2014/07/28

Andy Roddick and James Blake Join 2014 Powershares Series

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(October 15, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – – InsideOut Sports & Entertainment announced the dates, venues and fields for the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit, highlighted by the debuts of Andy Roddick and James Blake, who will join the 12-city tour and play alongside tennis legends such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.

The PowerShares Series will kick off on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 in Kansas
City and will conclude March 21 in Surprise, Arizona. Players competing on the
2014 circuit are Roddick, Blake, Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, Connors, Ivan Lendl,
Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis.
Each event will feature two one-set semifinal matches, followed by a one-set
championship match.

An exclusive USTA member pre-sale offering a 15% discount for USTA members
begins today. Tickets and unique VIP fan experience packages will go on sale to
the general public next Tuesday, October 22. Tickets start at $25 and all ticket
and VIP information is available at www.PowerSharesSeries.com.

““We are excited to welcome Andy Roddick and James Blake as they
join our eighth year of Champions Series tennis and look forward to seeing them,
along with the other legendary players, compete and entertain crowds around the
United States this season,” “ said Jon Venison, Partner at InsideOut Sports &
Entertainment.

“I am looking forward to playing on the PowerShares circuit,” said Roddick.
“Having a chance to stay connected with tennis and compete on a limited basis
through events like these fits perfectly with my life these days.”

““It’s going to be exciting to start a new chapter of my tennis life playing on
the PowerShares Series circuit,”” said Blake. ““Having just retired from the ATP
tour, you’d think I have an advantage over some of the guys, but players like
Andy, Andre and Pete are so talented and competitive that is going to be a great
challenge for me to win some titles. I look forward to the challenge.””

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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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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Agassi Claims Final PowerShares Series Event of Year; Courier Wins Year-End Points Title

(November 30, 2012) ANAHEIM, CA – Andre Agassi won his third PowerShares Series event of the season when he dispatched hometown favorite and Orange County’s own Michael Chang, 8-4 in the championship match of the Acura Champions Cup at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.

 

“It’s a real blessing for all of us guys that grew up together to be playing out here on this platform, and to give back to the game that has given us so much,” said Agassi, in front of an adoring Southern California crowd. “Regardless of how we finish, we all have a great time competing against one another, and I really enjoyed the PowerShares Series again this season. I look forward to coming back in 2013.”

 

Agassi closed out the evening and the 2012 Series in dramatic style, as he and Chang waged a ferocious battle with Agassi leading 7-4, and on the verge of winning the event. With Chang serving, Agassi failed to convert 10 match points, as Chang did everything he could to stay alive. But on the 11th attempt, Agassi secured the victory when he forced Chang into a backhand error.

 

In the evening’s first semifinal, Chang played inspired tennis in front of his friends and family, as he beat Courier, 6-4. In the second semifinal, Agassi was in control from the beginning and spoiled John McEnroe’s chance at winning the overall points title, with a 6-2 triumph. Had McEnroe won the event tonight, he would have secured the #1 ranking for the season and the $500,000 first prize, which went to Courier.

 

For all news, scores, and stories regarding the entire 2012 PowerShares Series, log on to www.powersharesseries.com.

TONIGHT’S SCORES
Semifinal 1: Chang def. Courier, 6-4
Semifinal 2: Agassi def. McEnroe, 6-2
Final: Agassi def. Chang, 8-4

FINAL 2012 POWERSHARES SERIES RANKINGS
1. Courier 1500
2. *Agassi 1400
3. McEnroe 1400
4. Sampras 1100
5. Rafter 800
6. Chang 700
7. Lendl 400
8. Martin 200
Wilander 200
* Agassi wins tiebreaker on head-to-head record

 

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McEnroe Grabs Second PowerShares Series Title of Season in Denver

(November 29, 2012) DENVER – John McEnroe rose to the occasion and played some of his best tennis of the 2012 PowerShares Series season when he fought back from a 6-5 deficit to win the last three games to beat Michael Chang, 8-6 in the finals of the Jeep Championships, presented by Cancer Treatment Centers of America at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO.

