BlackRock Masters Tennis

Mondays with Bob Greene: It is not crucial that we immediately get Nadal, Federer or Murray to play

STARS

Cedric Pioline beat Greg Rusedski 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 11-9 (Champions tiebreak) to win the BlackRock Masters Tennis in London, England

SAYING

“I took my chances and it worked. It was really close and it came down to a few points and I think at the end maybe I just returned a little bit better than him.” – Cedric Pioline, about winning the BlackRock Masters in London, England.

“I was just one or two points short. I had one match point in the second-set tiebreak, but Cedric played great and I think he’s a deserving champion.” – Greg Rusedski, after losing to Pioline.

“I think Roger’s going to break (my) record over the next couple of years. There’s a lot left in him. I think he’s gotten to a stage where it’s about the majors.” – Pete Sampras, on Roger Federer breaking his men’s record of 14 Grand Slam tournament singles titles.

“He is not going to overplay next year. He is just going to try to make sure that he peaks for the tournaments that mean the most to him.” – Tony Godsick, Roger Federer’s agent.

“It is not crucial that we immediately get (Rafael) Nadal, (Roger) Federer or (Andy) Murray to play. It is important that we get quality matches.” – Novak Djokovic, on the first ATP tournament to be played in Belgrade, Serbia, in May 2009.

SURPRISE

The United States Fed Cup team will take on Argentina in Surprise, Arizona, in February. The matches will be played at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex, which received the 2008 USTA Outstanding Facility Award. A USTA Pro Circuit women’s event is also played at the complex. This will be the fourth Fed Cup meeting between the Americans and Argentina, with the South Americans winning the last meeting in the 1993 quarterfinals in Frankfurt, Germany. The United States leads the overall series 2-1. Mary Joe Fernandez will make her debut as captain of the US Fed Cup team.

STAYING HOME

Russia will begin the defense of its Fed Cup title by staying home February 7-8 against China. The tie will be held on an indoor hard court in Moscow. Spain, runner-up to Russia this year, will travel to Brno, Czech Republic, for its first-round tie. Other World Group matches will find Italy at Orleans, France, while Argentina takes on the United States in Surprise, Arizona. Serbia, boasting two of the world’s top five players, will make its World Group II debut at home in Belgrade against Japan.

SLOWING DOWN

Only two clay-court tournaments are on Roger Federer’s schedule for 2009 prior to the French Open. Federer will go into the only Grand Slam tournament he has not won after playing Masters series events in Rome and Madrid. This year, the Swiss superstar played four clay-court events ahead of the French Open: Estoril, Portugal; Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg, Germany. Federer has reached the French Open final in each of the past three years, losing each time to Spain’s Rafael Nadal.

SERBIAN STOP

Belgrade, Serbia, is now a stop on the ATP tour. Novak Djokovic announced the Serbian capital will stage a USD $500,000 men’s tournament in May. Djokovic’s family bought the license of the ABN Amro Open, which had previously been held in the Netherlands. Ana Ivanovic, the reigning French Open women’s singles champion, is reportedly negotiating to buy a franchise for a WTA Tour event to be held in Belgrade next winter. Challenger events have been held in the past, but Belgrade has never been a stop on the main tours of either the ATP or WTA. Niki Pilic will be the director of the men’s tournament.

SHARAPOVA THREATENED

A former college football player has been arrested and charged with threatening Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova. Leonard Taylor, who was a defensive back for the University of Wisconsin from 1995-95, reportedly threatened to kill Sharapova and her family as well as his former college coach, Barry Alvarez, who is now the University of Wisconsin athletic director. Taylor’s father told police his son has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and stopped taking his medication about three months ago.

SYDNEY OUT?

Jelena Jankovic may not play the Sydney International after all. While organizers earlier said she would be in the field, they now say she has withdrawn from the official acceptance list. “Players often end up re-arranging their schedules a number of times and Jelena has not finalized her plans for 2009 yet,” said Craig Watson, the tournament director. Watson said Jankovic still could enter the tournament as a wild card.

