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Martin Edges Krickstein; To Vie For Fourth Straight Charlotte Final

CHARLOTTE, N.C., September 24, 2009 – Todd Martin defeated fellow American Aaron Krickstein 2-6, 7-6(3), 11-9 (Champions Tie-Breaker) Thursday to advance into the semifinals of the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, N.C.  Martin, a singles finalist at the Outback Champions Series event in Charlotte for all three years of the tournament’s existence, will look to advance to a fourth straight final when he next plays the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between Jim Courier and Mikael Pernfors.

In 2006, in the first-year of the event in Charlotte, Martin reached the tournament final, falling to Courier 5-7, 7-6 (6), 10-4 (Champions Tie-Breaker). In 2007, Martin lost to Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-4 in the championship match, while last year, Martin reached the final at The Palisades for a third straight year, losing to Courier again 6-2, 3-6, 10-5 (Champions Tie-Breaker).

Against Krickstein, Martin had his serve broken twice in the first set as Krickstein surprised Martin with penetrating forehand returns and consistent play from the baseline. Martin appeared frustrated and flustered on court and struggled with his consistency, but was able to hold serve six times in the second set to force the tie-breaker. Martin connected on some strongly hit forehands and timely first serves to win the tie-breaker 7-3 and force the first-to-10-point “Champions Tie-Breaker,” played in lieu of the third-set. Martin jumped out to an 8-4 lead and appeared ready to cruise to the come-back win but Krickstein rallied to win five straight points to hold match point at 9-8. Martin, however, rallied to save the match point and win the next two points to close out the match.

“The match for me was horrible in the beginning,” said Martin. “I knew it couldn’t get any worse. I always play my best when I’m not playing to win. At one point tonight I was just trying to lose gracefully. The courts are very slow which doesn’t suit me well. I rushed an awful lot in the first set and Aaron played really well.”

Martin will have Friday off as Courier and Pernfors play to determine who will play the 1999 U.S. Open singles finalist in the semifinals. Courier and Pernfors, however, were on the court Thursday night as both players competed in a special celebrity match that opened up the evening session, with Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory pairing with Pernfors to defeat Olympic Gold Medalist Skater Dan Jansen and Courier 6-4.

The remaining schedule of play for the tournament is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 25
Starting at 7 pm
Jim Courier vs. Mikael Pernfors
Followed By
Pat Cash vs. Jimmy Arias

Saturday, Sept. 26
Starting at 2 pm
Doubles Match
Followed By
Pete Sampras vs. Pat Cash/Jimmy Arias winner
Starting at 7 pm
Doubles Match
Followed By
Todd Martin winner vs. Jim Courier/Mikael Pernfors winner

Sunday, Sept. 27
Starting at 2 pm
Third Place Match
Followed by
Championship Match

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating John McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Arias in the final. Cash successfully defended his title on the grass courts at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, R.I. in August, defeating Courier in the final. Following Charlotte, the next event on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Surprise, Ariz., where Andre Agassi will make his debut Oct. 8-11.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, 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 seven events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.

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, corporate outings 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.

It’s Del Potro In An Upset

NEW YORK – The reign is over. Long live the king.

Juan Martin del Potro, appearing in his first Grand Slam tournament final, overpowered five-time defending champion Roger Federer to capture the US Open on Monday 3-6 7-6 (5) 4-6 7-6 (4) 6-2.

Riding a fearsome forehand that rocketed winners from way behind the baseline, del Potro became the second Argentine to win America’s premier tennis tournament. Guillermo Vilas won in 1977 when the US Open was played on clay at Forest Hills. Now, it’s on hard court, del Potro’s favorite surface, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger,” del Potro said during the on-court ceremony where he collected a check for USD $1.85 million. “One is done.”

Then, addressing Federer directly, del Potro said: “I need to improve a lot to be like you. I’d like to congratulate you for fighting ‘til the last point.”

Federer was seeking his record-tying sixth straight US Open championship and his third consecutive Grand Slam tournament title this year, having captured his first French Open and his sixth Wimbledon earlier this summer. But del Potro had other ideas.

“A dream came true,” del Potro said. “I don’t have words to explain how I feel.”

Words weren’t needed. The tears of joy streaming down his face spoke volumes.

Del Potro, who turns 21 next week, snapped Federer’s 41-match unbeaten streak at Flushing Meadows as he completely dominated his Swiss opponent who has been called the greatest tennis player of all time.

“It’s difficult to explain this moment,” said del Potro. “You know, since young I dream of this and now I take the trophy with me. I did my dream, and it’s unbelievable moment. It’s amazing match, amazing people. Everything is perfect.”