 

McEnroe’s victory allowed him to gain 200 points and move within 100 of Series leader Jim Courier, heading into the final event of the year Friday night in Anaheim. McEnroe will need to win again in order to steal the title from Courier.

 

“I had some great crowd support tonight, and that really fired me up,” said McEnroe. “The ball bounces a little differently here in Denver’s thin air, but it’s really big for me to get this win. I’ll be pretty pumped to play again tomorrow night, with the whole season on the line.”

 

In the evening’s first semifinal, McEnroe got off to a great start by breaking Jim Courier’s serve and survived a grinding back and forth tussle to advance with a 6-4 triumph. For McEnroe, it was just his second victory over Courier in six tries on the 2012 PowerShares Series.

 

In the second semifinal, Michael Chang played the spoiler role by erasing any chance that Andre Agassi had of winning the year-end points title, when he managed to get past Agassi in a tense tiebreaker, 7-6 (9-7). The two players waged a fierce, back-and-forth battle en route to the breaker, and Agassi was able to hold off three match points, before the fourth finally got him. It was Chang’s first trip to the finals of the 2012 season.

 

The 2012 PowerShares Series reaches its conclusion Friday night, November 30 with the same four players in action, when they take the court for the Acura Champions Cup at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. Agassi will need to win his semifinal match against John McEnroe, in order to pass Pete Sampras and finish among the top three of the point standings and receive a share of the $1,000,000 PowerShares Series purse. McEnroe can take the year end title with another win in Anaheim but if he is unable to grab the title, Courier will finish the season as the #1 ranked player and collect the $500,000 first prize.

 

For news, scores, and stories regarding the entire 2012 PowerShares Series, log on to www.powersharesseries.com.

TONIGHT’S SCORES
Semifinal 1: McEnroe def. Courier, 6-4
Semifinal 2: Chang def. Agassi, 7-6 (9-7)
Final: McEnroe def. Chang, 8-6

UPDATED 2012 POWERSHARES SERIES RANKINGS
1. Courier 1500
2. McEnroe 1400
3. Sampras 1100
4. Agassi 1000
5. Rafter 800
6. Chang 600
7. Lendl 400
8. Martin 200
Wilander 200

On the Web

www.powersharesseries.com

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Agassi Captures Home Town Victory in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV – Andre Agassi won his second straight PowerShares Series event and thrilled his hometown fans with an 8-3 triumph over Jim Courier in the championship match of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships, Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, NV.

 

The victory moved Agassi into fourth place in the PowerShares Series rankings, as he now sits just 600 points behind top-ranked Jim Courier, after Courier gained 100 tonight with his semifinal win. Agassi is looking to make a late season surge into the top three of the point standings, in order to receive a share of the $1,000,000 PowerShares Series purse. Just two events remain on the 2012 schedule with stops in Denver and Anaheim upcoming at the end of November.

 

“It always means the world to me, to play here in Las Vegas in front of all the people that have supported me throughout my entire career,” said Agassi, who had his wife Stefanie and entire family on hand for the match tonight, along with many students from his Preparatory Academy. “I felt the enthusiasm of my supporters, and I really like the way I’m striking the ball right now.”

 

It was the second straight year that Agassi has taken home the title here in Las Vegas, defeating Pete Sampras in the finals of last year’s event at the Thomas and Mack Center.

 

In the evening’s first semifinal, Michael Chang and Jim Courier waged a fierce back and forth battle as both players held serve up until 6-5 when Courier broke to advance to the final with a 7-5 victory.

 

In the second semifinal Agassi handed John McEnroe his first semifinal loss in a PowerShares Series event since October 18 in Detroit, beating McEnroe in a highly charged and entertaining 7-5 set. McEnroe expressed his displeasure with a mid-match “moon over Vegas”, showing all of the fans his Bjorn Borg brand underwear.

 

After a short Thanksgiving holiday break, the 2012 PowerShares Series returns to action Thursday night, November 29 for the Jeep Championships, presented Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Denver, Colorado. Agassi will rejoin Chang, Courier and McEnroe when the action gets under way at 7:30 pm at the Pepsi Center.