SENIOR KING

Cedric Pioline rallied from match point down to outlast Greg Rusedski in an ace-filled match to win his first BlackRock Masters Tennis trophy. The Frenchman prevailed 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3) 11-9 (Champions tiebreak) as he and his British foe pounded out 22 aces. Rusedski reached match point at 9-8 in the Champions tiebreak, but Pioline won the next three points to grab the title. Pioline ended the season finale before packed crowds at Royal Albert Hall by winning all four of his matches, beating Jeremy Bates, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras en route to the final. Rusedski was perfect until he met Pioline, beating Guy Forget, Stefan Edberg and Pat Cash.

SAMPRAS THE TRAVELER

Pete Sampras is back on the world-wide tennis tour after spending some time in retirement. Last year, Sampras played exhibition matches against Roger Federer in the Far East. He began this month in Prague, presenting a tennis racquet to Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus while visiting the famed Prague Castle. He then played an exhibition match against Czech Radek Stepanek before going to London to compete in the BlackRock Masters tournament at Royal Albert Hall. Sampras won his first two matches, beating John McEnroe and Jeremy Bates, before losing to eventual winner Cedric Pioline.

SLUGGING IT OUT

Victor Hanescu proved that he is Romania’s top player by winning the First Edition of National Tennis Championship “Masters Romania” in Bucharest, a tournament limited to Romanians. In a match that lasted 12 minutes shy of two hours, Hanescu defeated Victor Crivoi 4-6 6-3 6-3. Monica Niculescu beat Irina Begu 1-6 6-4 6-1 to capture the women’s title. Both winners reportedly received houses valued at USD $210,000. The runners-up received SUVs, while those who finished in third place in the closed championships will receive free flights to all competitions throughout 2009, according to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.

STILL UP THERE

He may be ranked number two in the world on the ATP tour, but Roger Federer still is the leading tennis player when it comes to raking in the money. Federer was fifth on the Forbes Magazine’s list of Best-Paid Celebs Under 30, having earned USD $35 million in 2007, including on-court winnings and endorsements. The only other tennis player in the Top 10 was Maria Sharapova, who earned a reported USD $26 million to finish at seventh. Serena and Venus Williams finished at 11th and 12th, respectively, on the magazine’s list. According to Forbes, the Best-Paid Celeb Under 30 was entertainer Beyonce Knowles, who earned USD $80 million in 2007, nearly double the amount of Justin Timberlake. Federer is the all-time ATP leader in career prize money, having earned USD $44.5 million to date.

SO LONG

With most top players in an off-season, Mondays With Bob Greene also will take a few weeks off. We will return on Monday, January 12, 2009. Have a great holiday.

SITES TO SURF

Doha: www.qatartennis.org

Brisbane: www.brisbaneinternational.com.au/

Chennai: www.chennaiopen.org/

Auckland: www.asbclassic.co.nz

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

ATP: www.atptennis.com

WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com

ITF: www.itftennis.com

TOURNAMENTS BEGINNING JANUARY 5, 2009

ATP

$1,110,250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha, Qatar, hard

$484,750 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$450,000 Chennai Open, Chennai, India, hard

$100,000 Sao Paulo Challenger, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

WTA TOUR

$220,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$220,000 ASB Classic, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

Pioline topples Sampras at last and meets Rusedski in final

Cedric Pioline recorded an historic win against Pete Sampras on Saturday afternoon to reach the final of the BlackRock Masters Tennis. The Frenchman had never previously beaten Sampras in nine attempts, but he produced some explosive tennis to topple the American 7-6(7), 7-6(5).

“This is a great feeling,” said Pioline. “I tried to hold my serve and today I was reading his serve pretty good as well. It was a close match in the end and it’s so great to finally shake Pete’s hand as a winner.”

After the match Sampras paid tribute to his opponent.

