2014/07/28

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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McEnroe Grabs Second PowerShares Series Title of Season in Denver

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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Agassi Captures Home Town Victory in Las Vegas

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

By Dave Fannuchi

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

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

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

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Agassi Beats McEnroe To Win San Jose PowerShares Series Event

By Matthew Laird, Special to Tennis Panorama News

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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Wilander Sounds Off On Big Four, Monday Finals and More in Atlanta

 

By Erik Gudris

(November 10, 2012) ATLANTA – Mats Wilander is literally getting back into the swing of things when it comes to competitive tennis. The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion made his second appearance on the PowerShares Series at the Champions Shootout in Atlanta, Georgia. Wilander joined Michael Chang, Jim Courier, and John McEnroe on the eighth stop of the 12 city tour.

“I’m getting into the swing of trying to channel my focus and concentration into two hours which you get really good at playing professional tennis,” said Wilander during a pre-match media meet with reporters. “You have to be able to switch on and off and when you are not used to the competitive element when the match is on the line you forget how to do that. It would be nice to do this 10 nights in a row because its not that easy. But it gets easier. I was better today in practice than I was yesterday. It’s more getting used to the pace that these guys play at.”

When asked about his Major titles that include three Australian Opens, three French Opens and one U.S. Open and which one was the most special to him, Wilander said, “There are all so different. I mean what’s better? A sunny day on the beach in Caribbean or a sitting near a fireplace on a snowy, cold day in Sun Valley, Idaho? It’s a matter of the big picture and how happy you are with your effort. And then on top of that you get pretty good results that make you wonder to yourself. “How the hell did that happen? Wow amazing.” I hope my best day is tomorrow.”

Wilander, who took part in a pre-match clinic with amateur players, splits half of his time teaching tennis across the U.S. with his “Wilander On Wheels” experience and the rest serving a tennis commentator for Eurosport including hosting his own “Mats Point” show. The former No. 1 is known for speaking his mind about current players and the pro tour and he didn’t hold back when it came to this week’s ATP World Tour finals in London. Though Wilander had high praise for the current “big four”, he also felt it was disappointing that someone else hasn’t shaken up the recent status quo of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal dominating the biggest events.

“It’s great to have the big four playing right now at this time. They’re unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing. But sometimes you wonder why (the other players) are running around applauding Federer’s shot when they hit to him. ‘Ah great shot Roger’. Why would you do that? He’s kicking your ass. You should be angry and not just happy you are playing the greatest player of all time.”

Wilander took exception to recent statements from players like Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that beating the ATP’s top four is nearly impossible despite the fact that they have done so in their careers. But Wilander would like to see that happen more often and from more players as he thinks it would help the sport.

“Are they not human,” Wilander says about the ‘Big Four’ so to get his point across. “We have these great players in every generation. But Sampras lost. Agassi lost. They all lost because the other guys thought that they could win. But you don’t get the feeling that the guys now don’t think they are going to win sometimes. It’s hard to be the best player in the world but its not impossible and the other guys think that it is. I think you can say that the top four that we have right now are the best top four we’ve ever had. And the next 96 out of the top 100, in relative terms, might be the worse we’ve ever had because they don’t beat the best guys and that didn’t use to happen. Obviously they (the big four) are much better and the competition is much harder, but in relative terms its very rare that they upset the big four so it’s worrying I think.”

Juan Martin Del Potro, who has now beaten Federer in their last two meetings, still could improve even more according to Wilander, but he may have more of an edge in making the leap into the ATP’s top four since he has already won a Major.

“Obviously he’s done it to Federer, I mean it’s amazing once you beat a guy in a big final you believe you have that in you. That’s it’s going to happen. So Del Potro I think has the biggest heart and he’s got a big game and loves competing and that’s why he sometimes is doing it and has won a Major.”

The ATP World Tour Finals will be played on a Monday but though that event won’t have to worry about weather and schedule delays due to being played indoors at the 02 Arena, Wilander himself is not a fan of Monday finals or even using roofs at events like Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.

