerShares Series rankings with Jim Courier.

Monday Night Scores
Semifinal 1: Rafter def. Sampras, 6-3
Semifinal 2: McEnroe def. Agassi, 6-4
Final: Rafter def. McEnroe, 8-3

UPDATED 2012 POWERSHARES SERIES RANKINGS
1.            McEnroe              1200
2.            Sampras               1100
3.            Courier                 800
Rafter                   800
5.            Lendl                     400
6.            Chang                   200
7.            Agassi                   100
Martin                    100

More to follow

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Anna Kournikova and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris Celebrity Coaches for WTT Smash Hits

Pittsburgh, Pa. (October 15, 2012) — NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris and two-time Grand Slam doubles champion Anna Kournikova are lending their support to Mylan WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO, the annual charity event co-hosted by Sir Elton John and Billie Jean King.

 

Harris and Kournikova will kick off the October 16 event in Pittsburgh by serving as celebrity coaches in the opening pro-celebrity set featuring Elton John teaming with Martina Navratilova to take on Andre Agassi and his wife Stefanie Graf. Kournikova is a co-captain of Team Elton and will be the coach for John and Navratilova. Harris, who is co-captain for Team Billie Jean, will be the coach for Agassi and Graf in the opening set. Action begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

 

During a pre-match reception, Harris will also help auction off a Super Bowl package that includes tickets to the big game along with an autographed commemorative football celebrating the 40th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception”.

 

After the pro-celebrity set, some of tennis’ biggest names will form two teams and play five sets of World TeamTennis (WTT) – one set each of men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles – on teams captained by King and John.

 

Playing for Team Billie Jean are Hall of Famers Graf and Agassi, along with former world No. 1 in doubles Mark Knowles; world No. 30 Christina McHale and the 2012 US Open junior girls singles champion Samantha Crawford.

Team Elton includes former US Open champion Andy Roddick; Martina Navratilova, a 59-time Grand Slam champion in singles, doubles and mixed doubles; No. 1 ranked junior Taylor Townsend, and former top 15 player, WTT veteran Jan-Michael Gambill.

 

This year’s event marks the 20th anniversary of Smash Hits, which has raised more than $10.5 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) and various local AIDS charities since 1993. Mylan WTT Smash Hits will benefit EJAF and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, and will also include a pre-match VIP Reception and Auction hosted by Allegheny Sports Medicine.

John, King and all players will participate in the pre-match live auction, which will include an Elton John signed piano bench and King’s Wimbledon tickets among other items.

 

Official event sponsors include Mylan, GEICO, Highmark, Allegheny Sports Medicine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mercedes-Benz of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, Horizon Properties, Wells Fargo, Buck Consultants, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cravath, Skadden, Alston+Bird LLP, Kelley Drye, Wiley Rein LLP, Frommer Lawrence & Haug LLP, Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti LLP, Rakoczy Molino Mazzochi Siwik LLP, Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, The Norton Agency, GA Communication Group, Generic Pharmaceutical Association, Re/Max, Heeter Direct, Mansions on Fifth, 94.5 3WS, KDKA, and Pittsburgh Magazine.

 

For more information on WTT Smash Hits, visit www.wttsmashhits.com.

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Say “No” to Best of Three

By Dave Seminara

Why is it that tennis writers and former players always seem to be agitating for changes that would result in less tennis being played in the pro ranks? For years, we’ve been hearing that the Davis Cup shouldn’t be an annual event, and that tennis’s offseason should be longer. Now during the first week of this year’s U.S. Open, the buzz was all about reducing the men’s matches from best of 5 to best of 3 in majors.

 

Ben Rothenberg made a best-of-3 pitch in the New York Times’ U.S. Open Preview issue, ESPN tennis analyst’s Darren Cahill and Patrick McEnroe said that the idea was getting some traction and merited further discussion and Billie Jean King wrote a piece for The Huffington Post arguing the same point.

 

I’m a tennis fanatic and I live for dramatic five setters. While Cahill and others have said that the Olympics best of three until the final format proved that best of three could be as compelling as the best of five majors, I had the opposite experience. For me, the Olympics felt no different than a Masters 1000 series tournament like Toronto, Cincinnati and the rest.

