Andre Agassi

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Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and James Blake Talk Tennis!

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and James Blake held court and talked tennis Thursday in a conference call with the media to promote the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit. The following is the transcript of the call where a number of subjects where presented with some fascinating responses.

RANDY WALKER: Thanks, everybody, for joining us today on our PowerShares Series conference call. We’re excited to have Andre Agassi, James Blake and Jim Courier on the call today.
Last week we announced the full schedule for the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit featuring legendary tennis players over the age of 30. The series kicks off February 5th in Kansas City and runs through March 21st in Surprise, Arizona. All event dates, venues, player fields and ticket information is available at www.PowerSharesSeries.com.
General public ticket sales kicked off on Tuesday of this week, and we can report some brisk early sales.
Before we open it up to questions, I’m going to start off with a question for each of our participants. We’ll start with Andre.
Andre, you’re scheduled to play in Houston and Portland this year. You, James and Jim are in those fields. Can you talk a little bit about those venues and potentially playing against Jim and James. You and Jim have been battling it out since the Bollettieri days. You and James had that epic US Open quarterfinal from a few years ago where you won 7 6 in the fifth. Talk a little bit about that.
ANDRE AGASSI: Absolutely. First of all, this has been a great platform for me to stay engaged with the game of tennis. It’s been a very high priority in my life, tennis has given me a platform to do so many things. I’ve struggled to find ways to stay involved that don’t take too much time away from my family and the balance of life.
What Jim has created with this PowerShares Series, he’s created an opportunity for guys like me and James and others to be able to get out on the road for a night and prepare for this, have an excuse to stay in shape, have an excuse to stay involved in the game, and go to these places and enjoy that level of engagement.
I can’t say I’m looking terribly forward to James with this because he still moves like the wind. Nevertheless, the memories will come flooding back for me. I love the feeling of engaging with people that have been a huge part of my life. James and Jim have certainly been two of them. Going to places where tennis really should be and isn’t.
RANDY WALKER: James, you played your last ATP career match at the US Open this year. Who are you most looking forward to playing and what are your expectations on the PowerShares Series this year?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, after Andre’s comment, I don’t know if I should be offended or complimented (laughter). I totally understand.
It’s funny because I was just thinking about it the other day. My whole life on tour seemed to go by so fast. I was the young guy on tour. Before I knew it, I was the grizzled veteran. Now I’m off tour and I get to be the young guy again on this PowerShares Series again. That’s exciting for me to be the young guy in any situation.
It should be a lot of fun. I’m excited to start a new chapter in my life that doesn’t have tennis be the first, second and third priority, as I’m sure the other guys understand. When you are on tour, it’s a bit selfish. We have other things involved in our lives. I know Andre has his family and foundation. Jim has so many business ventures and a family as well.
It’s going to be a little less stressful than that match I played with Andre at the Open, but maybe I’ll sleep a little better tonight if I can get a little revenge on the PowerShares Series.
ANDRE AGASSI: Let the record show that it was a compliment.
RANDY WALKER: Now we’ll turn it over to Jim. Jim is playing in the kickoff event in Kansas City on February 5th, returning to where he and Andre had an important Davis Cup win in 1991, 22 years ago, over Germany.
Jim, talk about the PowerShares Series this year, 10 new cities, including a lot of cities that don’t have ATP or WTA events.
JIM COURIER: Sure. It’s going to be great to be going back to a city like Kansas City that I haven’t played in since ’91, since Andre saved my bacon when I lost the fourth singles match. Who did you come out and beat? Was it Steeb?
ANDRE AGASSI: Steeb, yeah. You took care of him the first day, I had to take care of him the last day.
JIM COURIER: It’s going to be fun to go back to Kansas City and be out on tour with James and Andy Roddick, who are two newcomers this year. A little bit like Andre said, be careful what you wish for. It’s great to have these guys out with us, but it’s going to make it that much tougher to win.
But I love the challenge. Obviously it’s great to have those guys out joining me and Andre and some of the other great champions that are a part of the circuit.
There’s going to be a lot to look forward to as we get going in February and March. I think January is going to be a pretty hectic time trying to get ready for these guys, too, trying to build up the body to take on these young bucks.
It’s going to be a good circuit. A lot of great cities that I’m looking forward to playing in for the first time. I haven’t played in Salt Lake, Sacramento, among many others. It’s going to be definitely a good challenge and some new travel for me, which will be great.
RANDY WALKER: Now we’ll turn it over to the media for questions.

Q. A quick Rafa/Federer question. Rafa is at 13 majors now. If he wins the Australian and/or the French, he’s at 14, 15, tying or passing Pete. Do you think it’s inevitable that he’s going to pass Roger? If so, does that make him the greatest? With regard to Roger, do you think he can win another major?
ANDRE AGASSI: As far as titles go, I don’t think that’s inevitable. I do think he’s capable of it. I would make argument he doesn’t need to pass Roger in quantity to have him be arguably one of the best of all times.
I also think getting to 14 slams and tying Pete doesn’t suggest that Pete is in his category. I think Pete dominated his generation and won 14 slams but was never a factor during the clay court season.
You have to put in a bit of variety as part of that analysis, see what Rafa has done on every surface that he’s won at least a couple times, and in some cases eight times, then see what Federer has done winning multiple times, not winning the French many times because of Rafa. I think these two guys are in a class of their own.
I do think without Rafa winning one more major, you could make the argument that he’s the best of all time. He does have a winning record over Fed, although a lot of those wins come on clay. He has beaten Federer on other occasions on other surfaces as well.
You can also make the argument this guy doesn’t have a losing record against anybody in the top 30 in the world, and once Davydenko is gone, you can probably move that number to the top 80 in the world.
If I’m sitting at a dinner table, and I’m Rafa, and made a statement about the best of all time, I would choke on my food a little bit.
It’s an amazing time in men’s tennis to be looking at two guys in the same generation that have a legitimate claim to that title. That’s also forgetting about the fact that Djokovic is one win away from entering not necessarily this all time conversation, but certainly accomplishing a win at every slam. So now you got three guys potentially in one generation who have done something that only five guys have done over five decades.
I think it’s a golden age in our sport for sure. I think we’re better off for it. I hope everybody appreciates what it is we’re watching.
JIM COURIER: I think Andre covered it pretty well. Obviously, the biggest question mark for Rafa at the moment is his ongoing health. Those of us that care about the sport want to see him stay healthy and challenge the numbers.
It’s a fun dinner conversation. I’m not sure you can convincingly say that one guy is the greatest right now. I certainly wouldn’t want to omit somebody like Rod Laver who did so much and missed so many opportunities because he turned professional.
It’s a fun party discussion, for sure. I just hope that in 10 years’ time we’re able to look back and see what Rafa and Novak and the current guys did in the rearview, put it in proper perspective.
Lastly, with Federer, I would not be surprised whatsoever if he were to win another major. I think anybody that counts him out right now does it at their own peril.

Q. Andre, you and Steffi are arguably the couple who have been the most involved in charity matters. You’ve spoken at great length about your education work. Could you take a moment and talk about what you’ve seen through Steffi’s work with Children for Tomorrow.
ANDRE AGASSI: What she’s chosen to take on is nothing short of Herculean and quite honestly heroic in my mind because I do believe that it takes a unique strength to deal with the trials and tribulations of the wounds that exist in children that you can’t tangible ize. That’s the reality of her work.
For me, it’s about providing a high standard of education for kids that society has failed or society has written off. For her it’s about somehow solving something that you have to first prove really exists.
It’s remarkable the stuff that she’s made, remarkable what she’s done. She’s built kindergartens and counseling centers all across the world, from Kosovo, to Eritrea, to Hamburg, Germany, and other places.
I see how it affects her. I see how committed she is. There’s not one time that she does anything tennis related that she doesn’t give literally 100% of it to her foundation.
She makes me feel like the devil with her generosity. I look at her and I think, Why are you putting yourself through this? She puts herself through it and then comes home and writes the check to her foundation.
She doesn’t need fanfare with it. She doesn’t advertise it. Most of the time she’s not that thrilled to talk about it publicly because it brings her to tears in a hurry. She just chooses to live it.
I’m amazed at what she does. I get to watch her live her values every day. I try to do the same. I pale in comparison. She beats me at everything. At the end of the day, I still get to learn so much how she chooses to live. Her foundation is right up there with the highest of what there is to respect about her.