“It makes sense (at Wimbledon) but I don’t think it should be used ever until the semis and the finals. I think we should stay away from Monday finals especially at the U.S. Open because I think its little unfair for the game I think. For the players and the crowd? Maybe. But I think for the sport it should be played on the day when its supposed to be played. Beginning of the tournament? I think they should wait and try and play outdoors when they can. I’m not for it but when it comes down to the end its too important for the sport to be played at the right time.”

Erik Gudris is a freelance tennis writer and frequent contributor to Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on Twitter at @ATNtennis

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Courier Wins Atlanta to Sweep Southern Swing in PowerShares Series

Jim Courier photo courtesy of PowerShares.com

By Herman Wood

(November 10, 2012) ATLANTA – The PowerShares Series came to Atlanta tonight for the second leg of its southern swing. On Friday night in Tampa, Jim Courier, in front of his hometown crowd, pulled out a narrow 8-7 (2) after being down 1-5.

It’s a very different feel at this event- definitely not a typical tour stop. The night starts with a video montage, highlights of all the PowerShares Series players in their heyday set to loud rock and roll. As the players enter via spotlight, another montage of their personal highlights plays with more raucous rock and roll. The Atlanta program featured some big names, with a total of 19 grand slams between all the participants. The format features two semifinal matches of 1 regular set, then an 8 game pro set final.

Courier had a different path in Atlanta, taking on Michael Chang in the first match rather than Mats Wilander. Before the matches, each player spoke to the media.  Chang says its a little different for him in his forties. “Our body just doesn’t respond. That’s just normal. It’s been fun, but we definitely have to work in order to compete well. I think from a strategic point of view, I’m a better player.” “It’s a lot more fun- interactions with the crowd. At the end of the day we all have egos. We want to win.” For Courier, it isn’t all that different from the tour; “I don’t worry too much about it. I just get out here and go. Get into grind mode. Head down moving forward. It’s fun!”

The match started with Chang serving- or trying to serve. As he stepped to the line, a baby began crying. It looked like he was going to try to play through it, but paused just before his toss. He looked to the child, then to Courier, remarking that ” its a dad thing” Courier said “he wouldn’t know” Play began as the baby settled in. Apparently Chang didn’t, as an early break went to Courier. On Courier’s serve he held, but with a bucket list- “successful serve & volley to Michael Chang. You saw it here first.” with laughter from the crowd. It seemed Courier caught fire until Chang asked what side of the bed he woke up on. “Center- very zen.” After a couple of errors, he finally held off Chang. Both players showed the hallmarks of their game, Chang running down balls, Courier firing from the ad corner, running around backhands. Despite the scrambling and a break back, Courier was too much, breaking again to close the match at 6-3.

A short intermission followed, with Chang out helping some kids win Prince racquets by hitting targets. He fed U10 balls to the kids and gave then an assist with hitting the target. All the kids won a racquet, mostly thanks to Chang!

John McEnroe and Mats Wilander were the second semifinal. Wilander seemed to agree more with Courier’s assessment of the demands; “You’re trying to channel your concentration and focus into two hours, which is what you’re really good at if you’re playing professional tennis.” McEnroe, who has more points than anyone else in the series, said “It’s tough to do it back to back at this point, especially against this competition. Sometimes it’s tough to get that last point at the end. The court can beat you up. Staying injury free is a constant. We’ve got a good trainer. He takes good care of me. You have to work at it all the time. One of the factors is time. You have to take some time. It’s almost more important than practicing. You have to keep with it or you have no chance.” It looked like he needed a bit of service practice early on, as he was broken in the first game. The first point went to Wilander on a net cord. He apologized , but said he was not sorry. The crowd loved that! Early on, it seemed McEnroe had forgotten what his game was, rallying from the baseline much more frequently than making forays into the net. Once he moved in, momentum swung his way. Some service aces on his part didn’t hurt either. After getting the break back, McEnroe turned up the pressure, but Wilander stiffened his resolve and the games got longer. Wilander was often corner to corner and McEnroe had quite the number of volleys and overheads. He ultimately held on, 6-3, to earn another tiff with Courier in the final for a second night in a row.