By Dave Fannuchi

For news and stories regarding the entire 2012 PowerShares Series and ticket information for future events, log on to www.powersharesseries.com.

TONIGHT’S SCORES
Semifinal 1: Courier def. Chang, 7-5
Semifinal 2: Agassi def. McEnroe, 7-5
Final: Agassi def. Courier, 8-3

UPDATED 2012 POWERSHARES SERIES RANKINGS
1. Courier 1500
2. McEnroe 1200
3. Sampras 1100
4. Agassi 900
5. Rafter 800
6. Chang 500
7. Lendl 400
8. Martin 200
Wilander 200

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Agassi Beats McEnroe To Win San Jose PowerShares Series Event

By Matthew Laird, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(November 16, 2012) SAN JOSE – Friday night at the HP Pavilion at San Jose, local tennis fans were given a special experience by the tennis greats who came together to put on a trio of matches which managed to combine the quality of a competitive match with the levity of an exhibition. The competitors were a selection of the most notable American tennis players of the last thirty years. Despite their increasing distance from their days on the professional tour, Todd Martin, Jim Courier, and John McEnroe all managed to show flashes of the brilliance that had made them so successful in their younger days. But despite their best efforts, the night – and ultimately, the championship match – belonged to Andre Agassi.

 

This seems appropriate, in many ways. This stop on the PowerShares Series, the year-long, cross-country nostalgia tour of tennis veterans showing that they’ve still got the goods, was sponsored by one of Agassi’s new ventures: Bilt by Agassi and Reyes, a line of exercise equipment. I would not be shocked if Agassi wanted to win to make sure that he didn’t let down his long-time trainer, friend, confidant, bodyguard, and mentor. Winning would have seemed familiar at this stop, as well. The venue itself is also the home of the SAP Open, an indoor ATP event that takes place in February – at least for another year. While the tournament may be moving to South America after 2013, Agassi had managed to win the title here three times out of the six times he made it to the finals.

 

Agassi seemed to be able to turn back the clock during both of his matches, playing stunningly well in patches. Fans who attend these events come as much to see the players themselves as they come to see their flashes of brilliance, but Agassi hardly looked like a player who was six years removed from hobbling off the court after his last professional match, with back problems that were so severe that he could barely walk, much less play tennis. In both of his matches, against Courier and John McEnroe, Agassi was able to hit winners from positions that defied logic, time and time again. Whether he was off-balance or hitting the ball of his shoestrings, it hardly seemed to make a difference, Agassi still managed to send the ball zipping over the net and skidding off the sidelines. All his opponents could do was watch the ball go by.

 

Before Agassi took the court, John McEnroe played an entertaining match against Todd Martin, a two-time grand slam finalist who nevertheless couldn’t compete with the seven-time grand slam champion and former world number one. Martin was a harbinger, of sorts, in that he was one of the first very tall players to have success on the tour. While now there are quite a few players at or above six and a half feet, Martin was among the first to show that it was possible for big men to move that well. Unfortunately for him, the challenge for these sorts of players has always been getting down low to handle slice, and that was exactly what McEnroe gave Martin, repeatedly. By preventing the match from turning into a hitting contest with low-bouncing slice shots and his incomparable touch at net, McEnroe was able to frustrate his opponent and take away the victory.

 

Of course, McEnroe found more than a few things to get frustrated with, himself. It’s hard to know precisely how sincere his outbursts are, at this point in his career, since he recognizes that many fans come to see him play hoping to see him yell at the umpire. And he obliged, during each of his matches, to stare down the line judges and impugn the umpire’s judgment, but compared to what he’s capable of producing, it was a fairly tame evening from the “SuperBrat.” Todd Martin actually managed to get one of the best reactions of the night, by re-enacting the path of the ball as it would have been displayed by Hawkeye’s instant replay technology, after a call on the baseline that he thought went against him.