Q. You three guys have dedicated your lives to the game. Aside from changing the schedule, if you could change just one thing, what would that be?
ANDRE AGASSI: I would change our narrator calling you Mr. Simons instead of Simmons.
JAMES BLAKE: You hit the nail on the head with the first one, the schedule. If I had to go to a second one, I actually think I would like to go sort of back to the way it was when Andre and Jim were playing in terms of the surfaces.
I feel like the surfaces have become a little homogenized. It’s a surface that lends itself, in my opinion, to the domination you’re seeing with Roger, at times with Novak and Rafa. Like Andre said about Pete, he didn’t really factor in in the clay because I think the clay was so different from the grass back then. The grass was strictly a serve and volley game until Andre showed his returns were better than anybody else’s volleys. It was a time when you had to change your game a little bit to be effective on each surface. I think that added a little bit more variety to the styles of play, to the tournaments themselves.
I would like to see that change a little bit. It may change the rivalries, the Roger/Rafa dynamic for years where they were clear cut the two best players in the world. You could talk about who is better on what surface, a fast court, a slower court like we used to have in Hamburg, Germany. I think that would help the game, in my mind, to have variety.
ANDRE AGASSI: I don’t know what I would change. It’s been a while. I think James is probably your best look at clarity on the subject. He’s the most recently removed from the game, sort of has lived the realities of it in a very intimate and specific way.
When I look from the outside, I remember playing Wimbledon towards the end, and there’s no question, I agree with James, it is not the same kind of court that it once was. I can also speak to the fact additionally guys are stronger and moving faster and so forth. But the spin that’s in the game today, even if the court was faster, the spin generated off those racquets doesn’t serve anybody to move forward in the court, at least not without being 100% sure.
I love watching it. I didn’t have to live it. I wasn’t terrorized by it, except for once last year that I had to go through it. James has come off some fresh runs of having to face what the game has become. I think as a result, he can probably speak to it more comprehensively.
I don’t know what I would change except to make a general statement. That is the Association of Tennis Professionals by definition is designed to look out for the interest of all players. I don’t think any bureaucracy can move the game forward effectively if you’re trying to go all directions at once. You turn into a swamp. The game needs to be a river. It needs to be moving in one direction, which means a price needs to be paid by someone somewhere for the betterment of the game. This isn’t politics. This is about what a sport needs to do.
Generally speaking, I would love to see somebody have a position that at least allows them the responsibility and accountability of making decisions on behalf of the game. That’s what I would like to see.

Q. Andre, why did you decide to play the Portland tour stop? Did the cancer treatment center sponsorship or Nike have anything to do with that? Secondly, McEnroe is your foe that night. How much game does John have left?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I wanted to play in Portland first of all, yeah, because of what cancer research does. I’ll always support that. That factors into it to some degree. Personally I’ve grown really attached to Portland. It’s a way for me to make most use of a very delicately balanced life.
Again, the tour has been designed to facilitate this opportunity for us and for tennis fans in a way that allows it to be successful, enjoyable, and achievable.
My relationship with Nike has a lot to do with that, no question. But, again, everybody really looks for multiple overlaps, your time away, business or foundational, you have to make the most of that time when you’re away from the family.
John is remarkable. I think all of us on the phone would sign up to be in his shape, and certainly his talent. Given his age, I’d sign up for it right now, to be doing what he’s doing.
I know just being the age that I am, every year brings additional challenges. It’s not going to be as easy for him every year moving forward, just like it won’t be for us. What he’s done up to now is pretty darn impressive. He can neutralize a lot of power. He can make someone very uncomfortable, especially in conditions. For example, in Salt Lake, if he plays James, James will be surprised he can make the match play awkward.
He has a passion for the game that’s almost unparalleled. He brings that intensity to the court, sometimes against my wishes. I wish he could enjoy it more. But maybe that is his way of enjoying it. But he still has more tennis in him, for sure.
RANDY WALKER: James, any comment on going to Portland? You had a big win there in 2007.
JAMES BLAKE: Yes, 2007 we won the Davis Cup. One of my fondest memories to be a part of that team, guys I had a ton of respect for, still do, still am friends with. That was extremely special to me.
The support we got in the Portland community was really second to none, as well, the excitement we felt in that stadium.
The biggest part for me in Portland was the fact that it was really a team effort. Andy got it started. I got the second win. Then the Bryans clinched it on Saturday. We all contributed to winning in the finals. That’s to me the perfect ending to the journey we started in 2001 with Patrick.
I’m really looking forward to going back there. I had a great time there. Can’t wait to have some more memories there.

Q. Andre, I want to know what you think about whether you can compare players of back to back eras? If so, how would you compare the era you played in with Sampras and Courier and Rios, Kuerten, compared to the era that Federer played in which was probably Hewitt, Safin, Roddick?
ANDRE AGASSI: I think some generations back to back are more realistic to compare. It’s when the game takes a leap forward that you are no longer talking about the same equation.
What Roddick brought to the table was obviously the dominance of his ability to hold serve and to make life really uncomfortable all day long because you felt like every time you were playing on your own serve, you felt like you’re serving to stay in the set.
Others had that. Pete had that, gave you that feeling. Hewitt, his movement and his defensive skills, were like many that I’ve played before. Lightning fast, redirect the ball. He did four or five things that I found in a lot of players throughout my career.
But when you start talking about guys like Djokovic, Rafa, Fed, possibly Murray, you’re talking about guys who have literally changed the rules of engagement. Whenever you’re talking about that, you cannot, in my opinion, compare generations.
Somebody who played in an era where there wasn’t that kind of spin, there wasn’t that kind of I don’t know how you want to put it but where the rules of engagement change that dramatically, impossible to do.
There’s no way a serve volleyer, a Rafter, can come forward on every point and get to your ball early. Covering the line at the net is fine, but you can’t reach the ball because it’s 15 feet over your head, coming down with margin, it’s like a drive forehand topspin lob winner. Certain things are just above and beyond. And I would say in this generation, that’s changed the game.

Q. Jim, as a person who has put this tour together, you have a couple guys in his early 30s, a guy in his mid 50s, somebody in their early 60s. How do we view these matches, more as competition or exhibitions?
JIM COURIER: I think if you look at each of the individual tournament draws, as far as the generations that are playing, you’ll see some logic to them. We’re not going to certainly put Andy Roddick against his former coach, Jimmy Connors, because that certainly isn’t going to be that competitive. Not that Jimmy isn’t a great player and champion, but obviously the age is significant when you put James or Andy, who are fairly fresh off the tour, into that environment.
You’ll see a very competitive night of tennis no matter where you are on our tour. We’ll have some cross generational matches for sure. But Johnny Mack, as Andre pointed out, is going to make things difficult for anybody he plays, no matter what generation, because of how he’s able to play.
I think we have a terrific lineup all across the board when I look at all 12 of these events. I see nothing but great matches and great competition.

