2014/11/01

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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Patrick Rafter Tops John McEnroe in Philadelphia to Earn PowerShares Series Title

By Amy Fetherolf‏

(November 2, 2012) PHILADELPHIA – Tennis stars took over Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Friday night in a PowerShares Series event featuring John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Patrick Rafter, and Michael Chang. Rafter picked up the title in his first PowerShares Series appearance since 2009, defeating McEnroe, 8-4 in the final.

 

The four participating players combined for 14 Grand Slam titles during their illustrious ATP careers, and they showcased some of their old magic in a fan-friendly exhibition format.

 

To start the event, Courier took on McEnroe. The 53-year-old McEnroe, 11 years senior to his opponent, nevertheless displayed the finesse that earned him seven Grand Slam singles titles.

 

Down an early break in the set, and as shouts of encouragement, “Hey, Johnny!” and “Johnny Mac!” rang through the court, McEnroe clubbed a forehand down-the-line to break back, raising his arms in victory.

 

The crowd reveled in McEnroe’s occasional temperamental outbursts. He slapped at the net with his racquet after pushing a passing shot long, and chucked the racquet onto the tennis court so hard that it bounced off the rubbery playing surface.

 

Courier hit his trademark compact forehands with aplomb, but McEnroe outfoxed him with cleverly placed drop shots and deep returns that earned him the necessary break of serve. McEnroe took the one-set match 6-4.

 

Next, Rafter took on Chang for a chance to take on McEnroe in the final. Rafter’s serve-and-volley style against Chang’s defensive prowess made for an intriguing match-up on paper. But Rafter hardly looked like he’d missed a day on the ATP Tour. He breezed through the match, 6-2, hitting incredible volleys in the process.

 

In the final, it was mostly one-way traffic for Rafter. He and McEnroe, two of the sport’s greatest volleyers, battled each other for the edge up at the net. Rafter showed off his effortless backhand overhead volley, a shot that delighted the crowd.

Broken once, Rafter was able to break McEnroe’s iconic lefty serve three times to win the match.

 

“I’ve haven’t played too many competitive matches in awhile, but I moved really well, I’ve been doing a lot of fitness work back home, so I guess it all paid off,” Rafter said after the final. “You want to come out here and still play well. I’m still at an age where I feel like I can hit the ball okay, so I want to enjoy it while I can.”

 

“John puts me under a lot of pressure on my serve, and I felt it all the time. I always find him very difficult to play against. He’s unreal, he’s amazing.”

Amy Fetherolf‏ 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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Courier talks about upcoming Olympics and Davis Cup

NEW YORK, NY (July 18, 2012) – Tennis Panorama News had a chance to speak with Hall of Famer, tennis entrepreneur and Davis Cup Captain  Jim Courier at the NASDAQ on Wednesday in conjunction with the announcement of the dates and cities on PowerShares Series tour.

Courier gave us his predictions for the upcoming Olympics as to how he thinks Americans will fare.

“If you are looking at favorites, you just have to look at the Wimbledon results, because it’s easier to line-up what happened with what may happen and the Olympics,” Courier said.

“You may see some more upsets early because of the format – it’s two out of three on the men’s side. The women’s side not as much, it’s standard for them.

John Isner just won Newport. If he believes he can play well at Wimbledon he can and we know Andy Roddick can play well at Wimbledon. His game is perfect for that surface.

“So on the men’s side we know we’ve got a couple of guys that could really push. Ryan Harrison, I think is dangerous. Of course, Donald Young unfortunately missing a lot of confidence right now. He’s been having a rough go but maybe he can turn his year around with a run at the Olympics.

 

“On the women’s side Serena (Williams) should be the heavy favorite. She deserves to be. In the doubles I think that the Americans should be favorites as well.”

 

Courier, in his role as Davis Cup captain is preparing for the US’ semifinal World Group tie against in Spain September 14-16:

 

“That’s going to be the “all-ambulance team” for both groups because think about what these players have been going through from playing the clay court season to the grass court season to the Olympics to the US Open and Davis Cup comes on the other end,” Courier explained.

 

“That’s a big ask for everyone physically. So neither the Spanish captain Alex Corretja or me know exactly what we are going to have player-wise because we have to see who’s standing at the end of the summer. But of course we have a chance to win. Of course we will be the underdogs and that’s Okay.”

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

PowerShares Series Tour will Hit 12 Cities This Fall Including New York’s Madison Square Garden

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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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