2014/10/24

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Photos by Dave Shopland

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Agassi, Sampras, Lendl and Cash Participate in World Tennis Day with London Showdown

 

World Tennis Day – London

By Chris Power

Twitter @scoobschris

(March 3, 2014) LONDON – Monday March 3rd brought us the Second Annual World Tennis Day, with marquee events in Hong Kong, London and New York.  Designed to showcase and promote the sport of tennis from the grassroots to the very top of the professional game, this year, off the back of a successful inaugural event, The World Tennis Day got bigger still.

 

Whether by accident or design, this year’s the star-filled showdowns evoked the theme different eras.  The Hong Kong gathering suggested the future, based as it is in a region where tennis is growing rapidly in popularity.  Li Na from China headlined, a current Grand Slam champion who is leading the explosion in interest, but it seems inevitable that she will merely be the first in a line of legends from the region of Asia.  She was joined by other stars of the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, as well as Tomas Berdych.

 

Meanwhile, the showdown in New York City showcased tennis in the present, with Novak Djokovic and Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray squaring off in Madison Square Garden, as well as the current doubles world number one team, the Bryan brothers, who faced off against the McEnroe brothers in a sibling setpiece.

 

London therefore reminded us of tennis’s past, with rivalries of the 80s and 90s brought back to life in the present day by four unique and iconic players – Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.   Cash and Lendl competed on numerous occasions throughout the 1980s, but perhaps most memorable was the 1987 Wimbledon final, won by Cash in 3 straight sets.  However their overall H2H in their playing days was 5-3 in favour of Lendl, indicating the Czech usually found a way to neutralize the attacking style of Cash, at least away from the grass.

 

Perhaps more compelling still was the matchup between two Americans with diametrically opposing game styles and personalities, in the shape of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.  These hall of famers *were* 90s tennis, though their mutual respect never risked developing into friendship, and their post-retirement relationship has been famously prickly, culminating in uncomfortable scenes at a charity tennis exhibition at Indian Wells a few years back.  They competed in 34 pro matches against each other, with Sampras edging it 20-14, but dominating 4-1 in their Grand Slam finals.  They tended to divide the fan base – the charismatic, extroverted yet more erratic Agassi tended to win over the crowds, but the disciplined, quiet winning machine that was Pete Sampras won over the purists with his classic serve-volley style, poker-faced demeanor and insatiable appetite for success.

 

In their pre-event news conference, the players were relaxed and joking, offering thoughts on playing pro tennis then vs now.

 

Sampras, on playing Agassi: “If I wasn’t on my game, if I wasn’t serving well, I felt like it was going to be a long day for me.”

 

Agassi: “He was the only guy I ever played where I felt like if I actually played my best tennis I actually still could lose.”

 

Pat Cash lamented the general slowing down of playing conditions in this era, feeling that hitting good groundstrokes and particularly good volleys, is just not rewarded anymore.  Lendl felt that the strings as much as court speed were responsible for this change – the amount of spin a player is able to impart on a pass or return makes volleying such a dangerous proposition.  Asked if he had any interest in joining the band of ‘celebrity coaches’, Agassi expounded on his current life being a barrier to the level of commitment required, but didn’t rule it out in the future – though his target would be a player not reaching full potential rather than a top player who already has all the tools he needs.

 

Ivan Lendl struggled to answer the question which player he most enjoyed beating, but eventually settled on Brad Gilbert, to the amusement of the other players on the panel.

 

With a few photo opportunities to round off the press conference, things wrapped up, setting the stage for a fascinating and entertaining evening.

 

Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl got proceedings underway with a super set match – first to 8 games.  Both players showed off the sort of tennis that took them to the top of the game in their heyday.  Cash fired down the big serves and followed up with some deft touches at the net, while Ivan Lendl demonstrated his back-court skills – finding sliced passing shots, delicate lobs, and some chipped backhands to make Cash’s life at the net very difficult.

 

The match was played in good humour, with plenty of banter between the two players and the near capacity crowd to keep it light.  It was a nip-tuck affair until 6 games all, when Lendl threw in a poor service game, with a double fault and some unforced errors to hand Cash the crucial break.  The Australian duly served it out, and remarked after the match how nice it was to play Lendl again.  The Czech reciprocated, and revealed that his charge Andy Murray revealed after Acapulco that he’s feeling the best he has so far since the back surgery, eliciting a cheer from the audience.