 

King maintains that the men should play less in order to avoid injuries like the one that’s kept Rafael Nadal out of action this summer. But there are scores of current and former players that continued to win into their 30’s under the best of 5 format- Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi- and some athletes from every sport will sustain injuries no matter how many sets they play.

 

Rothenberg’s primary justification for paring back the length of men’s matches is the notion that the player who is leading at the end of 3 sets nearly always wins the match. He cited a statistic indicating that the player leading after the first three sets won 90% of matches in the last five years, but this year’s Open certainly bucked that trend.

 

There was a total of 23 five setters, with 10 players coming from 2 sets to love down to win in the first four days, tied for the second most in the Open era, and only 4 behind the all time record set at the 2002 Australian Open. Of the 23 five setters, the player who was winning at the end of the 3rd set won on only six occasions.

 

If the final had been straight sets win for Andy Murray, just imagine all the drama we would have missed out on. The match was full of plot twists, and despite the fact that it lasted almost five hours, the crowd didn’t want it to end. After Murray won the first two sets, the crowd seemed to shift allegiance to Djokovic-because they wanted more tennis- and then shifted back to Murray in the 5th.

 

One could argue that this year’s draw has been the exception, not the rule, but consider how different tennis history would be if the men had been playing best of three in the majors during the Open era. Roger Federer wouldn’t have a career slam, because at Roland Garros in 2009, his one win there, he would have lost to Tommy Haas in the Round of 16. And he wouldn’t have regained the #1 ranking, breaking Pete Sampras’s record for weeks in the top spot, because he was down two sets to love in the 3rd round of Wimbledon this year against Julien Benneteau.

 

Then again, he would have won the 2009 U.S. Open over Juan Martin Del Potro and could have fared better in other majors, like the 1999 Wimbledon, the 2011 U.S. Open, and the 2002 and 2005 Australian Opens.

 

In a best of three set world, Rafael Nadal would have lost to Robin Haase in the 2nd round at Wimbledon in 2010, rather than winning the title; Novak Djokovic wouldn’t have won this year’s Australian Open or the 2011 U.S. Open; and McEnroe would have a career slam, having beaten Lendl in the final of the ’84 French, rather than blowing a two set to love lead, but he wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1980.

 

Neither Michael Chang nor Boris Becker would have won majors at 17, and Becker wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1989. The point here is twofold: first, it isn’t that uncommon for players who are trailing at the end of three sets to win the match and then go on to win the tournament, and second, the better player is more likely to prevail in best of five set encounters. For obvious reasons, fans want to see Rafael Nada late in the final, not Robin Haase; Roger Federer not Julien Benneateau. If the men’s game switched to best of 3 sets now, it would also make it difficult to compare records from one era to another.

 

But the most important reason for keeping the best of five format is that five set matches test a player’s mental and physical strength in a way that three setters don’t. All of the most dramatic men’s matches I’ve seen in my lifetime- Federer-Nadal in the final of Wimbledon in 2008, Federer- Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009, Borg-McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980, Lendl-McEnroe at the ’84 French, Connors-Krickstein at the ’91 U.S. Open, Isner- Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, and McEnroe-Becker at the Davis Cup in ’87- were five setters.

 

Yes, five setters are tough on the body, but at most majors, the players have a day off in between most of their matches. And, let’s face it; watching guys overcome cramps and other injuries to win is high theater. Who could forget watching Pete Sampras gut out a win over Alex Corretja at the U.S. Open in ’96 after throwing up in the plants at the back of the court?

 

Tennis writers often suggest making dramatic changes to the sport, but I love tennis too much to advocate any changes that would result in less tennis. As far as I’m concerned, the sport is just fine the way it is.

 

 

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Montreal Welcomes Back its Legends

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

 

MONTREAL – On Monday night, the 2012 Women’s Rogers Cup in Montreal was launched with some impressive guests. In its annual Legends matches, now moved to the opening night for the first time, the local crowd cheered on Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova as they exchanged groundstrokes and jokes at Uniprix Stadium.