Q. Andre and James, you both played Nadal in 2005. He was a teenager. What was your first impression of him then? When you look at his evolution, the revisions he’s made to his game, what have been most important to his evolution?
JAMES BLAKE: 2005 was the first time I got to play him. I actually had the benefit of getting a great scouting report from Andre who played him a couple weeks earlier in Canada.
My impression of him then was he was a clay courter playing on hard courts. He was playing with a lot of topspin, hitting the ball heavy, but not attacking the ball, not moving forward at all. He sort of counted on his defense and his movement to win a lot of matches. He did it exceptionally well, obviously. He had already won the French Open at that point. He was the best clay courter in the world at that point. He hadn’t translated that into his best hard court game yet at that point, I don’t think.
Andre gave me a great scouting report that I needed to attack him, make him feel uncomfortable. I was able to do that that way. Since then, he’s become much more aggressive. He worked on his serve. When I played him in ’05, he served over 90% to my backhand. He was looking to hit that clay court serve where he hits it to the player’s weakest side instead of using it as a weapon.
We saw this year at the US Open how easily he held serve. His serve is much more of a weapon than it was.
I also remember specifically, I had never even hit with him before I played him, the first couple balls in warmup, he hit the ball so heavy, I actually thought I was in trouble from the start. Once the match started, he was hitting the ball shorter and playing with a lot of margin and not being as aggressive. That to me gave me the opportunity to play my game.
As I’ve seen him now and practiced with him much more recently, that guy is gone. He’s so much more effective with being aggressive, with taking his game and imposing it on me, like I said, being more effective with his serve. He’s still one of the best movers, moves so well side to side.
He actually has improved his volleys. He used to be pretty, in my mind, uncomfortable at the net. Now he looks comfortable. He’s not going to be Patrick Rafter at any time. He gets up there, looks comfortable, feels okay up there, can finish points at the net.
I think he’s improved everything he needs to to be aggressive and still keep the game that got him to be the best clay courter in the world, too.
ANDRE AGASSI: That was a hell of a breakdown of his game. The only thing I could add to it is my impression of him the first time I played him, I didn’t have the luxury of James’ speed. The one thing I knew I had to do, I just didn’t have it. James had the option.
I used to play lefty clay courters and pound the backhand cross court. They would try to fight it off deep. I would step inside the baseline and just control the point. I did it in the Canadian Open final the first point we played. Everything went according to my game plan. The next time I came from backhand cross court to his forehand, he went so high and so short, in order for me to do anything, I had to commit so far in the court, I was exposed on the next shot. I hit that shot. He came in, made an adjustment, hit it at my feet, laughed at me when I tried to make the volley. The next thing I knew, there’s no chance against this guy unless you have the ability to move exceptionally well, get up in the court, get back, or like James does so well, which is get around that short ball no matter where it’s bouncing and jump on the forehand knowing he has all that real estate he can cover if he doesn’t hit the forehand exactly the way he wants.
Nadal went from a guy that maybe I had a chance against that year, right surface, right circumstance, to a guy I see from my couch that I’m pleased to be watching from my couch.

Q. If you look at the guys under 24, Raonic, Nishikori, Dimitrov, Janowicz, who do you think has the hugest upside?
ANDRE AGASSI: James has played them.
JAMES BLAKE: I played all those guys. I didn’t play Dimitrov. I practiced with him plenty, though.
I would say Dimitrov has a ton of talent. Raonic, that serve, that’s the most uncomfortable to play. Out of those four guys, I’d least like to play Raonic because of that serve. It takes you out of your rhythm, which I know it sounds weird for me to say, because I do that with my forehand, try to get them out of their rhythm. He definitely makes it so you don’t feel comfortable. It could be a set and 3 all in the second set, you don’t feel you’re into the match because he’s won so many free points off his serve, he’s missed a lot of balls on the return game, and he hasn’t given you anything to really feel like you’re into the match. That to me makes it uncomfortable.
Janowicz is a little bit the same. He really hits the ball hard and flat. He can make a lot of balls in a row, which can give you some rhythm. I had success against him. I feel like he kind of sticks to patterns a little bit. I just happened to be playing well that day.
Nishikori I think is continuing to improve. It’s a tougher battle for him because he’s not a big guy. That’s another thing that’s changed about the tour, is guys have gotten so much bigger. I think it’s tough for him to compete against really big guys, even though he hits the ball better than a lot of them, moves better than a lot of them. It’s tougher for him to stay healthy and compete with the big boys.
Dimitrov, practiced with him a lot. I think he has a huge upside. If he stays healthy, he has a live arm, huge serve, even though he’s not one of the huge guys, 6’6″, 6’7″. He moves well. Looks like he’s comfortable hitting any shot. Just a matter for him of putting it all together.
If I had to say one guy that the game actually excites me, it’s did Dimitrov. Raonic is the most uncomfortable to play, but I don’t get quite excited watching a guy serve 25 aces and win a match 6 6.
ANDRE AGASSI: It’s funny you say that because when I watched Federer play Pete for the first time at Wimbledon, I said, There’s no way he’s going to beat Pete. You can’t play like Pete and beat Pete. He was too similar to Pete to beat him. Obviously as I was wrong with Pete. He’s gone down as one of the greats ever.
I look at Dimitrov, and I think, You can’t play like Federer and be better than him. I’ve seen it before. He excites me, as well.
JAMES BLAKE: Exactly.
RANDY WALKER: Andre, you’re playing on Thursday, February 20th in Houston. Can you talk about your past experiences in Houston. You played at the clay courts many years, also the year end championships.
ANDRE AGASSI: I really enjoy Houston for a lot of reasons, mostly because of the relationships I had there. The McIngvales were not just big supporters of my foundation, they were a huge asset to the sport of tennis. I think it’s one of the great crimes that we haven’t nurtured them more profoundly in our sport because they were really making a difference with our game.
There’s so many tennis enthusiasts in Houston. The standard of club players there, it’s very high. The education in the sport is very high. You felt it from a fans’ perspective with them watching you.
Clay was never something I looked forward to playing on at that stage in my life. Going there and playing on clay wasn’t ideal for me. But when I played the World Championships there on the hard courts, it was one of the great experiences in the World Championships that I’d ever been through.
Three set matches to make it to the semis, having two match points on Federer in the third set breaker, beating Ferrer in three, beating Nalbandian in three, coming back and beating Schuettler in three on Saturday, only to have to face Federer again in the final.
It was a great week of tennis. It will bring back a lot of memories for a lot of reasons heading back there.

Q. Could you share with me who your tennis heroes were when you were kids.
JIM COURIER: My tennis hero was really Bjorn Borg, the guy that first sort of got me excited about the sport. I wasn’t allowed to cheer for McEnroe or Connors because of their behavior in my house. I probably would have cheered for them, but my parents instructed me firmly that Bjorn needed to be my idol and my hero. That was my guy.
ANDRE AGASSI: I always rooted very hard for Bjorn as well. He was easy to like, easy to root for. I tried to imitate a little bit of everybody’s game. I did that with Bjorn. I did that with John. I did that with Jimmy. But Bjorn, when it was head to head, it was easy for me to root for him.
I didn’t like Mack and Connors because of certain behavioral things. As I got older, I learned to like Mack.
JAMES BLAKE: I actually had a few. I kind of picked out different reasons for them. Arthur Ashe I learned about as I got older. He wasn’t in the generation I was growing up watching. Everything I learned about him made me respect him so much more and idolize him for his education, values, his humanitarian efforts inside and outside of the game.
I would say the two guys I grew up watching and finding certain things I enjoyed were actually ones on this call, Jim Courier for the work ethic. When I was a kid, everybody talked about his work ethic. You could see when he stepped on the court he felt like he out worked his opponent. That was something I looked up to and tried to emulate.
The other was Mats Wilander, a guy who in my opinion showed a ton of restraint. I know obviously to get to the level you’re at, the competitive fires are always going, and I was a bit of a brat as a kid. I watched Mats competing in the highest of highs of the competition, keeping his cool in every situation. To me that was the most impressive thing I could see because I had no idea how to do that at 14 years old. I’m still trying to learn how he was that cool under pressure at all times.
I got little things from each person and tried to emulate all of them. Failed miserably at all of them, but did my best.