 

After a demonstration of wheelchair tennis in the interlude between matches, with World #3 Gordon Reid showing off his impressive skills that look likely to see him to the top of the wheelchair game, it was time for the main event.

 

Agassi and Sampras were introduced to the crowd to a rapturous ovation, and quickly got down to business.  Andre started much the brighter of the two, racing out to a 3-0 lead as Pete struggled with all aspects of his game.  Soon enough, though, the booming Sampras serve, looking none the worse for wear for 12 years off the tour, was firing missiles, and Agassi was struggling to make much of an impression on the return.  However, while Pete’s serve and forehand slowed many flashes of their former excellence, the backhand continually misfired throughout the match, and Andre, never slow to spot a weakness to exploit, began to target that wing with regularity, reaping dividends.

 

Agassi duly served out the first set 6-3, and was beginning to rasp winners off both wings with his trademark style, taking the ball early and thumping it flat over the net out of reach of his opponent.  Pete would need to respond if he had any expectation of winning.   He did raise his game in the second set – the serve held Agassi at bay throughout, but his return game continued to let him down, as Agassi dragged him into baseline exchanges that would end with a flashing winner from the Las Vegan, or a Sampras error.

 

The pattern of the second set resembled so many of their matches of old, as both held serve, and the crowd waited for one or the other to betray a moment of weakness.   It took a tiebreak to separate the two, but once there, Agassi ran away with it, racing out to a 5-0 lead, hitting searing winners off both wings but particularly the stunning backhand, and taking the match 63 76(2) on a Sampras double fault.

 

Although the loser of the match, Sampras pronounced himself well satisfied with his efforts, and his enjoyment at being back on court in London was clear.   For his part, Agassi seemed somewhat surprised at how well grooved his ground game proved to be, and thanked the fans for their support of the players, and the World Tennis Day initiative.

 

Posing with commemorative bottles of champagne, the two players took a lap of honour of the court, and handed the baton over to New York City for the last of the World Tennis Day showdowns.

 

For London’s part, the past came back to visit, and it was a welcome visit indeed.  May there be many more.

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Dear Guillermo Vilas, My Father Thanks You and I Thank You

 

By Karen Pestaina

(AUGUST 23, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – It is rare that I write anything personal on this website. I’ve been working in media since I was in High School and as primarily a broadcast journalist, being objective in reporting is my job. I’ve worked in places from ballparks to war zones so I take being media very seriously. I see my role of that of a journalist as that of a public servant in which I report facts and not opinion. I always tell people to read as much as they can from all types of sources to form their own truths. As they say – don’t believe everything you read.

This is one day I can’t be objective. Last Saturday, I was about to make my way out the door to cover the New Haven Open. About two blocks later, my mother called me to tell me that my father had died twenty minutes earlier. My father had been ill for a long time, almost two years, I’d been expecting it. But even though I expected that the day when the horrible news would come, I was still in shock when it actually happened.

I’ve been a tennis fan all of my life and the love of the sport was instilled in me by my father – a physician who would never play golf, but tennis on Wednesdays. My father hated golf and turned on golf if he wanted to take a nap. I must confess, I have done the same thing. My love for tennis came in earnest when as a child my father took me to the Men’s Finals of the 1977 US Open which was the last one played at Forest Hills. It was my first live tennis match.

Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas upset American Jimmy Connors in four sets. The one thing I remember from that match was Vilas being picked up and carried around by fans on the court as though he were some sort of hero. I remember thinking, if this happens at the end of every match this is some exciting sport. I did not know what the significance of this match was, I just know that it was exciting to watch. Needless to say that after this match I became a huge tennis fan. My father was a huge Vilas fan before this, not so much about his tennis or his work ethic but about his personality. How many players today write books of poetry as he did.

Let me tell you about my father, all of his life he was a loyal subject of the British Empire, despite becoming a citizen of the United States a few years after I was born. I was the first American in my family. He always said to others that he spoke “the King’s English” and not the Queen’s because when he was born a King was on the throne. My father kept his British accent until the day he died despite having lived in the US for 50 years.

Being the American Brit as he was, he rarely showed any emotion. The only time I ever saw him come close to crying was when my oldest brother died as a teenager. He ruled our household like a monarchy, sometimes like a benevolent dictator, but he was always up for a debate on any subject in the book. He had an IQ higher than Marion Bartoli, but he rarely ever spoke about it. It was not his way to brag or boast – about anything. He was a firm believer in Judeo-Christian values which meant being humble.