“It was a dog fight today,” he said. “I was really impressed with Cedric and he was returning better today than he used to way back when. I had my chance there in the first but I took my foot off the pedal serving for the set and he produced some great shots.” It was competitive and I wanted to win so I’m disappointed I didn’t make the final, but at least the crowd enjoyed it.”

Despite his defeat today, Sampras has enjoyed his long-awaited return to London, a place that holds so many special memories for the seven time Wimbledon Champion.

“I had a great time this week and I’ve been really impressed with the tournament,” he said. “It’s nice to be back in London and seeing the British people was fun for me. I’ve got some good memories coming here and just driving around the streets makes me think about my titles and my wins. It’s a shame I couldn’t win another one here at the Albert Hall.”

Pioline will now take on Greg Rusedski in Sunday’s final, and the Frenchman is expecting another tough battle.

“I think it’s going to be a difficult match again because he’s in good shape,” he said. “He has a big serve so I will need to return well again. To win the tournament would be something special and I’d love to leave London as a winner with the cup in my hand.”

In the final match of the day at the Royal Albert Hall Jeremy Bates put in a sensational performance to beat John McEnroe 6-4, 6-7(4), 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break).

SAMPRAS TO RETURN TO WIMBLEDON WHEN TIME IS RIGHT

For Pete Sampras the All England Lawn Tennis Club is a special place, and one he has not revisited since his retirement from professional tennis more than six years ago. He had been considering a return to SW19 during his stay in London this week for the BlackRock Masters Tennis but the seven-time Wimbledon Champion decided to leave it a little longer before taking a trip down the most emotional of memory lanes.

“I decided not to go,” he said. “I hear there’s a lot of construction going on and I wanted to go at a time when all the courts are up. That way I’ll have a chance to properly reminisce and maybe even walk on to Centre Court again.”

Despite almost a decade of glittering success at the All England Club, Sampras’ most recent memory of SW19 came back in 2002 when the American suffered a  painful second round loss at the hands of the unseeded swiss George Bastl on Court Two. He retired later that year after winning the US Open and has not returned to the UK since.

“I decided that it’s probably better to go while the event is going on, and also I’d like to take my kids over to check it out as well and they’re not here this week. I’m going to go back one day. It’s just a matter of when.”

The event is being covered by ITV4 in the UK, and matches are also being streamed live on the ITV website, ITV.com. Click here to access the live stream http://www.itv.com/sport/tennis/default.html.

ITV4 TRANSMISSION TIMES

Sunday                                  13.00 – 17:00

RESULTS – Saturday 6th December

Cedric Pioline d. Pete Sampras 7-6(7), 7-6(5)

Jeremy Bates d. John McEnroe 6-4, 6-7(4), 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break)

FINAL GROUP STANDINGS

GROUP A

Matches won/lost (sets)

Cedric Pioline                                                    3-0 (6-0)

Pete Sampras                                                    2-1 (4-2)

Jeremy Bates                                                     1-2 (2-5)

John McEnroe                                                                      0-3 (1-6).

Greg Rusedski                                                    3-0 (6-2)

Stefan Edberg                                                    2-1 (5-2)

Guy Forget                                                         1-2 (3-5)

Pat Cash                                                                                0-3 (2-6).

ORDER OF PLAY (subject to change)

Sunday

1          Singles Final                  Cedric Pioline vs. Greg Rusedski

2          Doubles Final                   Bahrami/Fleming vs. McNamara/Woodforde

3          Doubles                          Bates/Murray vs. Black/Jarryd

About BlackRock

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At September 30, 2008, BlackRock’s AUM was $1.259 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of September 30, 2008, the firm has approximately 5,800 employees in 22 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

The BlackRock Masters Tennis: http://www.theblackrockmasters.com

BlackRock Tour of Champions: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

Sampras beats Bates to set up winner-take-all Pioline showdown

Pete Sampras set up a mouth watering winner-take-all clash with Cedric Pioline on Saturday after battling to victory over former British number one Jeremy Bates at the BlackRock Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday.