After a very short intermission, they went at it just like the clock was turned back, only the groans from the players were a bit more frequent. Courier opened serving, going big right away- 2 aces and a service winner for the hold. McEnroe had a bit of struggle to hold for 1-1, but was able with a little encouragement from the crowd. Courier kept bringing the heat off the ground and from the serve all match. McEnroe soon matched him, holding easily with service aces, winners, and his usual characteristic touch volleys. Both men went corner to corner, with few mistakes and most points earned rather than given. Courier tried a bit of McEnroe touch while up big in a service game, much to his embarrassment. He asked McEnroe for some help, which he obliged with a demo volley. He then asked Courier for help with his forehand. That would have to wait until later.

Joking aside, the match turned a bit more serious as McEnroe turned on the pressure at 6-6, forcing 6 deuces. At one point, Courier asked if they could flip for it and McEnroe surprisingly agreed. They didn’t, but Courier held for 7-6. It turned out the push was too much for McEnroe, as he was broken for the match, 8-6 Courier.

“It’s always special to win and it’s nice to take over the top spot, but we have plenty more ahead of us on this tour,” said Courier. “Andre is going to be coming on strong to compete in these last four events, and John’s been so consistent all season long. So I expect an uphill battle to try and finish in the top spot but it was great to be back on top in Atlanta.”

Herman Wood was in Atlanta covering the PowerShares Series Champions Shootout at the Gwinnett Center  for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood

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Martin to Replace Lendl PowerShares Sereis Event in San Jose

NEW YORK, NY (November 8, 2012) — The PowerShares Series has announced that Todd Martin will replace an injured Ivan Lendl in the BILT Champions Showdown to be held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California on Friday, November 16, 2012.

Martin, a former Davis Cup Champion, will join John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Jim Courier in the four-man showdown event. Martin will take on McEnroe in the first semifinal while Agassi and Courier will square off in the second semifinal, with the winners meeting in the championship match.

“I am excited to have the chance to compete in San Jose,” said Martin. “I really enjoy the PowerShares Series and hopefully – just like last season in Minneapolis – I can step in and win one of these events.”

Lendl is suffering from a shoulder injury that will prevent him from competing in San Jose. “I was really looking forward to returning to play in Northern California,” said Lendl. “I have some great memories from playing there at Barry Mackay’s events. I am sure this will be another great night on the PowerShares Series tour and I hope to return to play there in 2013.”

The 2012 PowerShares Series is in action Friday night in Tampa, Florida with the Champions Challenge at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and will continue in Atlanta, Georgia Saturday night with the Champions Shootout at the Gwinnett Center. 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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McEnroe, Courier, and Rafter Discuss Anti-Doping Efforts in Tennis

By Amy Fetherolf‏

(November 6, 2012) Since the release of the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s report on how Lance Armstrong gamed the system to avoid testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, many have questioned whether something similar could happen in tennis.

 

Indeed, one of the doctors implicated in the Armstrong case for orchestrating a doping regime for the entire United States Postal Service cycling team also treated tennis players, including Sara Errani and Dinara Safina.

 

When asked about doping in tennis at a PowerShares Series event in Philadelphia, John McEnroe expressed confidence in the International Tennis Federation’s anti-doping program.

 

“I think you can take any sport, but I think it’s as rigorously tested as any sport other than the Olympics that I’m aware of,” McEnroe said. “Maybe more so than any other sport, whether it’s football, basketball. I’ll bet you there’s way more testing and way more stringent testing in tennis than in any of those team sports.”

 

Jim Courier also backed the ITF’s anti-doping program.

 

“We use WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), and we’re on the Olympic Code, which is a pretty stringent code. Players do out-of-competition testing that’s unannounced. They have to give their whereabouts for one hour of the day, every day of the year. If they’re not where they say they are, that counts as a positive test against them. We have the rules in place. We have, I think, the best drug testing system around that I’m aware of.”

 

“No idea [if it’s a problem in tennis]. I hope to think there’s not,” Patrick Rafter said. “I think there’s always a case here and there, but I don’t think it’s a big problem like cycling was. I hope there’s not an issue, but there’s always the potential.”

 

Though Courier put his support behind the ITF’s testing program, he acknowledged that there was opportunity for players to take advantage of the system.

