2014/07/23

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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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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Players React to James Blake’s Retirement

James Blake

James Blake

(August 26, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY -  On Monday some players were asked in press about James Blake’s announcement about his retirement after the US Open. Here are a few reactions:

 

VENUS WILLIAMS:  You know, James, obviously the US Open was a special place for him.  I understand how he would want to end here.  You know, I think he still has, you know, a lot of great tennis in him, but he’s decided that now is the time for him.

He has a family now, so those are important priorities from what I hear.  He’s ready, so all we can do is support him.  Hopefully he will be able to contribute to tennis outside of the game, outside of playing pro tennis, in whichever way he chooses.

What I admired period about him was how he gave back, you know, obviously using his tennis career and celebrity to give back, especially to cancer because his dad passed.

And also the excitement he brought to the game.  I think he brought a lot of people into tennis.  It’s always great and also sad to lose someone who helps grow the game.  People are always interested in James, so that’s what I’m going to miss.

 

SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, just pure heart.  I mean, the guy has been really just a great person with a great heart.  He’s been through so much.  Being even able to be a professional player with his back, and then doing so well.  We won together at Hopman Cup.  He was such a great partner and a great friend.

It’s just sad to see.  Sad to see another good friend of mine that I’m not going

 

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, James was one of the more charismatic players on tour.  His style of game was spectacular a lot of days.  He was able to play winners on the return with great first serves, and his forehand was one of the best on tour, no?  Without no one doubt, he was able to hit very hard.  His image was great.

He’s a good example for the kids and a good example for the tour.  He’s a really good person.

 

RYAN HARRISON:  James has been a good friend in the locker room to everybody.  I mean, it’s funny.  Whenever you ask anyone about James, he’s left a great impression and just a great impact on everybody that he’s known in the game.

His career is one thing.  He obviously has his results.  I think something far more important that he’s leaving behind is the fact he left a really positive impact on tennis and the people he was around, which is what you are ultimately looking forward to doing after having a long, successful career like he’s had.

He’s one of the greatest guys out here on tour.  He’s into the next stage of his life, which is being the family man, having the baby, having his wife and kid, just going that route.

I’m extremely happy for him.  I congratulated him when I saw him.  You know, I look forward to keeping in touch with him throughout his life after tennis.

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James Blake to Retire After US Open

 

James Blake

(August 26, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – James Blake announced in a Monday morning news conference at the US Open that he is retiring from the tennis tour. The US Open will be his final tournament.

”No real surprise here,” said the former No. 4. “This is my last tournament.  I have had 14 pretty darn good years on tour, loved every minute of it, and I definitely couldn’t have asked for a better career.”

Blake who was tearful at points in his news conference, said now his focus will be on his family.

“The competition is something else I will miss,” said the 33-year-old American.  “I will miss pressure‑packed moments, break points, set points, match points, crowd getting into it.  But I’m so, so fortunate to have a life after this that I’m looking forward to with my wife, with my family.

“You know, there are so many athletes that say they can never replace that feeling of having that adrenaline rush, but I get more of an adrenaline rush now seeing my daughter wake up in the morning.  That’s something that I’m truly looking forward to, being able to spend more time with my wife and daughter.”

Blake, who left Harvard before becoming a pro in 1999 reached his career high No. in the world in 2006.

“I don’t kid myself. I know I have had a great career in my eyes, but it’s not one that’s going to go down in the history books,” Blake said. “It’s not one that’s going to end in Newport (home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame) but it’s one that I’m proud of.”

Blake survived two major health scares – breaking vertebrae in his neck and suffering from an illness which affected his sight and temporarily paralyzed a portion of his face.

He also raised money for cancer in honor of his father who died from stomach cancer.

“I know I’m lucky enough to have spent 24 years with a guy I couldn’t have asked for a better father and someone to treat me ‑‑ to raise me the way he did and for me to learn how to be a man from no better role model.”