In a match that lasted just over an hour, Sampras was pushed to a second set tie break before eventually triumphing 6-3, 7-6(3) against an opponent nine years his senior. After the match, Sampras admitted he hadn’t been expecting to be pushed as hard as he was.

“The match was much tougher than I thought it would be,” he said. “I think on this court Jeremy’s pretty effective and he was serving and volleying well, particularly in the second set. I felt like I played pretty well, a little spotty at times but I’ve got to give him credit because he played really well.”

Sampras will now play Cedric Pioline on Saturday afternoon in a match that will decide which of the two men is to progress to Sunday’s final. Pioline has lost all nine of his previous meetings with Sampras, including the two most painful losses of his career in the 1993 US Open and 1997 Wimbledon finals.

“We’ve played in two Major finals before. He’s a talented guy and he’s going to be very tough to break out there because the court’s playing really quick,” said Sampras. “He’s got a good serve and he’s pretty eager to beat me so we’ll see what happens.”

The winner will take on Greg Rusedski in the final. The British player defeated Pat Cash 4-6, 7-5, 10-3 (Champions’ Tie-Break).

The event is being covered by ITV4 in the UK, and matches are also being streamed live on the ITV website, ITV.com. Click here to access the live stream http://www.itv.com/sport/tennis/default.html.

ITV4 TRANSMISSION TIMES

Saturday                                12.30 – 17.00 (19.30 Match on Red Button and also on the ITV.com website) Sunday                                  13.00 – 17:00

For tickets to the BlackRock Masters Tennis, or for further information, please call the box office on: +44 (0) 208 233 5882, or visit the official website.

Corporate Hospitality packages are also available. For more information, please call: +44 (0) 208 233 5854.

RESULTS – Friday 5th December
Stefan Edberg d. Guy Forget 1-6, 7-6(1), 10-6 (Champions’ Tie Break) Pete Sampras d. Jeremy Bates 6-3, 7-6(3)

LATEST GROUP STANDINGS
GROUP A
Matches won/lost (sets) Cedric Pioline                                                    2-0 (4-0) Pete Sampras                                                    2-0 (4-0) Jeremy Bates                                                     0-2 (0-4) John McEnroe               0-2 (0-4).
Greg Rusedski                                                    3-0 (6-2) Stefan Edberg                                                    2-1 (5-2) Guy Forget                                                         1-2 (3-5) Pat Cash                        0-3 (2-6).

ORDER OF PLAY (subject to change)

Saturday afternoon

Starting at 1pm
1          Singles RR      Pioline v Sampras  LIVE ITV4            2          Doubles Forget and Leconte v Black and Murray LIVE ITV4   3       Doubles Bahrami and Bates v Gullikson and McNamara LIVE ITV4

Saturday evening

Starting at 7.30pm
1          Singles RR      Bates v McEnroe                                2          Doubles           TBC                                        3          Doubles           TBC

Sunday
1          Singles Final                  LIVE   TBC                                        2          Doubles Final
LIVE   TBC                                        3          Doubles                                   LIVE   TBC

About BlackRock

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At September 30, 2008, BlackRock’s AUM was $1.259 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of September 30, 2008, the firm has approximately 5,800 employees in 22 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

The BlackRock Masters Tennis: http://www.theblackrockmasters.com BlackRock Tour of Champions: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