Having grown up in a British territory my father loved three sports – Cricket, football (soccer) and tennis. He came to love baseball, basketball and football when he emigrated to the US but that never altered his love for the big three – Cricket, football and tennis.

After my first visit to the US Open, it became a family ritual to attend the US Open every year. We always would attend the first few days of the tournament in order to see all of the players. Back then in the late 70’s and early 80’s not as many people attended the early rounds, so more times than not, we would sit in the sponsor’s seats to watch some of the matches. In those days those seats were left unfilled in the early rounds of the tournament.

In those days my father would take myself, my second brother and a sister to the matches, and one thing we were forced to do was to watch at least one match which featured a British player. I remember one time that a match with a British player was taking place at the same time as a Bjorn Borg match! My sister, who was a huge Borg fan was furious, but there was nothing she could do, we all had to be together as a family – end of discussion.

One year when one of my Aunts came to visit for the US Open, we went up to the ticket booth to buy “day of” tickets. A British player that made it into the main draw (I don’t remember the name of the player) heard my Aunt speaking in her British accent and asked us if we would like his extra tickets. Of course she took them and we sat in what was the equivalent of the player friend’s box then and cheered him on, sadly he lost that day.

My father and his family were seriously tennis fanatics – I was too young to remember this but my mother told me when Arthur Ashe took out Jimmy Connors to win the Wimbledon title, my father was on the phone with one of my uncles in London for the entire match! A two-hour plus phone call from New York to London must have cost a fortune. So why did my father do this? Wimbledon was not shown live in 1975 in the US back then. He wanted to witness history in “real time,” even though it meant “watching it” with one of his brothers through the telephone.

My father often discussed his favorite players in tennis history. Above all for him was Rod Laver. My father said that if someone else can win two real grand slams, then they’ll be my favorite player. His second favorite male player or as he would have said, his favorite player of the “modern age,” was Pete Sampras. My father loved the serve and volleyers. In fact although he enjoyed watching Roger Federer play, he felt that the Swiss should come into net more. He also would speak so enthusiastically about Pancho Gonzalez, how when he played it was though he was “fighting to save his life.”

As for the women, my father admired Althea Gibson for her spirit and drive in a world which did not want to accept a black woman playing tennis. He also enjoyed watching Billie Jean King and Chris Evert and had a crush on Evonne Goolagong. Serena Williams may have the most major championships in her family, but Venus won my father’s heart. My Dad used to tell me that she reminded him of Althea Gibson and wished that Venus would come to net as much as Gibson did.

As Wimbledon has many traditions, we had a Wimbledon tradition in our household. Our family would all sit and watch the men’s final on TV. When I was little, the men’s final took place on a Saturday. Due to the power of television contracts over the years, the final was switched to Sunday. With the Sunday men’s finals this would mean that we would have to miss church – and we would never miss church. ONLY for the Wimbledon men’s final would we ever miss church on Sunday.

As we were blessed to have a major in our backyard, the US Open, it meant no family events could be planned during those two weekends within the tournament. Our family friends and extended family knew that none of us would be attending barbeques or parties if it was scheduled during the US Open.

As much as my father loved the game, he did not want it to become anyone’s profession – especially his children’s. At one point I was a decent player as a child and played a few tournaments, not that I wanted to become a pro someday. This was not what my dad wanted. He had higher aspirations for his children and that was the end of my days of competition as a junior. I forgave my father about this years later when I came to understand why he was that way.

Since the late 70’s with the exception of one year when I was beginning graduate school, I’ve attended the US Open. Needless to say I’ve kept up with news of Guillermo Vilas through the years and had the chance to actually meet him and speak with him about 10 years ago at the US Open. When I told my father about it, he was absolutely thrilled.

Although he is old enough to be my father, I’ve had a crush on him ever since I saw him win the US Open. Just ask my husband – it must drive him crazy when I talk about the man who should have been No. 1 in 1977, but he never lets on.

Today when I think of Vilas I think about my  happy childhood and my father teaching me to love the game of tennis. Indirectly I have Vilas to thank for my love of this sport.

I have taught that love of tennis that my father taught me to both my husband and my son and they both are as almost obsessed with the sport as I am. Now my husband and I fight over which one of us will attend the next Davis Cup tie as our son begs us to take him with us.