Blake lists his proudest moment as being a member of the 2007 US team along with Andy Roddick and the Bryan Brothers, which won the Davis Cup title.

“I don’t want to be dragged out of this game”, said Blake. “I don’t want someone telling me I need to leave.  I want to leave on my own terms.  I’m happy doing that right now.”

Blake, who is ranked No. 100 in the world, will face Ivo Karlovic in the first round.

 

 Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

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Taste of Tennis Brings Tennis Stars and Culinary Celebrities Together for Pre-US Open Soirée

 

Serena Williams photo by Josh Meiseles

Serena Williams photo by Josh Meiseles

By  Vito Ellison  and Josh Meiseles Special to Tennis Panorama News

(August 22, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – There are few tennis events that reveal players’ personalities and exhibit their creativity outside the court quite like the Taste of Tennis. An annual pre-US Open event in midtown Manhattan, the Taste of Tennis serves as an amalgam of tennis, fashion and a premier culinary showcase from some of New York’s finest restaurants.

Venus

The 14th annual BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis was held Thursday evening with proceeds benefitting the James Beard Foundation, an organization that helps develop the culinary arts. Serena Williams hosted a star-studded event, featuring former ATP Top-10 talents James Blake and Janko Tipsarevic, as well as WTA stars Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams.

 

 

ESPN analyst and former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert made an appearance, along with doubles legend Mark Woodforde. Two-time Winter Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan also took part in the festivities.

“I had two or three different sushis, the little slider was good. Very good food,” the always animated Gilbert exclaimed. “This event I think I’ve gone every single year for 15 years and the lady behind it Judy Lerner is good people right there.”

Among the chefs that participated, Top Chef Masters champion Marcus Samuelsson joined fellow alums Harold Dieterle, Dale Talde, Jesse Schenker and Jonathan Waxman. World-renowned chef David Burke was also on hand.

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There was plenty of tennis discussion on the red carpet, with Tipsarevic discussing the grind of the ATP Tour and the current state of his game. “You really need to be focused every single day of your life, because you have other younger and better guys who are working to take your spot. I kind of lost my focus a bit and you can see the results. But I’m feeling good now, I’m playing good, it’s not the end of the world and I hope I’ll be back in the Top-10.”

Aga

Blake also commented on whether the J-Block will be out in full force at the US Open. “I think they’ll be here. They might not be as big as they used to be, because my friends had to go out and actually get real jobs, so some of them can’t make it out to the day matches. If there’s a night match, there’ll be plenty of J-Blockers.”

The evening also included some breaking news as 39-year-old Jill Craybas, who reached a career-high singles ranking of 39 in 2006, revealed that she will be retiring from professional tennis following the US Open.

“It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long,” Craybas said. “But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life. I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”

The BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis benefited the James Beard Foundation. The event was produced by AYS Sports Marketing.

 

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James Blake Leads List of Wild Cards for Cincinnati

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CINCINNATI (August 8, 2013) — Seven of the eight men’s wild cards for the 2013 Western & Southern Open have been awarded to American players, with four US players being added to the main draw and three entered into qualifying.

 

James Blake, Brian BakerRyan Harrison and Jack Sock have been granted wild cards in to the main draw.

 

In qualifying, Australian Bernard Tomic joins a trio of Americans who each reached a career high ranking last month – Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla and Rhyne Williams - in the field.

 

“We’re happy to welcome a familiar face like James back to a tournament where he has had a tremendous amount of success in his career,” said Tournament Director Vince Cicero. “At the same time, it’s exciting to offer these younger players a chance to participate in a tournament of this caliber. We look forward to having all eight of these players in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open.”

 

Blake, the 2007 Western & Southern Open finalist, will be making his 12th apperance at the tournament, third among active players behind Tommy Haas (14) and Roger Federer (13). He also ranks sixth among active players for wins in Cincinnati with a 15-10 record.

 

Baker, from Nashville, returned to tennis in 2012 after a series of injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six seasons. He climbed to almost No. 50 in the rankings before suffering a knee injury at the Australian Open in January that has kept him out of action until this week’s Aptos Challenger.

