RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, March 13 – Jim Courier and John McEnroe each took one step closer to setting up an All-American final at the $150,000 Rio Champions Cup with round-robin match victories Friday at the HSBC Arena. Courier edged the scrappy Brazilian Fernando Meligeni 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 (Champions Tie-Breaker) to post a 2-0 round-robin record, while McEnroe easily defeated fellow American Jimmy Arias 6-4, 6-1 to also go 2-0. The Rio Champions Cup is the second of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players 30 and over.
Both Courier and McEnroe will advance to Sunday’s championship match by each winning their final round-robin matches on Saturday – Courier against Mark Philippoussis and McEnroe against Jaime Oncins.
Courier, who finished as the year-end No. 1 ranked player on the Outback Champions Series in 2006 and 2008, overcame losing the first set to Meligeni to stave off the upset bid from the former French Open semifinalist. After winning the second set, Courier jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the 10-point Champions Tie-Breaker, played in lieu of a third-set. Meligeni quickly won the next three points to square the score at 3-3. Both players won their service points until Meligeni went up a mini-break at 7-6. Courier, however, clamped down and won the final four points of the match to close out the victory.
“Fernando played very well,” said Courier. “It was only one or two points difference between us.”
McEnroe said he felt more comfortable with the fast courts of the HSBC Arena against Arias than his win over Mikael Pernfors on Thursday.
“I felt better than yesterday,” said McEnroe. “I moved better and felt the ball better too. Tomorrow it can be even better.”
McEnroe, who turned 50 years old on February 16, has said that he is scaling back his play on the champions circuit, but that he was particularly drawn to Rio and Rio Champions Cup.
“I am playing fewer and fewer events,” he said. “I wanted to come to Rio, to Brazil, because I hadn’t come here in a long time. But for me it is better to play one or two day events and play guys like (Bjorn) Borg, (Pete) Sampras or even Guga (Gustavo Kuerten). I would love to play Guga, as long as it is not on clay. That would motivate me. If this is happening I don’t know, probably not, but we have to dream.”
When asked in the post-match press conference if he would be interested in coaching the “coach-less” five-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer,
McEnroe said, “I would love to give him some advice and help. I wouldn’t do all the traveling, but I would love to help him.”
Also registering wins on Friday include Pat Cash, who beat fellow Australian and former coaching pupil Philippoussis 7-6 (3), 6-1 and Oncins, who defeated Pernfors 7-5, 6-1. Due to a travel delay, both Philippoussis and Meligeni had to play both their first and second round robin matches Friday, with Meligeni defeating Philippousis 6-4, 3-6, 11-9 (Champions Tie-Break) in the opening match on Friday.
Round-robin play concludes Saturday with the championship match and third-place matches scheduled for Sunday.
Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1. The year-end champion will receive a $100,000 bonus.
Following the Rio Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played in Los Cabos, Mexico (March 18-22), Grand Cayman (April 23-26), Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).
InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.