I guess it is fitting that my father should pass on during the week before the US Open as it was “our time” of year.

As my father had Alzheimer’s for almost the past two years, he “missed” Andy Murray win the Olympic Gold medal for singles, the US Open and more importantly Wimbledon. Despite now being an American, my father, a former British subject who never lost his “Britishness,” would have been so proud of him.

During my father’s wake, I spent hours talking to tennis-obsessed relatives about today’s game. My uncles are also major Venus Williams fans and don’t want to see her retire. Despite my dad’s body in full view being there in his coffin right in front of the room of the funeral home, I held back my emotions like the daughter of a good citizen of the British Empire – stiff upper lip and all that.

During the funeral on Friday, I began to give my testimonial about my dad. My dad was so proud of being able to live his dream of becoming a doctor that I had to speak about his pure love and joy of his profession. He knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was eight years old. It was then that my tears finally flowed for my father. He taught me and my siblings to stand on our own, to fight for what we want in this world, and the importance of social responsibility, regardless of our professions.

How fitting that after the funeral on Friday, my father was buried in a cemetery less than a mile from where I learned to play tennis.

Incidentally, the day that my father died last weekend was Guillermo Vilas’ birthday. My tweet wishing Vilas a happy birthday on the Tennis Panorama News’ twitter account came at the exact time my father was declared dead at 5:37 a.m. Eastern Time.

 

A tennis journalist friend relayed this to me after he heard about my dad’s passing on Vilas’ birthday: “….truly one of those coincidences that leads us to contemplate providence.”

As I prepare to cover the US Open as media next week, I do so with a heavy heart, but I never would have been here in the first place if it were not for love of the game my Dad taught me and of course Guillermo Vilas.

 

(I want to personally thank those who ran the site, the twitter and covered tournaments and events for me in my absence, while I had to deal with my father’s passing – Josh Meiseles, Vito Ellison, Jack Cunniff and especially Junior Williams.)

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International Premier Tennis League Launched

Paris, France (May 24th, 2013) – Mahesh Bhupathi, Boris Becker and Justin Gimelstob announced the launch of the IPTL – International Premier Tennis League on Friday.

The IPTL  is a city/country based franchise led league involving not only the current Men’s and Women’s players but also the Legends of the game.

The Franchises in the League will be city based across Asia. The first season of the IPTL will witness participation of 6 teams. Additional teams will be added in the 2nd and 3rd seasons of the League.

Each match will consist of 5 sets with no-ad scoring: Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles and Legends Singles (Men)

The IPTL will be held in December 2014 as the Player Auction will be organized in Melbourne in January 2014. IPTL has confirmed player participation from Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Thomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic, Lleyton Hewitt, John Isner, Caroline Wozniacki, Pete Sampras and Carlos Moya.

 

“I believe the future consumer wants to belong to something – and having a team they can support will be what motivates them to become a consumer of tennis. We have put together the ingredients to create something exciting that will activate the entire tennis industry,” said league founder and ATP doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi.

 

Former World No. 1 Boris Becker and Founding Partner of the league said, “This is what the sport needs, the best players in the world playing in a new time sensitive format that would get TV networks excited. Hopefully this can grow into a worldwide property with multiple team owners.”

 

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said that it’s a revolutionary idea: “It will change the image of the sport and help its popularity. I really look forward to be part of that competition and play.”

 

“It’s like a dream come true to play with Legends. Playing on a team is fun and really kind of cool. I like it.” said world No.1 Serena Williams.

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Kourtin’ Karen’s Tennis News Week in Review

delpoNadalStillerdoubles

(March 11, 2013) NEW YORK, NY –  Kourtin’ Karen takes brief look at the week that was week in the offbeat world of tennis.

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BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York City

March 4 was World Tennis Day. BNP Paribas sponsored two showdowns –  in Hong Kong and the other in New York City.

Highlight of the Madison Square Garden event – Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro were in the middle of the second set of the showdown whe Nadal pulled out Ben Stiller to play with him. Del Potro brought out 9-yeear-old left Rebecca Suarez who proved to be the best player on the court for the “doubles” match

 

BNP Paribas Showdown Debuts in Hong Kong with Wozniacki, Radwanska, McEnroe and Lendl

 

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Jelena Jankovic’s Fila Heritage Carwash tennis dress at Indian Wells

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BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party

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On the Green Carpet – Photos from the 2013 BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party

Many of those in the tennis media are not really fans of these type of events and exhibitions, but it draws people who are not normally fans of the game. I’m for whatever draws people to watch tennis.