 

Harrison, a 21-year-old who now calls Austin, Texas, home, reached the semifinals last month at the ATP event in Atlanta. He also claimed the title at the Savannah Challenger this season. It will be his third Western & Southern Open main draw appearance.

 

Sock, a 20-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., won the title at the Challenger event in Winnetka, Ill., last month. He reached his second career ATP quarterfinal in February at Memphis. In 2010, Sock won the US Open Juniors title.

 

The four wild card entrants to the qualifying field will compete in a two-round tournament over this coming weekend for one of seven spots in the main draw.

 

Tomic, 20, is the top-ranked player from Australia. He recently reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and early this season claimed his first career title with a win in Sydney.

 

Kudla, a 20-year-old who grew up in Virginia, reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club in London in June.

 

Johnson, 23, won back-to-back NCAA singles champions in 2011-12 while playing for the University of Southern California. He won the Nottingham Challenger in June.

 

Williams, 22, turned pro after his sophomore year at the University of Tennessee, and was the NCAA singles finalist in 2011. He reached his first career ATP semifinal at Houston in April.

 

In addition, the following players have been added to the main draw – Radek Stepanek , Thomaz Bellucci and Denis Istomin. These three were entered following the withdrawals of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee), Viktor Troicki (suspension) and Marin Cilic (personal).

 

The draws for both the main draw and qualifying will be made on Friday. Qualifying begins Saturday, which is also AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day, and tickets start as low as $5. WTA main draw play begins Monday. All matches will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

 

The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.

 

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NY Sportimes Defeat Philadelphia Freedoms, 22-17 in World TeamTennis

James Blake

By Jerry Milani

ALBANY, N.Y, July 15, 2013 – The NY Sportimes won four of five events as they topped the Philadelphia Freedoms, 22-17, in Mylan World TeamTennis action at SEFCU Arena at the University of Albany on Monday.

Jesse Witten and James Blake opened the evening for the Sportimes (3-3) with a men’s doubles triumph over Samuel Groth and Jordan Kerr, 5-2. Anna-Lena Groenefeld followed with a 5-2 women’s singles victory over Victoria Duval to double the Sportimes’ advantage to 10-4. Groth then turned the tables on Blake, topping the Sportimes’ marquee player by the same 5-2 count in men’s singles to shave the Freedoms’ (1-5) deficit to 12-9 at halftime.

Kveta Peschke and Blake then teamed to upend the Freedoms’ mixed doubles tandem of Liezel Huber and Groth, 5-4, for a four-game NY advantage heading into the final event. Groenefeld and Peschke then closed out the match by edging Duval and Huber, 5-4, for the final margin.

The Sportimes next host the Boston Lobsters on Tuesday SEFCU Arena, beginning at 7:30.  Team captain John McEnroe will then lead the Sportimes in their final match of the Albany portion of the Mylan WTT home season, set for Thursday at 7:30 vs. the Orange County Breakers.
Philadelphia hosts Washington at The Pavilion at Villanova University on Tuesday in its next action.

Mylan World TeamTennis
NY Sportimes 22, Philadelphia Freedoms 17
At SEFCU Arena, Albany, N.Y.
Men’s doubles, Jesse Witten/James Blake (Sportimes) d. Samuel Groth/Jordan Kerr, 5-2
Women’s singles, Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Sportimes) d. Victoria Duval, 5-2
Men’s singles, Groth (Freedoms) d. Blake, 5-2
Mixed doubles, Witten/Kveta Peschke (Sportimes) d. Liezel Huber/Groth, 5-4
Women’s doubles,  Groenefeld/Peshke (Sportimes) d. Duval/Huber, 5-4

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James Blake Ends Wimbledon Losing Streak

JamesBlakeLeggMason

(June 25, 2013) USA’s James Blake snapped a five-match losing streak at Wimbledon over five years when he beat No. 93 Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 to move into the second round. Blake had lost his opening matches the last four years.