Federer admitted del Potro was the better player on the final day of this rain-delayed tournament. But he felt it was still a great year despite the loss.

“Five was great, four was great, too,” said Federer, who came into the US Open having won a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles. “Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run.

“I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament. Had chances today to win, but couldn’t take them. It was unfortunate.

It wasn’t a typical Federer match. A lot of that was because of the play of del Potro, who controlled their baseline rallies with his monster forehand, which he ripped deep into the far reaches of the court or down the line, shots that Federer for the most part only could wave at or watch the ball clip off his racquet.

The Swiss superstar came within two points of taking a two-set lead. But del Potro recovered, then won the tiebreak to level the match. Federer won the third set and was up 5-4 in the fourth, again two points from winning the title while leading 15-30 on del Potro’s serve. It was the last time Federer came close as del Potro held, then went on to win yet another tiebreak.

It was only the third time since he began his championship run that Federer has had to play a fifth set at the US Open. It was the first time he has lost.

“Got to give him all the credit because it’s not an easy thing to do, especially coming out against someone like me with so much experience,” Federer said. “Towards the end, of course, up 5‑2 in the fifth. That was easy. But he had to live through some really tough moments earlier on in both breakers throughout those sets to come back. So his effort was fantastic.”

In the end, it was del Potro who dominated, the Argentine who rose to the occasion and won.

The reign is over. Long live the king.

Two days after she left the court amid a chorus of boos, Serena Williams returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium and with her sister Venus won the US Open women’s doubles title for the first time since 1999. It was the sister’s 10th Grand Slam tournament women’s doubles title, half as many as the record held by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

The Williams sisters downed the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-3 6-2.

Shockingly, Clijsters In Women’s Final

NEW YORK – Suddenly, too suddenly, Kim Clijsters was back in the women’s singles final at the US Open. She had, it seemed, just loaned out her title for a few years.

But while the Belgian mother earned her semifinal victory on the court Saturday night, the final point in her battle against Serena Williams came when the defending champion was given a point penalty at match point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Clijsters appeared stricken by the sudden end of a match that had been delayed by rain for more than 24 hours.

“I don’t think she actually understood it was a point penalty, which meant that I lost that point, which meant that I lost the match,” Williams said.

Williams trailed 4-6 5-6 15-30 when she served a fault. On her second serve, a foot fault was called, taking Clijsters to double match point at 15-40.

As she started to the line to begin her next serve, Williams turned and said something to the baseline judge who had called the foot fault. Not content with that, the tournament’s second-seeded player then walked over to the left side of the court, wagging her finger and heatedly talking to the linesperson.

Umpire Louise Engzell summoned the linesperson to the chair and asked what had been said. Then she summoned the tournament referee Brian Earley. After a consultation that included the player, Williams, who earlier in the match had been assessed a code of conduct warning, was given a point penalty.

Because it was match point, Clijsters advanced with a 6-4 7-5 victory.

“She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty,” Earley explained. “And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

“It’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well at to end that way,” Clijsters said. “I still – to this point I’m a little confused about what happened out there because I was so focused. You know, just trying to win that last point for me.

“So then things ended up ending a little bit different than I expected.”

Clijsters will be heavily favored to win her second straight US Open women’s singles title – the last was in 2005 – when she faces ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark on Sunday night. Wozniacki advanced with a 6-3 6-3 win over another Belgian player, Yanina Wickmayer.

They were finally able to get some matches played on Saturday despite a steady nearly day-long rain. That was much better than Friday, when the entire program was washed out by rain.

Earlier Saturday, Rafael Nadal completed his 7-6 (4) 7-6 (2) 6-0 quarterfinal victory over 11th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.

The match began on Thursday before rain halted play with Nadal leading 3-2 in the second set tiebreak. After waiting all day Friday, the pair finally made it to the court early Saturday afternoon.

Gonzalez lost both of his serves to begin play, giving Nadal a 5-2 margin. And when the third-seeded Nadal won the next two points on his own serve, he had a 2-0 lead in sets.

Nadal then raced through the next six games in 31 minutes, aided immensely by 21 unforced errors by Gonzalez, who finished the match with 59 errors against 37 winners. Nadal, on the other hand, had only 20 winners, 11 coming on his fearsome forehand, but committed just 13 unforced errors.

“I get like afraid maybe in the tiebreakers,” Gonzalez said. “I went for it. I think I did a good play, miss one. The next play I miss another one, then I miss another one.

“What else can I do? I try my best.”