 

While the first match had been played at a fairly slow pace, with the players diligently slicing the ball back and forth or moving their opponent around the court with well-positioned but conservatively-paced topspin shots, it quickly became clear that the second match was going to be a different animal entirely. Within the first few games, Agassi and Courier had each hit a handful of scorching winners, and the crowd was getting ready for the two baseline titans to go toe-to-toe. After Agassi dropped his opening serve somewhat tamely, he roared back in the next game by hitting the ball from sideline to sideline, consistently producing amounts of pace and precision with his shots that most top players today would have been jealous of.

 

After Agassi took a cleanly-struck, cross-court backhand from Courier on the rise, contacting the ball at approximately the level of his own shins and somehow managing to hit it straight up the line, over the highest part of the net, and in a totally unreachable position, Courier called out, “Are you going to keep getting lucky with that shot all night?” Agassi, who was clearly feeling so comfortable with his tennis that he had no problems with joking around before vaporizing another winner, responded, “I’ve been getting lucky with that shot for twenty years!” He actually sold himself a bit short, on that, since he’s been blasting backhands for closer to twenty-five.

 

While Agassi and Courier were both playing like heavy-weights and it was just that Agassi was able to land more punches, in the championship match between Agassi and McEnroe, it quickly became clear that the two were in different classes, this evening. McEnroe’s low-bouncing slice, which Todd Martin was unable to bend down low enough to handle, was perfectly situated for Agassi – who is just under six feet tall – to hit a clean winner. McEnroe’s troubles were only compounded by his difficulties on serve and his inability to get into the net to show off his volleys.

 

McEnroe did not play his best, certainly. Just a few weeks ago, the two had played in New York City, where McEnroe had home field advantage, and he had beaten Agassi handily. It’s hard to imagine how that match could have gone after seeing Agassi play the kind of tennis he played tonight, in which a McEnroe victory was never really a serious possibility, and in which he celebrated by raising his arms in the air and mugging for the crowd once he had won his first service game to at least get on the board after dropping the first four games to start the match.

 

It should go without saying for anyone with even a passing interest in tennis that McEnroe and Agassi are without question two of the most well-known tennis players of the modern era, and that they are also two of the most preternaturally gifted, as well. McEnroe was (and sometimes, still is) able to apply such deft touch and create such unexpected angles at net that comparisons to wizards and artists are not unusual. Agassi’s talents lie elsewhere, but are no less awe-inspiring when they are on full display. He seems to have an ability to see the court – his opponent, the ball, and his own options – more quickly and clearly than should be physically possible. His greatest contribution to the game was his ability to hit the ball “on the rise” or just after bouncing up off the court, before it reaches a level where most players would be comfortable with hitting it. He was among the first to be able to consistently step into the court and smack a winner with a ball that was still coming up, but hadn’t yet reached his knees.

 

While he may have been the first to use this strategy so effectively, he was hardly the last. This plan of attack, which was insanely difficult when Agassi started employing it more than two decades ago and as a matter of fact is still insanely difficult, is now fairly common on the tour. Nearly all of the top players are capable of hitting the ball this way. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched Agassi send another ball whizzing past McEnroe, hopelessly out of the reach of his racket, that I was watching a modern player take on a relic of the classic days of serve and volley tennis. And despite the fact that McEnroe is among the most talented people ever to rush the net, there’s not much that sort of player can do against the power and accuracy of a player like Andre Agassi, when he’s seeing the ball that clearly.

“I’m in a good place physically and mentally and I’m ready to do what it takes in the final events to take the season title,” said Agassi. “It’s a thrill to win the event here in San Jose and I’ll be ready for my home event in Las Vegas on Saturday.”

 

Matthew Laird was in San Jose covering the PowerShares event for Tennis Panorama News. He has written for tennis media outlets including Tennis X. Follow him on twitter @MatchPointAce.