Former world No. 4, currently ranked 87th in the world Blake spoke about the “streak.”

“I definitely wasn’t thinking about my record here that often,” Blake told media.  “I was just going out, getting a scouting report, and worrying about the guy in front of me.

“That’s all I can do.  I can’t change what happened in the last few years.  Today felt good.  Trying to appreciate this kind of a day.  We don’t get this kind of weather here that often.

“Go out and make the best of it.  You know, played pretty well I felt like, and, you know, took advantage of opportunities.  Got a little lucky here and there.  Just one of those days where all of those things are going together and it worked out well.”

The 33-year-old’s best results at the All England Club came in 2006 and 2007 when he reached the third round.

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James Blake Commits to Play Newport

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NEWPORT, R.I., May 30, 2013 – James Blake, a former world top-5 player on the ATP World Tour has joined the player field for the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, to be held July 8 – 14 in Newport, Rhode Island. The tournament, which is hosted directly after Wimbledon, is the first stop of the summer swing for professional tennis in the United States and the only ATP World Tour tournament hosted in the Northeast.

 

“It will be great to have James back in Newport this summer. He always delivers exciting tennis and we know his New England fans will appreciate the opportunity to see him back in action in this area,” said Tournament Director Mark L. Stenning. “Putting James in the mix with players like John Isner, Sam Querrey, Lleyton Hewitt, and Ryan Harrison sets us up for a great week to kick off the pro tennis summer season in the United States.”

 

Blake has won 10 singles titles and 7 doubles titles. He reached a career high ranking of world No. 4 in 2006, and was the No. 1 American player. In 2007, he was a member of the championship United States Davis Cup team.

 

Earlier this year, Blake and fellow American Jack Sock won the doubles title at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships. The pair also advanced to the finals at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis.

 

Blake is an addition to a player field headlined by top American players. Two-time defending champion John Isner and No. 1 American Sam Querrey are both scheduled to compete in the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, along with Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock.

 

Other notable Americans in the field include 2009 champion Rajeev Ram, ATP World Tour veterans Michael Russell and Brian Baker, and rising stars Dennis Kudla, Tim Smyczek, and Rhyne Williams.

 

Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt has committed to return to Newport this summer, following a successful run at last year’s event that brought him into the finals. Marinko Matosevic of Australia, Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France, and Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands, all of whom are ranked among the world top-65 will also compete. Three additional wild card entries for the tournament are yet to be named.

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Americans in Paris – Day One at Roland Garros

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(May 26, 2013) Twenty-five players from the United States are competing in the singles draws of Paris this fortnight at Roland Garros – 15 women and 10 men. Americans went 4-4 in Paris on the first day of the French Open.

Here is a look at how they all fared:

First Round: Serena Williams (1) (USA) def. Anna Tatishvili (GEO) 6-0, 6-1

In 2012 Serena Williams lost for the only time in the first round of a major when she fell to Virginie Razzano in Paris. Williams did not let that happen on Sunday. Her demolition of Tashvilli saw Williams win 56 of 78 points in the match and hit 8 aces.

Serena was questioned about about the surge of women from the U. S.  in the main draw of Roland Garros – a total of 15.

“I think the quality over the past year has jumped tremendously with the U.S. players,” Williams said.  “On the female, female U.S. players.  I think last year here, outside of me, all the U.S. girls did really, really well, and I think we started to see then just so many players just popping up left and right.

“That’s 15 in the main draw?  That’s pretty awesome.  Yeah.  So it is a lot of players, but they’re all really young.  So there is still an opportunity to grow.”

Williams gets a French wild card, promising teenager Caroline Garcia next. Back in 2011, Garcia led Maria Sharapova in Paris 6-3, 4-1 before the Russian came back to win in three sets.

 

First round: Sam Querrey (18) (USA) def. Lukas Lacko (POL) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

The No. 1 U. S. male who is 20th in the world, has equaled his best performance at the French Open by reaching the second round. In fact, the California native won Sunday’s match on the same court where he was victorious back in 2011 – on Court 7. Querrey is 1-3 on clay coming into Paris this season.