All of the majors should have a “red carpet” event like this. It’s all in good fun and fans and journalists alike can play “Fashion Police.”

 

 

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No American Men in the Top 20?

With John Isner’s loss to Lleyton Hewitt in his first match at the BNP Paribas Open, depending on how Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish do, there would be no US men in the top 20 of the rankings – this has never happened since the rankings began in 1973.

 

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TMZ Alert

TMZ as well as other media outlets were reporting that there was an arrest warrant out for Jennifer Capriati in conjunction with an alleged assault on her ex-boyfriend Ivan Brannan. Capriati’s publicist denied reports that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.

“What happened has been over-exaggerated. When the full story comes out Jennifer will be vindicated of these charges,” said the spokesperson in a written statement.

 

Deuce

Redfoo sightings

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo

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Let’s face it,  pop singer Redfoo is here to stay.  Not only is he a big tennis fan, he supports a USTA Pro Circuit event – the Party Rock Open and is now the significant other of No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.

 

Advantage exhibitions

Pete Sampras adn Novak Djokovic

Tennis was back in Los Angeles with the LA Tennis Challenge featuring, Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Mardy Fish, James Blake, Bob and Mike Bryan.

Djokovic, Sampras, Fish and the Bryan Brothers Among Those to Particpate in LA Tennis Challenge

 

 

Deuce look-a-likes

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Separated at birth, the hair anyway – Redfoo and Thing 1 and Thing 2 of Dr. Seuss fame.

 

Advantage Karaoke

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In the post-match news conference at the BNP Paribas Showdown, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka announced that they revealed that they will be shooting a karaoke video to Rihanna’s “Stay.”

Deuce

The Rumor Mill

"Austin Powers" and Caroline Wozniacki

“Austin Powers” and Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki put to bed rumors that she and her boyfriend golfer Rory McIlroy had split.

A British tabloid speculated that the reason the golfer had pulled out of the Honda Classic was due to relationship problems with Wozniacki. Meanwhile, why did Wozniacki attend the BNP Paribas Open Players party with Austin Powers. (See above photo)

 

Advantage news

Tennis will introduce biological passports this year and increase the number of blood tests.

Nadal Returns to Hardcourt with Indian Wells Win; Still Unhappy with 25-Second Rule

 

Mardy Fish

Game, Set and Match – Welcome back Mardy Fish

Mardy Fish has returned to the tour from a heart ailment, his first event since the US Open.

 

Photo galleries from the past week

Photos by Curt Janka, Jennifer Knapp, Maria Noble and Karen Pestaina.

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Djokovic, Sampras, Fish and the Bryan Brothers Among Those to Particpate in LA Tennis Challenge

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(March 4, 2013) LOS ANGELES – The inaugural LA Tennis Challenge took place on Monday night on the campus of UCLA at the recently renovated Pauley Pavilion. Participating in the event to raise money for charity were world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Former No. 1 and member of the tennis Hall of Fame Pete Sampras, Bob and Mike Bryan, James Blake, Tommy Haas and former player Justin Gimelstob.

Los Angeles’ ATP World Tour event, the Farmers Classic, their license was sold to Colombian investors who took it to their home country. Former UCLA Bruin Gimelstob wants to keep pro tennis alive in Los Angeles and organized the event.

Singles and doubles exhibition matches took place including Djokovic pairing with his idol Sampras.

Celebrities in attendance included actress Jodie Foster, actor Bruce Willis and actor/comedian and tennis fan Rainn Wilson.

Proceeds from the event are to benefit the Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, Call to Cure and the Southern California Tennis Association’s community tennis initiatives.

 

All photos by Maria Noble

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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Mardy Fish and Bryan Brothers To Play Los Angeles Tennis Challenge on March 4

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Westwood, Calif., (Jan. 17, 2013) – World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras, former World Top 10 player Mardy Fish and the most successful doubles duo of all time the Bryan Brothers will take part in the inaugural Los Angeles Tennis Challenge at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Monday, March 4.

 

Tickets will be available starting Saturday morning, Jan. 19, at 10 a.m., at www.TicketMaster.com, or can be purchased by calling the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101 Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by calling the event directly at 310-824-1010, ext. 251.