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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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WTT Smash Hits raises a record $1 million as Team Billie Jean beats Team Elton 19-17

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Oct. 16, 2012) — The 20th anniversary edition of Mylan WTT
Smash Hits presented by GEICO, was one for the record books with the event
posting a record $1 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation with a
portion of those proceeds benefitting the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. The
event, hosted annually by Sir Elton John and Billie Jean King, has now
raised more the $11.5 million to support HIV and AIDS prevention and
awareness programs since the first Smash Hits was held in Los Angeles in
1993.

Team Billie Jean King won the match, besting Team Elton John, 19-17.

Tuesday’s match at the Petersen Event Center on the University of Pittsburgh
campus featured one of the first tennis appearances of Andy Roddick since
announcing his retirement from the sport, and hall of famer Andre Agassi in
men’s singles. Team Elton’s Roddick won the final set of men’s singles over
Agassi, 5-3, to push the match into Overtime. Agassi captured the first
game of Overtime to give Team Billie Jean the win and even the 20-year
series at 10-10.

Sir Elton John kicked the evening off, partnering with Martina Navratilova
to take a 3-2 victory against Agassi and Stefanie Graf in an entertaining
celebrity doubles set.

Women’s singles brought two of the top junior players in the world and saw
Team Elton’s Taylor Townsend post a 5-2 win over the 2012 US Open girls
singles champion Samantha Crawford. In mixed doubles, Roddick paired with
the legendary Martina Navratilova to lead Team Elton to a 5-3 win over
Agassi and Graf.

In women’s doubles, Christina McHale teamed with Crawford and cruised to a
5-0 win over Navratilova and Townsend to bring Team Billie Jean even with
Team Elton 10-10 after three sets. “I am so happy with my team tonight,”
said King following the match. “Girls doubles really turned it around for
us. The young ones got us back in the match.”

King’s squad increased their lead in men’s doubles as Mark Knowles joined
Agassi to pick up a 5-2 win over Roddick and Jan-Michael Gambill.

Earlier in the evening, a silent and live auction raised more than $375,000
of the night’s total. The top auction item of the night went for $200,000
when two bidders paid $100,000 each for a package that included tickets to
Sir Elton John’s “The Million Dollar Piano” show at Caesar’s Palace in Las
Vegas and dinner with Elton and Billie Jean King. A hitting session with
Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf in Las Vegas sold for $55,000. Other auction
items were a 2013 Super Bowl Package with a dinner hosted by NFL legend
Franco Harris, an Elton John-signed piano bench, a hitting session with
Martina Navratilova, and Wimbledon and US Open packages.

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

Final Results – Mylan WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO at Petersen Events
Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
PRO-CELEB MATCH (didn’t count towards final match score): Elton John /
Martina Navratilova def. Andre Agassi / Stefanie Graf, 3-2
Coaches for the pro-celeb match were Anna Kournikova (Elton/Martina) and
Franco Harris (Andre/Stefanie)

Team Billie Jean def. Team Elton 19-17 (1-0 Overtime)
Mixed Doubles: Andy Roddick / Martina Navratilova (Team Elton) def. Andre
Agassi / Stefanie Graf (Team Billie Jean) 5-3

Women’s Singles: Taylor Townsend (Team Elton) def. Samantha Crawford (Team
Billie Jean) 5-2

Women’s Doubles: Christina McHale /Samantha Crawford (Team Billie Jean) def.
Martina Navratilova / Taylor Townsend (Team Elton) 5-0

Men’s Doubles: Andre Agassi / Mark Knowles (Team Billie Jean) def. Andy
Roddick / Jan-Michael Gambill (Team Elton) 5-2

Men’s Singles: Andy Roddick (Team Elton) def. Andre Agassi (Team Billie
Jean) 5-3

Overtime:
Andre Agassi (Team Billie Jean) def. Andy Roddick (Team Elton) 1-0

TEAM ELTON:
Elton John, Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova, Taylor Townsend, Jan-Michael
Gambill.
Co-captain: Anna Kournikova.

TEAM BILLIE JEAN:
Billie Jean King, Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, Mark Knowles, Christina
McHale, Samantha Crawford.
Co-captain: Franco Harris

All photos by Fred & Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA

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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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