“The clay season has been a little rough,” Querrey said to media.  “Pulled out of Houston, and the Masters Series, I played well in both of them, but took two losses.  And then Nice was a little disappointing.

“I just focused on my attitude out here today and played the best match I’ve played all year on any surface.”

Querrey gets Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic next in the second round. Hajek defeated American Dennis Kudla

 

First round: Urszula Radwanska (POL) def. Venus Williams (USA) 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4

The three hour and 19 minute match on Sunday was Williams‘ first loss in the opening round of the French Open since 2001.  She’s now lost in the first round of 2 of the last four majors. she also lost at Wimbledon. Despite the heart-breaking loss, she is not discouraged and will continue to play.

“I think that obviously it’s disappointing to lose,” Venus told media in her post-match news conference.  “It’s not what anyone is going for out here.  Coming out to win.  I’m coming out to win my matches.

“And, you know, with what I’ve gone through, it’s not easy.  But I’m strong and I’m a fighter.  You know, I don’t think I’m just playing for me now.  I think I’m playing for a lot of people who haven’t felt well.

“I think for me today it’s a positive to be able to play three hours.  I’m constantly finding ways to get better and to feel better.

“For me, I would never give up because, you know, obviously at some point everyone has to retire.  You know, that’s an asterisk, but I feel like I have to give myself a chance to continue working on feeling better.  I wouldn’t just give up just because it was difficult.

“That’s not me.  So my thing is that I’m going to keep ‑‑ continue trying.  And, you know, I had a very challenging year last year, but I had many successes, as well.

“So I’m continuing to look forward to more successes.”

Williams is still playing in the French Open, she’s competing in doubles with her sister Serena.

 

First round: Viktor Trocki (SRB) def. James Blake (USA) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2

Thirty-three year-old veteran James Blake, playing for the ninth time at Roland Garros could do nothing against Troicki. The highlight of the match for Blake was a between-the-legs shot.

Blake who came into Paris with no clay court ATP tournaments under his belt, spoke about play.

“The difference between my best and now is consistency,” said Blake to media. “I’m still trying to work on it. There are days it is good. Today wasn’t one of my best days. Off days are exposed very quickly out here.”

 

First round: Mallory Burdette (USA) def. Donna Vekic (CRO) 6-3, 6-4

Stanford Alum Mallory Burdette was making her debut on the clay of Paris. She has seen her ranking rise from No. 142 at the beginning of 2013 to No. 80.

Burdette spoke to media about her challenges in learning to play on clay.

“It’s definitely a bit of a different game, but it’s nothing that we can’t adjust to.  I can’t really speak for the other players, but it’s a bit of a challenge.  You have to change up your strategy a little bit, especially if you’re a big hitter.

“It takes a little bit of effort, but it’s fun and it’s a good challenge.”

 

First round: Shelby Rogers (USA) def. 6-3, 6-4 Irena Pavlovic (FRA)

Playing in just her second major, Shelby Rogers made her Paris debut a winning one. Beginning the year on tour at 0-6, she earned a wild card into Roland Garros.

Rogers who turned pro in 2009, reflected on the win:

“Feels really good.  My first Grand Slam main draw win.  And especially against a French player.  I was expecting the crowd to be against me.  I was ready for a battle.”

“It was really tough for a while,” said the 188th ranked player. “I wasn’t a very happy person. But I kept grinding it out every day, and I knew something had to turn around eventually. Here I am – pretty much the highest point of my career.”

 

Jan Hajek(CZE) def. Denis Kudla (USA) 6-2, 5-7, 6-0, 6-4

Kudla, once the No. 3 Junior made it into the main draw as a qualifier.

 

Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) def. Grace Min (USA) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5

The 2011 U.S. Open Girls’ champion Grace Min made it to the main draw of Roland Garros as a qualifier.

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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