Q. Jim, the day before the ’91 French Open final, you said of Andre, We don’t spend any time together and in the past we didn’t even speak to each other. Could you and Andre tell us what your rivalry and your relationship was like in the early ’90s. Did you want to beat each other more than anyone else?
ANDRE AGASSI: Our relationship was strictly platonic.
JIM COURIER: Andre and I grew up playing together and against each other at Bollettieri’s. From my perspective, I was fighting for attention down at Bollettieri’s. I took exception to Nick prioritizing Andre, as he should have done. In my adult years now looking back on it, I totally understand it. Obviously I get it at a new dimension now than when I was in the heat of battle back then.
I used what I thought was a slight from Nick Bollettieri to fuel my fire in whatever circumstances I needed to be in. Andre and I, he was the guy in our generation that got up to the top first, and Michael Chang, Pete Sampras and myself were all trying to keep up. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in competition with him for major titles in my 20s.
At that time in my perspective I drifted further away from all of those Americans that I was competing against almost out of necessity to be able to hold down the emotions of the moment. We’re all trying to take each other’s lunch money at that point in time. The thing we care about most is what we were fighting for.
It’s hard to separate what you know to be true, which is these are good guys you’ve known since you were a kid playing tennis. There was nothing caustic necessarily about it. It’s more a function of what you’re trying to achieve.
Now that we’ve obviously gone on and become full fledged adults, are not in as serious of competition, I think we’ve been able to put it in proper perspective. I certainly have. I’m closer to Andre than I am to anyone else in my generation. We probably spend more time together as a result of that on and off the court.
There were certainly times when I looked across the net and I wanted to beat him as badly as I wanted to do anything in my life. I’m guessing, and he’s about to tell me, that was the way he felt, too. Andre, too, was also always the better player as we were growing up.
Andre, you’re surprised that I was even on the other side of the net in the big moments.
ANDRE AGASSI: I remember we grew up competing against each other, 11, 12 years old, Jim was always a good draw in about the second round. It wasn’t until three years later that I realized, because he played a bunch of different sports, and tennis is just a quarter of his season. When he put his full attention to tennis, his rate of improvement spoke to his talent and athleticism.
I simply was a guy that wasn’t easy to like if you were around me in the teenage years, nor did I feel Jim liked me, and I didn’t like anybody that didn’t like me, I didn’t like them. I feel my own sensibilities were skewed during those years.
When you step onto the world stage, you’re playing against somebody for titles and dreams, it doesn’t serve you to expose yourself to a friendship, let somebody understand what makes you tick, what’s really going on inside. I certainly had a lot of weaknesses that I felt the need to hide, even from myself.
But going through all that, I think we found ourselves with a deep respect of both our work ethics and our abilities and the way we handled our own survival. Today I think we respect one another for not just those things but also for a real deep sense of loyalty, not just to one another, but also to the people in our lives.
It’s been a full circle relationship, one I think that speaks most comprehensively, at least in the hub of my life, to how far somebody can travel in any given journey.
RANDY WALKER: Jim, we had some folks on the phone from Alabama. If you could talk about the field that’s going to be there. Andy will be making his debut there, played a big Davis Cup match against Switzerland. John McEnroe and Mark Philippoussis are in that field.
JIM COURIER: I attended the Davis Cup match that James played as well with Andy and with the Bryan brothers against the Swiss a few years back. It was an absolutely packed crowd, completely enthusiastic. I’ve never had a chance to play in Birmingham. For me, this is going to be very exciting to get to go down there and be on the court instead of in the stands which I was for the entire weekend when I proudly watched our American team take the Swiss out.
Welcoming Andy onto the tour, a place that he obviously is going to carry fond memories into the battle there, I think it’s going to be a great way for him to get started. That’s going to be a pretty fiery night. Mark Philippoussis and Andy Roddick would most likely play there, and I will play John McEnroe. You can look for some fiery matches on all levels there.

Q. A question about the ATP World Tour Finals. Who do you think will be the final three to qualify? Regarding the event itself, do you think it should go back to a rotating locations like it did with the Masters Cup or do you think London is a great spot for it?
ANDRE AGASSI: I have no idea who is in contention for the spots. I can’t help you there.
Do I think it should rotate? It seems to me from a distance, maybe James could tell you the turnout is remarkable. I think the top eight deserve that kind of platform. I love what I’ve seen there. I think this event would be big in any part of the world, but they’ve certainly earned the right to at least keep it in the short term.
It reminds me of the days it was at the Garden, a remarkable venue that always turned out a full stadium. It felt like you were in a prime time fight. That’s the way it appears to me in London.
I haven’t seen anything close to Madison Square Garden since we left there.
JAMES BLAKE: I agree with Andre about it. They’ve earned the right to keep it in the short term. I didn’t get to play in London, but I’ve seen the crowds. I’ve heard from the guys that it’s an amazing venue. As long as the guys are happy and the fans are happy, they’ve definitely earned the right to keep it in the short term.
As far as the five through eight, six through eight, the last three guys, I don’t know exactly who has qualified already, but I’m guessing Berdych, Wawrinka will probably qualify. As I said earlier, Raonic was always uncomfortable for me to play. I think he’s got a good chance to qualify. I’m not sure the other guys in contention, probably Tsonga, Gasquet.
JIM COURIER: Federer.
JAMES BLAKE: Federer hasn’t qualified yet?
JIM COURIER: No.
JAMES BLAKE: Then I’ll take him. Just about any time, I’ll take him.
JIM COURIER: The top three guys right now that look like they’re going to qualify are Federer, Wawrinka and Gasquet. They’re the next three guys in. But I think Tsonga playing at home also in Paris next week, I think he has a really good chance to qualify. It’s going to take a lot for Raonic to get in. But one good week is worth 1000 points. A lot can change. Certainly indoors looks pretty good for somebody like that. Even Tommy Haas, if he were to sprint out in Paris, he could make it. It will be an interesting week next week for sure.
RANDY WALKER: Everybody, thank you for participating in our call today. I want to thank Andre, James and Jim for their time and great answers today. Appreciate all the media for calling in. We appreciate the attention to the PowerShares Series. We invite you to go to www.PowerSharesSeries.com for all the event, venue, player fields and ticket information.

Andy Roddick and James Blake Sign Up For PowerShares Series Tennis Tour

James Blake and Andy Roddick

InsideOut Sports & Entertainment today announced the dates, venues and fields for the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit, highlighted by the debuts of Andy Roddick and James Blake, who will join the 12-city tour and play alongside tennis legends such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.

The PowerShares Series will kick off on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 in Kansas City and will conclude March 21 in Surprise, Arizona. Players competing on the 2014 circuit are Roddick, Blake, Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, Connors, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis. Each event will feature two one-set semifinal matches, followed by a one-set championship match.

An exclusive USTA member pre-sale offering a 15% discount for USTA members begins today. Tickets and unique VIP fan experience packages will go on sale to the general public next Tuesday, October 22. Tickets start at $25 and all ticket and VIP information is available at www.PowerSharesSeries.com.

“We are eagerly anticipating the 2014 PowerShares Series season with an exciting blend of all-time greats from different generations competing in 12 cities across the country,” said Jon Venison, Partner at InsideOut Sports & Entertainment. “We are excited to welcome Andy Roddick and James Blake as they join our eighth year of Champions Series tennis and look forward to seeing them, along with the other legendary players, compete and entertain crowds around the United States this season.”

“I am looking forward to playing on the PowerShares circuit,” said Roddick. “Having a chance to stay connected with tennis and compete on a limited basis through events like these fits perfectly with my life these days.”

“It’s going to be exciting to start a new chapter of my tennis life playing on the PowerShares Series circuit,” said Blake. “Having just retired from the ATP tour, you’d think I have an advantage over some of the guys, but players like Andy, Andre and Pete are so talented and competitive that is going to be a great challenge for me to win some titles. I look forward to the challenge.”