 

The event is being co-hosted by Fish and former ATP World Tour player and Tennis Channel broadcaster Justin Gimelstob. The star-studded night of exciting exhibition matches falls just days before the start of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Calif.

 

“I am very excited about playing professional tennis in Los Angeles for the first time on March 4 at the LA Tennis Challenge,” Djokovic said. “To be playing against my good friend Mardy Fish, and partnering with my childhood tennis Idol, Pete Sampras, against the No. 1 doubles team in the world will be an amazing experience. In addition, to be able to help raise valuable funds for so many wonderful charities in the process will certainly make being at the newly refurbished Pauley Pavilion, the place to be Monday night, March 4th!”

 

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, Call to Cure and the Southern California Tennis Association’s community tennis initiatives.

 

“It’s going to be an unforgettable night of tennis starring some of the biggest names in the game,” said Gimelstob, a former UCLA All-American in the mid-1990s. “We’re proud to be bringing professional tennis back to Los Angeles and playing the matches indoors at historic and newly renovated Pauley Pavilion.”

 

Three exhibition pro-set matches will take place beginning at 7 p.m. Djokovic will take on Los Angeles resident Fish in singles followed by a doubles match pitting Djokovic and his childhood idol Sampras against Southern California natives Bob and Mike Bryan. An opening singles match between two marquee players will be announced shortly.

 

The Bryan Brothers are very comfortable on the UCLA campus having won an all-time best six doubles titles at the Los Angeles Tennis Center and former home to the Farmers Classic.

 

“We are so thankful that a new professional tennis event will be in Los Angeles,” Mike Bryan said. “Los Angeles is home to us and it is vital that competitive and entertaining tennis is accessible here. The LA Tennis Challenge will grow into the premiere tennis event in Los Angeles, and we are proud to support it.”

 

Added Bob Bryan: “We will need to be sharp in order to beat two legends of the sport. Novak Djokovic and Pete Sampras are going to be a tough team, but we are looking forward to the challenge of playing two of the greatest players of all time.”

 

Djokovic of Serbia is a winner of five Grand Slam titles and the current No. 1 player in the world. Sampras is considered the greatest American champion ever with 14 career Grand Slam singles titles, including seven Wimbledon crowns. Fish has six career ATP World Tour titles to his name and is an Olympic silver medalist. The Bryan twins won gold at the 2012 London Olympics and have won an all-time record 83 ATP World Tour doubles titles.

 

The LA Tennis Challenge will be broadcast by Tennis Channel in the United States.

 

To learn more about the LA Tennis Challenge go to www.LATennisChallenge.com. Like the event on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LATennisChallenge and follow on Twitter at @LA10sChallenge. For more information you can email: info@latennischallenge.com.

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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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Champions Series Tennis Circuit renamed PowerShares Series

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment announced on Friday that the Champions Series tennis circuit has been renamed the PowerShares Series. As the marketing agent for PowerShares QQQ Trust, an ETF based on the NASDAQ 100 index, Invesco PowerShares signed a multi-year agreement in 2011 to become the title sponsor of the InsideOut owned tennis tour.

 

The PowerShares Series will feature Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier and other Grand Slam winners competing in twelve one-night tournaments across the United States this fall. Each PowerShares Series tournament will showcase four of the legendary players playing in two, 1-set semifinals followed by a 1-set championship match.

 

The champions will compete for a prize pool totaling $1 million to be shared by the top three finishers at the conclusion of the season. Pete Sampras finished the 2011 season as the #1 ranked player, followed by Jim Courier and Andre Agassi.

 

Event details, including ticket information, player fields, dates and venues, will be announced this summer.

 

“We look forward to a fantastic season of PowerShares Series tennis,” said Jon Venison, founding partner of InsideOut Sports + Entertainment. “With legendary players competing across the United States this fall, PowerShares Series events will bring top flight tournament tennis and star power to the greatest sporting arenas in the country.”

 

“The name change to PowerShares Series tennis reflects our ongoing support for this highly successful tour which has garnered valuable exposure for PowerShares QQQ,” said Jason Schoepke, Chief Marketing Officer at Invesco PowerShares. “We are confident the 2012 PowerShares Series tennis circuit will continue to advance the PowerShares brand with our core audiences and look forward to this year’s events.”

 

The PowerShares Series is a tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30, created in 2005 by InsideOut Sports + Entertainment, the New York based firm which is co-owned and operated by former SFX executive Jon Venison and former world No. 1 Jim Courier.