 

While the four players received a large welcome, you could feel a sense of disappointment as Andre Agassi, the obvious star of the event, had to withdraw earlier this week due to a back injury. The American, always popular in Canada with his three titles in the 90s, had last been seen on this court in 2005 when he lost a close final to Rafael Nadal. “No one is more disappointed than me and I promise you that I will be back the first opportunity I have!”, Agassi mentioned in a statement.“ I want to extend my personal “best of luck” to one of the greatest tournaments in the world and some of tennis’ greatest fans!”

 

His substitute, Michael Chang did a great job in amusing the crowd, mixing his impressive defensive game with punchy serves and comments.  The former French Open champion overpowered his fellow countryman Courier throughout their singles set, which he won 8-6. The two were then joined by Hingis and Navratilova in an entertaining mixed doubles match, which combined on the same court an impressive total of 79 Grand Slam trophies.

 

Courier and Hingis had previously just been introduced to the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame, which recognized their contribution to the Canadian event.  They joined their popular colleague Navratilova, as well as other tennis greats such as Agassi, Seles, Courier, Sanchez-Vicario and Connors. Hingis, winner of the Rogers Cup in 1999 and 2000, revealed that the Rogers Cup was one of her favorite stops on the tour. ‘’It is an honor to be inducted in the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame!”, she said in flawless French to the impressed crowd. “This city loves its tennis and I always felt welcome in Montreal.”

 

The Legends were preceded on court by an exhibition match featuring local player Stephanie Dubois, who will be participating in her 8th consecutive Rogers Cup main draw, Vancouver 2010 Olympics medalists Alexandre Bilodeau (moguls, gold) and Joannie Rochette (figure skating, bronze), as well as numerous comedians, athletes and actors.

 

This night was the official start of this 2012 edition. Main draw matches will start on Tuesday morning, while the sixteen seeds will come in action starting Wednesday.
Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.

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Querrey Captures Third Los Angeles Title

Sam Querrey has joined the ranks of Andre Agassi, Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors in winning his third title at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles. On Sunday Querrey stopped first-time finalist Ricardas Berankis 6-0, 6-2 to extend his win streak in Los Angeles to 13.

“I feel like I always play well here,” said Querrey. “I grew up kind of playing around this area and I’m really comfortable out there on the courts. It’s fun to play in front of my friends and family. It all came together this week, and especially today.”

“I was nervous in the first set, that’s for sure. I didn’t play as I would like to play,” said Berankis. “In the second set, a couple of games, here and there, I loosened up a little bit. The crowd helped me. The crowd was great and I really enjoyed it. I was trying to stay focused and trying to do my best.”

Berankis had a career week as the first Lithuanian-born player to reach an ATP World Tour final.

Querrey’s win puts him in a first place tie in the Emirates US Open Series with Andy Roddick.

“I’m hoping I can just keep this up and play well the entire summer and keep going,” Querrey  said. “I’ve got Washington D.C. next week, so I’m just trying to continue to ride the train and hopefully play well all the way through the US Open.

“I’d love to be seeded at the Open, that’s one of my goals. I’m going to be pretty close after this week so hopefully with a few more good weeks I can make it into the Top 32 and be seeded there. And I’d love to get back into the Top 20, where I was a year-and-a-half ago, so that’s my big goal right now.”

The 24 year old is projected to move into the top 40 when the next rankings come out.

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Podcasts – John McEnroe and Andre Agassi Face-off in World TeamTennis

RANDALL’S ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY – (July 19, 2012) -  NY Sportimes John McEnroe lost to Andre Agassi representing the Boston Lobsters in the men’s singles in World TeamTennis on Thursday night.

Agassi edged McEnroe in a 5-4 tiebreak. In the mixed doubles, McEnroe and Hingis teamed to stop Agassi and Gullickson-Eagle 5-3.

The NY Sportimes defeated the Lobsters 22-18 World TeamTennis.

Proceeds from the match benefited the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, McEnroe’s not-for-profit foundation to provide scholarships, coaching, transportation and other financial assistance to qualified young tennis players in the greater New York area.

Listen to the post-match on-court interviews where both men talk about competing and other tennis topics:

John McEnroe of NYSportimes- Post-Match on-court interview 7192012 World Team Tennis at Randall’s Island

 

Andre Agassi of Boston Lobsters-Post-Match On-Court interview 719201 World TeamTennis at Randall’s Island

 

 

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