The full 2014 PowerShares Series schedule with field of players are as follows:

Wednesday, February 5, Kansas City, Missouri, Sprint Centre – Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 6, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Chesapeake Energy Arena – Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 13, Birmingham, Alabama, BJCC – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Indiana, Bankers Life Fieldhouse – John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Colorado, Pepsi Center – Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Thursday, February 20, Houston, Texas, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake

Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Utah, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, California, Sleep Train Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Thursday, February 27, Portland, Oregon, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Tennessee, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, North Carolina, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Friday, March 21, Surprise, Arizona, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang

 

A Tommys Revolution: Why the Resurgence of Haas and Robredo is More Than Just a Storyline

Tommy Haas won his title

By Josh Meiseles, Special for Tennis Grandstand

Having grown up in a tennis-centric household just an hour’s drive from the USTA National Tennis Center in New York, ritual U.S. Open day trips were akin to my peers’ summer outings at the beach. Every August we’d make the mini-trek to Queens and marvel at Agassi’s baseline power, Kafelnikov’s precision, Chang’s agility and the serve-and-volley prowess of Sampras and Rafter.

My dad was a huge fan of Pistol Pete, so when he advanced to the final of the 2001 Hamlet Cup, a U.S. Open tune-up event now known as the Winston-Salem Open, we pounced at the prospect of seeing the 14-time Grand Slam champion on a more intimate stage than the cavernous bowels of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Standing across the net from Sampras that day was a spry 23-year-old German named Tommy Haas. Ranked just outside the top-10 at the time, Haas was less than a year from vaulting to a career-high number two in the world, while Sampras was embarking on his farewell lap around the ATP Tour. I was only a freshman in high school at the time, but I was nonetheless impressed by Haas’s attacking presence and crisp strokes from both wings, as he ousted Sampras in three sets for his third career ATP title.

Twelve years later and Haas is still a force on the Tour, perhaps playing the best tennis of his life. His stunning upset of Novak Djokovic in Miami, and subsequent run to the semifinals, set the stage for his title in Munich one month later and a remarkable quarterfinal finish at Roland Garros this past week.

Rewriting the record books seemingly every week, from becoming the oldest player to beat a world number one in 30 years to becoming the oldest French Open quarterfinalist since 1971, Haas is once again on the cusp of the top ten. Did I mention he recently turned 35?

Among all his astounding achievements over the past year, which also includes an upset of Roger Federer in the 2012 Halle final, the most impressive came in the third round of the French Open last week, when, after being denied twelve match points against John Isner, he maintained his composure and somehow prevailed in five sets. A presumably spent Haas went on to destroy Mikhail Youzhny two days later, dropping just five games. That’s a feat most 25-year-olds would struggle to accomplish after a grueling four-and-a-half hour match.

A top 20 player for the majority of his career, boasting a high of number two in the world in 2002, Haas implements an exceptional all-around all-court game, anchored by a beautiful one-handed backhand. Having reached his first Wimbledon semifinal in 2009, after a 2008 season riddled with abdominal, shoulder and elbow issues, the German was primed for a late-career push at the age of 31. Then, less than a year later, it was revealed that he would need hip surgery and the German would not be seen on court again until mid-2011. He has since reached five ATP finals, winning two, and just achieved his best result at Roland Garros in twelve appearances. Words cannot describe the significance of his resurgence with his career on life support less than two years ago.

Considering the growing physical nature of the game over the past decade, the fact that no player has enjoyed consistent success in their mid-30s since Andre Agassi is understandable.

Haas’s longevity is a testament to not only his work ethic and conditioning, but to his ability to adjust to the modern game and find new ways to be aggressive without employing a physically taxing style of play. The same can be said for Tommy Robredo, who, at age 32, reached the quarterfinals this week after being absent from the ATP Tour with a leg injury. A year ago, Robredo was ranked 470 in the world and playing a Challenger event in Italy and Haas was outside the top-100 battling through the Roland Garros qualifying tournament.

While I am in no way refuting the claims that advancements in tennis (i.e. string technology and more rigorous physiotherapy methods) are potentially detrimental to players’ health in the long term, there is no doubt that such developments in nutrition and conditioning contribute to prolonging careers as well.

We are seeing more and more players, such as the two Tommys, in the top 30 at the age of 30. A late-career injury should no longer be considered a career death sentence; rather it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. There is no denying that the collective accomplishments of both Haas and Robredo at Roland Garros are a sign of inspiration as well. They may lack an intimidating weapon like a Nadal topspin-laced forehand, Djokovic’s penetrating groundstrokes or Isner’s bazooka serve, yet they are proving that grit and determination are powerful tools to have in your arsenal.

A short-fuse has long been Haas’s Achilles heel throughout his career, but with age comes maturity, and for the 35-year-old, a new lease on his career has yielded a newfound lucid attitude towards his game. He seems more passionate now than he ever was and his fiery competitive spirit is unwavering. Attribute that to his 3-year-old daughter, Valentina. When asked if retirement was a viable option during his hip surgery rehab, Haas stated, “It is too early for me to come back, but I assure you my daughter will see her dad play tennis.” Whenever you have something, or someone for that matter, to play for other than yourself, it provides a fresh source of motivation to continue fighting. At his 2011 U.S. Open press conference Haas mentioned, “It gives me another reason to work hard and try to achieve some things.”

For athletes of all sports, the stronger and more personal the motivating factor is, the more driven they are. It may seem rather obvious, but it couldn’t be more relevant to Haas’s success. And if you think he is inspired, imagine how his fellow 30-Year Club members are feeling, particularly David Nalbandian, who is recovering from injury while recently welcoming his first children as well. Haas’s resurgence could even potentially be a game-changer for younger players who are looking to model their playing styles after someone with his durability. The trend toward the physical grinding game is a slippery slope and one that is not associated with career longevity.

Haas will look to defend his Halle title next week while Robredo isn’t currently on an entry list for a Wimbledon tune-up event. Despite their mediocre career results at the All England Club, with no points to defend both men will be playing with house money and should be considered dark horses to make the second week.

Josh Meiseles manages the tennis blog The Sixth Set and you can follow him on Twitter at @TheSixthSet.

On The Hunt: Get to Know 11-year-old Longines Future Tennis Aces Competitor Adam Neff

Adam Neff to compete in Longines Future Tennis Aces event in Paris.

(May 28, 2013) After winning the USTA Boys’ 12s Spring Nationals last month, 11-year-old Adam Neff has earned a spot to compete against hopefuls from fifteen other countries in the Longines Future Tennis Aces event in Paris, France from May 30-June 1.

One look at Neff and you can hardly believe he is only 11 years old. Having grown ten inches over the past year to a height of 5’8” (173cm), his coach of four years, Lance Luciani, laughs at the thought that his pupil will soon tower over him. In fact, doctors anticipate he will grow to a height closer to 6’5” (196cm) by the time he’s done growing, and according to Luciani, he is looking to develop Neff into a similar body type of former world No. 1 Marat Safin.

Neff’s trip back to Paris, this time for the Longines event, signals a “second chance” for the young player as he attempts to redeem himself. Earlier this year while traveling to a junior tournament with his coach, Neff came down with a bad case of Norovirus, and was unable to eat for 10 days, losing 13 pounds. Not surprisingly, he lost in the first round “and it really hurt Adam because he lost to someone he probably shouldn’t have lost to,” Luciani offered. “He felt bad that it happened, and when he heard about the Longines event and how the winner of the 12s Nationals had an automatic bid, he said that it was his chance to go back (to Europe).”

At the 12s Nationals, Neff didn’t drop a set en route to the title, guaranteeing him the all-expense paid trip back to France this week.