 

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‘The Face-Off’ Nets Raonic a Win over Sampras

By Brodie McPhee

TORONTO, Canada – The master versus the prodigy. The past versus the future. A man whose best days are behind him in Pete Sampras, and a man whose best days are still to come in Milos Raonic. Yet both men are alike in more ways than one.

The big serve is an obvious. So is the smooth motion. The classy, well-tempered, soft-spoken demeanor both carry themselves with may not be. While it was a night of fun and laughs, at the end, both men let their tennis speak for itself.

The Air Canada Centre was the scene for the the “Face-Off” exhibition. The night was hosted by Bob and Mike Bryan‘s father, Wayne Bryan. Though he may be the father of two of the greatest doubles players ever, he acted as if he was born for the role and kept the night moving along seamlessly. First up was the doubles, featuring  Pete Sampras, Milos Raonic, Aleksandra Wozniak, Eugenie Bouchard, ex-hockey player Brad May, actor Hayden Christensen, and two local Canadian TV icons. Players substituted out in between games in the mini-match. The highlight was Christensen, who played some tennis in college and held his own against the pros. Even funnier was Wayne Bryan forcing Bouchard and Wozniak to play “handicapped” by holding Raonic and Christensen’s respective hands as they struggled around the court.

After that came the one set match between Wozniak and Bouchard. Wozniak missed 10 months of the season due to wrist problems, but returned strong winning the $50k Vancouver Challenger and playing well in Toronto. Bouchard, 17, and the No. 4 ranked junior, won the junior Wimbledon title and appears to be well on her way as a name to look out for. The two played solid baseline, side to side tennis that showed off their effective forehands and ability to push the ball deep. After a series of breaks at the end of the set, Wozniak took it 6-4.

After a series of contests and games, two young men from Raonic’s hometown, Thornhill, Ontario, came out to sing a song in tribute of Raonic and his job of promoting the sport in Canada. Part way through, Milos wandered out and had a chuckle while they finished their song. Asked after if he had heard it before, Raonic said that around the time of the Miami tournament “guys in the locker room would set it as their ring tone, and then call each other.”

Finally, we came to the main event. Raonic and Sampras went toe to toe in the first set, and it was incredibly close. Raonic’s serve regularly clocked in at over 210km/h and at points beyond 220km/h. After taking his first game, the classic Seinfeld “another game for Milos!” clipped played on the speakers and caught everyone by surprise, including Raonic. While Sampras’ serve wasn’t that, it was still incredibly effective. Early in the set, he backed up a great first serve with a jumping volley winner that left him shaking in disbelief. Overall, Sampras’ touch at the net didn’t look aged one bit and held up well against Raonic’s numerous passing shots. After each man traded holds 6 times, Raonic took the tiebreak behind an early mini-break.

The second set flew by as Raonic took control. Sampras appeared to be tiring (difficult to fault for a 40-year-old) and Milos’ movement looked the best it’s been since suffering a hip injury at Wimbledon this year. Raonic took the second set and the match, 7-6, 6-1.

Overall the points were generally short, but when stretched, the inventiveness of both men kicked in as they hustled, created openings and hit some incredibly well angled passing shots from all corners of the court.

After the match, Sampras had nothing but praise for the humbled youngster. “I’ve seen a lot of serves in my day, but this kids serve is bigger than big”. Despite describing Raonic as having “all the tools” to succeed, he also stressed patience as the Canadian No. 1 continues to mature. “Don’t expect him to win Wimbledon next year. It’s going to take some time. He can do it but let’s be patient here. Let’s not put too much pressure on the kid.”

Before the match, Raonic still seemed starstruck. “I think I’ve watched him play a couple thousand hours more than he’s watched me,” said the Canadian before the match. After a breakout year also damaged by injury, it was a dream come true to be able to play against his idol in the first tennis match ever hosted at the Air Canada Centre. “It’s been a whirlwind, from the highest to the lowest, but you guys make this night special, and hopefully there’s many more to come.”

Raonic will now travel to Barcelona with coach Galo Blanco where he will put in weeks of conditioning in order to prepare for the January Australian hard court swing, and Canada’s World Group Davis Cup tie in Vancouver against France.

Brodie McPhee is the author of the tennis web site Mind the Racket. He was in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto covering the ‘Face-Off’ for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @MindTheRacket.

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