 

“I think that given the great rewards that are out there in tennis, and given human nature, people will cut corners where you give them leeway to do so. I think you have to put your head in the sand to think that people wouldn’t try and cut corners given what’s on the line if you do well in our sport. Look at Wall Street. People cut corners there because there are great monetary rewards. Anywhere you go in the world, this is human nature. We’re not immune to that. I don’t think we have a problem, but we’re not immune to that.”

 

“Everyone wants to see a situation where there’s a level playing field,” McEnroe said. “So it continues to be something that would be an issue for all sports, I would think.”

Amy Fetherolf‏  was in Philadelphia covering the PowerShares event for Tennis Panorama. She is the founder of the tennis news site Drop Shot Dispatch and a co-founder of the new tennis site The Changeover.  Follow her on twitter at @AmyFetherolf.

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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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McEnroe, Courier and Rafter Weigh in on Big Four Debate

By Amy Fetherolf‏

(November 5, 2012) PHILADELPHIA - Ever since 2003 when Roger Federer burst onto the tennis scene and began an era of domination, which now extends to the so-called “Big Four” of Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic, the tennis world has questioned how long it can go on.

As the 2012 tennis season wraps up, with just the World Tour Finals left, that question remains unanswered. Each of the Big Four captured one Slam title apiece this year.

“At some stage, things will change. It’s not a question of if, it’s when,” John McEnroe said at a Philadelphia stop on the PowerShares Series Tour. “But it’s hard to say when exactly that will be. Obviously Nadal’s health is an issue, and Roger’s not getting any younger. I suspect that you’ll see these guys hopefully around for a couple more years.”

Jim Courier expressed admiration for the way the Big Four have sustained their success, winning an astonishing 30 of the last 31 Majors.

“I think what the top four have done has been unprecedented as far as the level of consistency they’ve shown, and the level of dominance they’ve shown over the field,” Courier said.

“I just don’t know how they can keep it up. Honestly, the physical taxation that the game takes from them, the mental toll it takes, all the sponsorship requirements, all the pressure that’s on them to perform every week. I’m in awe of their consistency.”

The second tier of players stands separated from the top four by a Grand Canyon-like gulf. The three strongest contenders, Juan Martin del Potro (the only non-Big Four man to win a Slam since 2005), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Tomas Berdych, struggle to earn wins over the Big Four. In 2012 against Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray, Tsonga was 0-7, del Potro was 2-8, and Berdych was 2-7.

“You’ve got guys like del Potro, Tsonga, Berdych, Ferrer,” Patrick Rafter said. “Roger’s not playing like he was five years ago, that’s just a simple fact. He’s still putting himself in contention to win Grand Slams, but he’s not going to be as dominant as he was. And Nadal is having problems as well. You can see Djokovic and Murray certainly hanging around, but Nadal’s a big question mark, and Roger’s slowing down, but I think he’ll still be around in the mix. There’s definitely room for the new guys coming up.”

But Courier was reluctant to write off a few more years of Big Four domination.

“We haven’t seen any cracks in that façade, really,” Courier said. “It’s been again a year where the Big Four won all the Majors, and this year it’s been a true split. So I think it’s even more interesting from that standpoint. Who’s going to wrestle control the way Novak did in 2011? This year was more up for grabs, and Murray certainly has become a bigger part of the competition.”

McEnroe feels that del Potro is the most promising non-Big Four contender to win a Major in 2013.

“If I had to pick one guy that would win a Major if he remains healthy, it would probably be del Potro,” McEnroe said. “He’s won one, so it wouldn’t be a total shock. He’s put himself back in the position to do that. There’s a handful of guys who could do it, and someone’s going to do it, but he’d be the one guy I’d have to pick over anyone else.”

Courier agreed with McEnroe’s sentiment on the Argentinian.

“I love del Potro’s game,” Courier said. “I think he’s one of the few guys who really has the weaponry to stand up against those top four guys on a consistent basis. He needs some good fortune with his health, that’s been a problem for him. If he can stay healthy, I think he certainly has the tools to be in that conversation.”

Amy Fetherolf‏  was in Philadelphia covering the PowerShares event for Tennis Panorama. She is the founder of the tennis news site Drop Shot Dispatch and a co-founder of the new tennis site The Changeover.  Follow her on twitter at @AmyFetherolf.

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