Pupil and coach began working together shortly after Luciani’s ten year stint at the IMG Academies teaching students strategy and tactics, including several current professional tennis players, and Luciani jokes about his already four-year partnership with Neff:

“You can only coach a kid for that long if you like the kid, and Adam is a really nice young gentleman.”

The skills that Luciani has ingrained in Neff as well as Neff’s own goal to become world No. 1 one day, has allowed him to be a player mature beyond his years. Luciani imparts words of wisdom, teaching him that although “you may lose a few battles, you are not losing the war,” and Neff has won 85% of his matches in the past year using that slogan. The absolute trust and respect between player and coach, and Neff’s teachability on court, has only propelled his chances at becoming a future breakout star.

“A lot of coaches are about today, and today’s results,” said Luciani. “I once had a coach, who after Adam’s match, pointed out to him that he had missed his backhand 17 times, and then asked him ‘Don’t you think you should have changed it?’ And Adam said, ‘No, my coach told me this is the footwork I’m supposed to use.’”

“And now, one year later,” Luciani elaborates, “because Adam’s body (after having grown ten inches) matches up with what I wanted him to do back then, he’ll now make that same shot 16 out of 17 times.”

And Luciani continues, referring to the steps in his program: “It may be ugly in the beginning, but eventually it’s going to be beautiful.”

The system that Luciani employs is a self-designed program called “Strategy Zone” which is a “very aggressive system based on Andre Agassi and how he built points … and teaches a lot about footwork, targets, amounts of spin, stances and more.” The first four years are spent working on offense “to get a good base,” adding in several new skills every six months. Because Neff has now been with Luciani just over four years, the second stage of the program — the defense — was introduced this past January and “it’s already starting to show up in his game,” states Luciani. “Defensively, we’re working on slicing a little more on his backhand side, and we have a fitness trainer who is working right now on his movement to his right, so he can get to the ball earlier and go from a defensive situation to an offensive situation quickly.”

Neff’s at-home training includes two hours of tennis in the morning, followed by one hour of a private fitness session with his trainer, and an additional hour of tennis in the afternoon, followed by a recovery session every evening. If you’re thinking that this sounds an awful lot like a professional athlete’s schedule, well, you wouldn’t be wrong. In fact, many pros hold this similar schedule while preparing for some of tennis’ biggest events.

And to go along with the training, Neff’s backyard is equipped with every tennis player’s dream: a state-of-the-art facility and courts.

When Neff and Luciani first started working together, Neff’s father asked Luciani what he needed in order to give Neff his best chance at becoming a pro. Luciani gave some pointers, construction began and now, their backyard in Bradenton, FL has one of the best facilities in the world. Among it are three tennis courts: 1) a European red clay court akin to the surface of the French Open, 2) a slower hard court like that used at the Sony Open in Miami with seven layers of cushion “to ensure we can save his knees,” states Luciani, and 3) a faster hard court like that found at the US Open with eleven layers of cushion.

It also includes a full 2800 square foot indoor gym with a recovery area, including a CVAC unit like that used by Novak Djokovic. In fact, Luciani researched the manufacturer of that same recovery pod and leased a unit for five years to allow his pupil to have optimum recovery after playing. “There’s nothing like it for recovery,” he states. “If you get injured, you get well really quick.”

Neff’s parents are both doctors and have put everything into Adam and his two younger sisters to become the tennis players their kids aspire to be. Though “successful and busy” individuals, “his parents are extraordinarily supportive,” says Luciani. “They don’t get upset at losses; they just brush them off and are really down to earth … They built (the house and facility) so that their kids can grow up and have a chance to do whatever they wanted to do in tennis. His parents trust me because they know I have their kids’ goals in mind.”

With his efforts culminating this week in Paris, Neff will vie for a shot to win the Longines Future Tennis Aces event, and as Luciani reiterates his and Neff’s long-time goals: “We’re on a mission, there is no other goal. Number two is a failure, bottom line. We’re on a hunt.”

Australian Open Recollections

130127110534-djokovicnumber1-single-image-cut

By James A. Crabtree

The Aussie Open is over and this means constant therapy and prescription pills until the French Open.

Regardless, here are some pointless observations, rumours, thoughts and complete randomness that needs to be shared.

1. Fred Stolle said, adamantly, a few days before the tournament that “Djokovic will win it all unless he breaks his leg.” Not only was he right but I do hate it when old people get it so so right.

2. During the qualifying rounds I got to know a guy I simply referred to as Security Guard Joe. Our conversations were like those you expect to share whilst drinking  a brew with an old guy at a bar.

“Got any good bets?” he asked.

Monica Puig, I’d say she will reach round 3, at least.” I responded boldly.

“Good. I’ll put some money down.”

I was wrong, need to avoid Security Guard Joe.

3. Bernie Tomic was the only non-seeded player to list Monaco as his residence, so somebody good is doing his accounts! According to rumour the young Australian was given 32 different racquets by Yonex to trial. He chose the 31st and is happy with it. Lets hope he is not as picky with shoes.

4. Djokovic should be featured in the next video by PSY, of Gangnam Style fame. He really should be, the guy just cant stop doing the dance.

5. Ever wondered why so many players look so clean cut? Wonder no more as the Australian Open featured a “Player Beauty Bar.”

6. Sloane Stephens had roughly 17,000 twitter followers before her match with Serena Williams. One little win later and she had 35,000. She now has over 60,000.

7. Spoke to an old Czech reporter who has been coming to the Open since 1991. He had some great tales, including the legend that Marcelo Rios spent $300,000 in the casino in 1998, the year he reached the final as the number one seed. Wow.

8. The media received a very cool media pack, sunscreen, that included a little towel, pen, mini fan, media guide and a USB stick that is not compatible with my computer….ARGHH.

Also, some journalists partook in a special Cardio Tennis session run by Tennis Australia. All athletes (I use that word very loosely) took themselves far too seriously, and all were panting like poodles on a hot summers day after only five minutes action. One journalist by the name of Crabtree was awesome and won a towel but we shall go into no further detail of these incredible exploits. ;)

9. Bumped into Security Guard Joe. Luckily for me he didn’t put a bet on Monica Puig because he couldn’t remember her name.

“My shift is over soon mate, got any other good bets?” he asked.

Del Potro is probably due a good run,” I suggested.

“Del Potro? “

“Yeah, the Argentinian. He should go deep, I’d put a dollar on him.” I said.

Security Guard Joe left quickly like I was Old Biff with a sports Almanac from Back to the Future 2. Del Potro lost later that day in the third round to Jeremy Chardy. I am not Old Biff, and really need to avoid Security Guard Joe for the rest of the tournament.

10. Stan vs Novak, for many this was the match of the tournament – can’t stop thinking about this one and a possible alternate reality where Stan got it then cruised through the rest of the tournament. Stan was amazing, up 1 set and 5-2 in the second. Imagine if he had capitalised and become the other Swiss with a slam.

11. The Media restaurant never once skimmed on portions. Thanks guys, but more dessert options next time, please.

12. Beneath Rod Laver Arena I passed a guy I thought I recognised, some small time Aussie player I thought. I said “Hey mate,” and he responded with a “Hey Mate” of his own. I stopped for a second, hang on, that wasn’t the Aussie I thought it was and this guy is wearing Nike’s with a hint of pink. That was bloody Roger Federer.

13. Popped in to see the stringers and one old time doubles player had a tension of 33lbs. What the!

14. The old Czech reporter told of how he once hit with Andre Agassi, whilst the eight-time grand slam champion was waiting around for Brad Gilbert on a practice court. I am insanely jealous.

15. Where’s Wally. Captain Australia. A bloke with a giant phone. A guy with a giant head. The Heard stole the show at matches featuring Aussie players. This crew should be a perquisite at every grand slam.

Like many of you I am having Aussie Open withdrawals. Hope this offers you some solace. Roll on Roland Garros.

