2015/07/04

McEnroe Wins Nashville PowerShares and Clinches the Season Title

By Brad Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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Jimmy Connors Ready for PowerShares Series Stops in Nashville and Charlotte

JimmyConnors
By Brad Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kei Nishikori Repeats as Memphis Champion

 

nishikori memphis

(February 16, 2014) Kei Nishikori repeated as the champion at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis, stopping Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (0) on Sunday. For the No. 16 ranked player, this was his first career title defense. He is the first repeat winner since Tommy Haas won in 2006 and 2007.

“It’s amazing to defend a title for the first time, especially here,” Nishikori said. “I had a great memory from last year and I’m playing great.”

“I get a lot of confidence from keeping my ranking in the Top 20. It’s going to take some time to get to Top 10, Top 5, but I think I’m getting close.”

“He’s really fast,” Karlovic said. “He hits winners from any position on the court. That’s his game. He returned really well.”

“It was a good week for me. I’m really happy with the way I played. I hope I will continue like this and by the end of the year get into the Top 40.”

Nishikori was given a wild-card into this tournament, which this year was downgraded to 250 event, it was a 500 point event a year ago when he won.

This is Nishikori’s sixth ATP title.

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