The men’s semifinals are scheduled to be played Sunday, with the forecast for sunny skies and warm temperatures. Nadal will take on sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, while Roger Federer, seeking his sixth consecutive US Open men’s singles crown, will meet fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic.

“He’s good. I think he’s a complete player,” Nadal said of del Potro. “I try to be ready to put one more ball than the rest.”

Clijsters beat Venus Williams in the fourth round and became just the second player to defeat both Williams sisters in the same US Open. The other was another Belgian, Justine Henin, who beat Serena in the quarterfinals and Venus in the semifinals in 2007. Henin, who went on the stop Svetlana Kuznetsova in the title match, has since retired.

Clijsters is riding a 13-match winning streak at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She won the women’s singles in her last visit to Flushing Meadows, in 2005. An injury stopped her from defending her crown in 2006, then she retired early in 2007, got married and gave birth to a daughter.

The US Open is only her third tournament since she returned to the tennis tour.

“I’ve spoken before about what for me was really important in Cincinnati and Toronto and those tournaments was knowing that I was capable of competing with those top girls,” Clijsters said., “I think that’s where I kind of made a click, but I never really expected to be beating Venus and beating Serena. You try and you try to bring your best tennis, but, no, I mean, you don’t expect things to be going this well this soon.”

She also is the first wild card entry to reach a US Open singles final. Jimmy Connors received a wild card in 1991 when he reached the semifinals at the age of 39.

And Clijsters is trying to become the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

John Isner Advances Into Second Round at US Open

Although it looked like an upset on paper, John Isner’s form this summer has shown he is ready to start beating the top players on the ATP Tour.

In a match between two of the tallest players in pro tennis, Greensboro native John Isner fought off 10 set points in one of the longest tiebreakers in US Open history, and advanced into the second round with a 6-1, 7-6 (14), 7-6 (5) win over Victor Hanescu of Romania, the No. 28 seed in the event.

The first set was dominated by Isner. Holding serve easily and taking advantage of the lack of depth in Hanescu’s groundstrokes, Isner charged the net relentlessly, breaking Hanescu’s serve twice in seizing the opening set, 6-1.

“I started off so well,” said Isner. “That first set and a half was as well as I’ve played in a long time.”

After Isner broke serve early in the second set and held a break point to take a commanding 4-1 lead, the end result appeared to be a foregone conclusion. Hanescu saved the break point with an ace and Isner’s forehand suddenly began to betray him. Isner dropped serve at 3-2 with three forehand errors and a missed overhead.

“It doesn’t look like he’s that fast out there, but he gets to a lot of balls,” said Isner. “He was making me hit a lot of extra shots and unfortunately, I started missing a few.”

The two players traded service holds throughout the rest of the second set to force a tiebreaker. A missed backhand sent Isner down a mini-break as the Romanian seemed content to guide the ball into the court, forcing Isner into unforced errors.

Hanescu soon found himself serving with triple set point at 6-3. That’s when Isner began to do the unthinkable.

He fought off one set point with an ace, then another with an overhead smash. A forehand error by Hanescu leveled the tiebreaker at 6-6. Isner fought off five more set points in a row, mainly with crushing groundstroke winners that clipped the baseline. Isner reached his first set point at 12-11, but was unable to convert and sent a forehand into the net.

Isner fought off two more set points to level the tiebreaker at 14-14. A poorly executed drop shot by Hanescu allowed the American to rip a backhand up the line, giving him a second set point. At 15-14, a forehand volley winner gave Isner the second set as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

“I started off a little bit slow and obviously didn’t really want to go a tiebreaker,” said Isner. “I think he had five (set points) on his serve, and each one of his points I played really well. I told myself if I could just get one advantage, I might be able to take it.”

Isner and Hanescu easily held serve throughout the third set, with neither player facing a break point. In the tiebreaker, two consecutive forehand winners by Isner allowed him to go up 2-1. He held on the lead for the rest of the match, converting on his first match point with a forehand winner to advance into the second round, where he will play Marcel Ilhan of Turkey.

Just three months after being diagnosed with mononucleosis and missing Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Isner has been able to achieve semifinal performances this summer at Indianapolis and Washington D.C, as well as a quarterfinal finish at Los Angeles. Isner said he is still working on regaining full fitness, but has been producing the most consistent string of results in his career.

“Missing the whole European swing might have been a blessing in disguise,” said Isner. “I’ve felt fresh ever since I started playing in the States.”

With his ranking currently at a career high of No. 55, Isner said his immediate goal is to reach the top 50 and ultimately, to be talked about as a player well beyond the American swing.

“I want to become a big name in tennis, not just American tennis,” said Isner.