Life after tennis for Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters and Juan Carlos Ferrero?

retirement-road-sign

by James A. Crabtree

Former grand slam champions Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters are retired. Now add 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero (well, after Valencia in October) to the list that has seen Fernando González and Ivan Ljubicic call it quits in 2012.

An era of big names and equally big characters is most certainly over. And they will all be missed. The sport will suffer for a short time, but new names shall replace them. The athletes themselves will surely enjoy the initial stages of not being on tour, but then they shall face a new problem. What on earth do you do when you are retired? Play bridge? Downsize? Renovate? Buy some ugly slippers? Purchase Grecian 2000? Play slot machines? Start a hobby, like pottery? Drive slowly and in your way? Play social tennis in the mornings?

Well these recent retirees are not the usual plus sixty vintage so they could settle down and have some kids. Or in the case of Kim and Ivan have more kids.

First of all is the unwritten prerequisite to enjoy oneself, take time out, relax and see the world. Okay, so the players in question have done a whole heap of travelling but maybe they need a get away from it all, with fine food in a beautiful location – minus the racquet. Hang on a minute, Juan Carlos Ferrero has his own hotel! Surely if Kim and Andy were to travel Juan would shout them a 10% discount as former grand slam champions. Seriously check out the food on the websites video!!!

http://www.hotelferrero.com/

Another idea is to do something different, perhaps apply talents to a different avenue such as Andre Agassi did with his school. Besides playing with Billie Jean, the pet bulldog, Andy Roddick has done something similar to Andre helping children improve their lives via his foundation. To date he has helped raise over ten million dollars. Maybe Fernando and Ivan could volunteer a day here and there now they have some spare time.

www.andyroddick.com/andy-roddick-foundation/

Other players in the past have set up businesses. Fred Perry launched the Fred Perry clothing brand (www.fredperry.com). Bjorn Borg set up the something similar with more emphasis on underwear (www.bjornborg.com). Other than his Davis Cup duties Pat Rafter has also spent a lot of time in his briefs for Bonds (www.bonds.com.au/pat-rafter).

Or perhaps these great players could pass on their knowledge like Sergi Bruguera and Emilio Sanchez have at their respective academies. It isn’t too hard to imagine Juan or Andy sitting as coach of a future great, such as Ivan Lendl has done with Andy Murray. Or perhaps even add their expertise within the commentary box like John McEnroe. Of the current crop it’s hard to imagine politics as an option, as it was for Marat Safin.

Lastly, we shouldn’t expect these guys to buy a condo and move down to Florida. Besides there is far too much tennis down there for them. Hang on a minute that could kick start a comeback! Maybe that is a good idea?

Top tennis reasons to watch the US Open

The US Open is the final Slam of the year and one that many look forward to.

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

The US Open is the final Slam of the year and it is rapidly approaching! The atmosphere at Flushing Meadows is unique, fun and home to some of the most interesting, intriguing counters likely to be seen and draws in an audience from all over the world. There are many reasons to love this Slam whether you are there to enjoy it in person or in the comfort of your own home and here are a few top examples as to why the US Open is one of the best tournaments of the year.

The outfits

New York is the home of fashion and where else would you see tennis players showcasing some of their most daring or eye-catching outfits but at the US Open? Over the years many of the players have been discussed as much for their fashion and apparel as they have for their tennis. Many have opted for traditional, summery styles for the final Slam of the year, whilst others have dared to bare their extraordinary and unique outfits and made an unforgettable fashion statement. Who can forget some of the styles of Serena Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Andre Agassi over the years? Serena has a strong body, strong mind and is not afraid to make a strong fashion statement as she stepped out onto the tennis court at the US Open in 2002 wearing a snug and tightly fitted black cat suit which was arguably more daring than any other WTA player had worn before at Flushing Meadows.

Arthur Ashe Kids Day

Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is an annual tennis/children’s event that takes place in the end of August at the United States Tennis Association at Arthur Ashe Stadium. (USTA) Center in Flushing Meadows. This event also begins the U.S. Open, which officially starts one day later. This event is also televised on the following day for many to enjoy who are not there to experience it firsthand. It is a celebration of the memory of Arthur Ashe, who died of AIDS in 1993, and of his efforts to help young people through tennis. Tennis greats that have appeared annually at Arthur Ashe Kids Day include Venus and Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Anna Kournikova, who play to entertain the children and families and to raise money for charity.

The home of thrilling matches:

The Arthur Ashe stadium is known for hosting some of the most exciting, nail biting matches out of all of the Grand Slams and over the years, through history, there have been many which have taken centre stage and thrilled audiences around the world. Here are two examples of the most recent, well-documented matches that have are truly memorable and have been enjoyed by many:

The Williams sister final in 2001: The Williams sisters have both experienced plenty of success in the world of tennis and even today they have continued to push their boundaries – particularly with their health – to achieve the dizzy heights of success in tennis. In the 2001 final the two popular sisters were in an all-American battle against each other and the match was all about Venus. Serena could not trouble her older sister, who cruised to win in straight sets.
Novak Djokovic fights back from the brink of defeat in 2011: In the semi finals last year, Novak Djokovic was dangerously close to elimination in the last four against Roger Federer. The Serb survived a pair of match points en route to his nail biting defeat over Federer, before continuing with his onslaught of the Tour when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final to be crowned champion.

The possibility of an upset:

This year has been the Olympic year and now more than ever, many of the tennis players have admitted that they are feeling fatigued both mentally and physically and there has been a sea of withdrawals at the Masters 1000 Series tournaments in Toronto/Montreal and Cincinnati this year where many have fallen at the first hurdle, much earlier than planned and those who have remained have confessed that they are feeling the pinch from a jam-packed 2012 calendar with back-to-back tournaments. Coming into the US Open, it may come as no surprise to witness some upsets on the ATP and WTA Tours as some top players have had very limited match practice coming into the Slam and others are fighting off injury. Who knows what surprises we may see in some of the early stages of the tournament?

Celebrity spotting:

The US Open over the years has attracted many of the top celebrities to its courts to soak up the sunshine, enjoy the buzz and watch the fantastic tennis action taking place. Many have relished the opportunity to watch live matches from singers, to actors, to reality TV stars and models. In recent years Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Kim Kardashian and Bradley Cooper are a few examples of many A-list celebrities who have attended the tournament.

It’s New York!

The US Open is held in one of the most fashionable, fun and vibrant cities in the world, where many flock to especially to watch the tennis. It is a mecca for those who enjoy shopping, city life and a spot of some fantastic tennis to boost. Who could not enjoy being in New York during the tennis fortnight? The late night matches that commence on the Arthur Ashe Stadium create an atmosphere like no other – the crowd are into the matches, they are very vocal and being situated close to the bar certainly helps the crowd to cheer on their favourites and create that infamous party atmosphere that lights up the stadium!

A fun, highly complex and completely dependable statistical analysis of who will win the Citi Open

Mardy Fish at the Citi Open (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

By Romi Cvitkovic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This is your official, highly complex, completely statistical and 100 percent dependable preview of the Citi Open men’s semifinals showdown featuring American Sam Querrey taking on Alexandr Dolgopolov, and No. 1 seed Mardy Fish dueling against German Tommy Haas.

Historically, the Citi Open has been won by some of tennis’ greatest including Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl and Juan Martin Del Potro to name a few. But I bet you didn’t exactly how the winner gets determined.

Sure, the players hit a furry yellow ball back-and-forth over a net until one player inevitably gets tired and goes home. But there’s more to it than that. Each year, a tireless statistical team of miniature workmen decipher codes and trends in order to predict the winner, and I’ll let you in on their little-known secret.

It’s actually quite simple and begins by reviewing all the past winners of the Citi Open, and noting the first letter of their first name. Why the first name? Because, well, they said so. “A” for Andy Roddick, “J” for Jimmy Connors, and so forth. Secondly, each winning name is taken separately, so even if a player has won multiple times, each occurrence counts as one.

Given this highly complex set of information, let’s take a look at the chances of each of the men’s semifinalists winning the title.

“M” is for Mardy Fish

Fish elected to skip the Olympics in order to play Washington, and his choice for the most part paid off – no early loss or detrimental injury occurred here. His matches have gotten considerably cleaner during the week and it could all be culminating tomorrow in his first title since July of last year when he won Atlanta.

Calling on the trusty ATP World Tour website, it states that there has only been one past winner in Washington whose first name begins with an “M,” Michael Chang and he won twice in back-to-back years. No special bonus points there for that coincidence, Mardy. Sorry.

Moving on. Now that we know Mardy is one of four semifinalists and there are 42 past champions of the tournament, the probably of Mardy winning is one in four, given that Michael has won two in 42 times. Thus, Mardy’s chances of winning the Citi Open this year are a measly 15.99%.

“S” is for Sam Querrey

Querrey has been on the comeback trail recently, winning the Los Angeles title last week. He is looking to capitalize on his boosted confidence in order to be seeded in time for the U.S. Open. Querrey defeated his doubles partner and tournament No. 3 seed last night, but failed to break the 50% mark in first serves in. If he is to get past Alexandr Dolgopolov, he’ll need to get his serve in gear.

Using the same magical probability calculator, it’s unfortunate to note that there has sadly only been one past winner whose name begins with an “S,” Stefan Edberg. Bad news for QUerrey’s chances here, obviously, as his chances of winning are only 8.69%. Better luck next week, Sam.

“T” is for Tommy Haas

The German, who has yet to drop a set in this tournament, has also gotten increasingly sharper winning his quarterfinal match while dropping only three games. Following up on his stellar spring where he defeated Roger Federer after losing their last nine meetings, Haas claimed his first title of the year in Halle and met his goal. But can the German keep his game going and use that deft one-handed backhand to push his good friend Fish to the limit in the semis? It’s possible.

Historically, there have been three separate winners whose name begins with the letter “T,” Tim Henman, Tim Mayotte and Tony Roche, and each has won one title a piece. Given this, Tommy’s chances of winning his first Citi Open title is 22.22% percent – a healthy edge over Mardy or Sam.

Mighty good for the German, but is it enough to already engrave his name onto the stadium court list of past champions?

“A” is for Alexandr Dolgopolov

Potentially the least-known of the four semifinalists, Alex has struggled this year after reaching the final of Brisbane. He has been battling injury, and nearly lost his cool down 0-3 in the first set against James Blake last night in the quarterfinals. The 23-year-old carries an eccentric game with intense slices, but his serve has been a liability as of late.

But there is good news for the Ukrainian. Due to sheer luck, there have been THIRTEEN players whose first name starts with the letter “A,” Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi, Amos Mansdorf, Arthur Ashe, Arnaud Clement, Alex Corretja, Andres Gomez. Andre alone has won five times here, while Andy has won three. Given this, Alex’s chances of winning the tournament are astronomically skewed in his favor – a whopping 55.32%!

Maybe Alex should already call Andy and Andre and thank them for his Washington title …

Agassi Tops McEnroe, But Sportimes Beat Lobsters in World Team Tennis

Agassi v McEnroe Gala

NEW YORK - On a night full of Marquee players, Martina Hingis stood tallest, winning her singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches to lead the NY Sportimes to a 22-18 World TeamTennis victory over the Boston Lobsters Thursday at Sportime Randall’s Island.

Boston’s doubles team of Jan-Michael Gambill and Eric Butorac topped Robert Kendrick and Jesse Witten, 5-3, to give the Lobsters the early lead.  Hingis and Ashley Harkleroad moved the Sportimes ahead with a 5-1 victory over Irina Falconi and Carly Gullickson-Eagle for an 8-6 N.Y. edge.

In the singles matchup of Marquee Players, Andre Agassi of the Lobsters (3-5) edged John McEnroe in a 5-4 tiebreak.  Then in mixed doubles, McEnroe and Hingis teamed to upend Agassi and Gullickson-Eagle, 5-3, for a 17-14 New York advantage.

The match came down to the women’s singles event, and Hingis was again up to the task, defeating Falconi, 5-4, for the final margin.

Proceeds from tonight’s match benefit  the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, McEnroe’s not-for-profit foundation to provide scholarships, coaching, transportation and other financial assistance to qualified young tennis players in the greater New York area.

The Sportimes (5-2) next visit the Philadelphia Freedoms on Friday.  Boston is off until Sunday, when they host the Sportimes at Ferncroft Country Club.

World TeamTennis
NY Sportimes 22, Boston Lobsters 18
Men’s Doubles -  Jan-Michael Gambill/Eric Butorac (Lobsters) def. Robert Kendrick/Jesse Witten, 5-3
Women’s Doubles – Ashley Harkleroad/Martina Hingis (Sportimes) def.   Irina Falconi/Carly Gullickson-Eagle, 5-1
Men’s Singles – Andre Agassi (Lobsters) def. John McEnroe, 5-4
Mixed Doubles – Hingis/McEnroe (Sportimes) def. Agassi/Gullickson-Eagle, 5-3
Women’s Singles – Hingis (Sportimes) def. Falconi, 5-4

Agassi, McEnroe, Hingis Highlight July’s World Team Tennis Action at New York’s Randall’s Island

Agassi v McEnroe Gala

The Sportimes schedule is highlighted by the July 19 matchup with the Boston Lobsters, in which Sportimes captain and Tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe will battle Andre Agassi, in a match that also serves as a benefit for the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, McEnroe’s not-for-profit foundation.  McEnroe will compete on two other Sportimes home dates, July 24 vs. Boston in Troy and July 25 in the regular season finale vs. Washington at Randall’s Island.

The complete Sportimes schedule at Randall’s Island is as follows (all matches begin 7 p.m.):
July 10    Springfield Lasers (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 13    Philadelphia Freedoms (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 18    Philadelphia Freedoms (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 19    Boston Lobsters (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe; Boston – Andre Agassi)
July 25    Washington Kastles (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe)

Home matches in Troy, N.Y., include (all matches begin 7:30 p.m.):
July 23    Washington Kastles (Sportimes – Hingis; Washington – Venus Williams)
July 24    Boston Lobsters (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe)

Special events on home dates include a pre-match and halftime “Glee” tribute concert by Class Act on July 10; pre-event attempt to set a Guinness World Record for most people bouncing a ball on their rackets on July 18; Niall O’Leary’s Professional Dance Troupe on July 25; and on each home date, nightly promotions such as Shoot Out (Win What You Hit), Clock Your Serve and a bouncy house for kids.

Additionally, on all Randall’s Island home match nights, the Sportimes will provide free bus service from Manhattan to the stadium.  Pickups will begin at 4:15 p.m., from 86th & 3rd Avenue and 126th & Lexington, between 4:15 p.m. and 7 p.m.  A Sportimes staff member will be on each corner to assist.  Buses will also provide return service to both locations after the match ends.

In addition to marquee players Hingis and McEnroe, the Sportimes roster includes veterans Robert Kendrick, Jesse Witten and Ashley Harkleroad.  Returning for his fifth year as coach is Chuck Adams.

Tickets for Sportimes matches are available by calling 888-WTT-NYC1 or by visiting www.nysportimes.com.  For more information on matches in Troy, N.Y., visit www.NYSportimes.com/Albany or call 518-393-0440.

The 2012 WTT regular season runs from July 9-28, with the top two teams from both the Western and Eastern Conference advancing to the WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO, September 14-16, at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

2012 Sportimes’ partners include USTA Eastern Section, GEICO, USTA, Wilson, DecoTurf, Principal Funds, SPORTIME Clubs, Tennis.com, Arizon Tennis Domes, NY Orthopedics, and Randall’s Island Park Alliance.

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