Win over McEnroe gives Pioline chance for Sampras revenge

Cedric Pioline will have the chance for revenge against Pete Sampras after ending John McEnroe’s hopes of a fifth BlackRock Masters Tennis title at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Pioline, 39, put in an impressive display of serving to record a 6-3, 6-4 victory over McEnroe in front of a packed crowd of nearly 4000 fans. The Frenchman took just one hour and 15 minutes to beat his American opponent 6-3, 6-4 and now moves into first position in Group B. On Saturday, he will face Sampras, the man he lost to in the 1993 US Open final and the 1997 Wimbledon final. If Pioline wins, Sampras will be going home empty-handed.
“Those two Grand Slam finals belong to the past but of course I wish I could have won at least one of them,” said Pioline. “It’s going to be fun because I haven’t played against Pete for eight or ten years and if I win it will be revenge for me.
“The way Pete’s serving and the way he’s hitting the ball, he probably could be in the top 20 or top 30 in the world today. But I’m playing good and I’m serving good so I think I have a good chance too and if I win I’ll be in Sunday’s final which would be special for me.”
McEnroe, who is ten year’s Pioline’s senior, showed clear signs of frustration throughout a match in which his opponent dominated with his thunderous serve, hitting 12 aces in total. Pioline went ahead early in the first set, breaking early on to lead 4-1 and serving out the set in impressive fashion. The second set was a tighter affair, with McEnroe managing to stay level until 3-3 when his opponent produced a scorching backhand winner to take a 4-3 lead. The break of serve proved to be decisive and from that point the Frenchman never looked back. He fittingly clinched the match with an ace down the centre line, at which point McEnroe held up his hands in surrender.
“It was one of those days when you hit the ball and everything goes in so that’s a great feeling for me,” said Pioline.
“I served very well and I felt good moving side to side. John’s always in good shape and I think he was playing very good tennis but today I was just a little bit better.”
Pioline will now play Pete Sampras on Saturday afternoon in a match that will decide who will top Group A and progress to Sunday’s final. The two men met nine times during their ATP Tour careers and Pioline is yet to notch up a victory against the 14 time Grand Slam champion Sampras. The Frenchman will have more than a place in the final to play for on Saturday as he will also be seeking revenge against the man who denied him his two best chances of Grand Slam success, beating him in both the 1993 US Open and 1997 Wimbledon finals.

In the first match of Thursday’s afternoon session last year’s BlackRock Masters runner up Guy Forget toppled Pat Cash 6-4, 4-6, 10-2 (Champions’ Tie Break) to move to second place in Group B.
The event is being covered by ITV4 in the UK, and matches are also being streamed live on the ITV website, ITV.com. Click here to access the live stream http://www.itv.com/sport/tennis/default.html.

ITV4 TRANSMISSION TIMES

Friday                                     18:00 – 21:30 Saturday                                12.30 – 17.00 (19.30 Match on Red Button) Sunday                                  13.00 – 17:00

For tickets to the BlackRock Masters Tennis, or for further information, please call the box office on: +44 (0) 208 233 5882, or visit the official website.

Corporate Hospitality packages are also available. For more information, please call: +44 (0) 208 233 5854.

RESULTS – Thursday 4th December
Guy Forget d. Pat Cash 6-4, 4-6, 10-2 (Champions’ Tie Break) Cedric Pioline d. John McEnroe 6-3, 6-4

LATEST GROUP STANDINGS
GROUP A
Matches won/lost (sets) Cedric Pioline                                                    2-0 (4-0) Pete Sampras                                                    1-0 (2-0) Jeremy Bates                                                     0-1 (0-2 John McEnroe               0-2 (0-4).
Greg Rusedski                                                    2-0 (4-1) Guy Forget                                                         1-1 (2-3) Stefan Edberg                                                    0-1 (1-2) Pat Cash                        0-2 (1-4).

ORDER OF PLAY (subject to change)

Friday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Edberg v Forget                                  2          Single              Bates v Sampras                                  3          Doubles           Bahrami/Pioline v McNamara/Murray

Friday evening

1          Singles RR      Cash v Rusedski                                 2          Doubles           Jarryd/Wilkinson v Black/Murray                   3          Doubles           Gullikson/Leconte v Fleming/Woodforde

Saturday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Pioline v Sampras                    2          Doubles          TBC                                        3          Doubles          TBC

Saturday evening

1          Singles RR      Bates v McEnroe                                2          Doubles           TBC                                        3          Doubles           TBC

Sunday

1          Singles Final                  LIVE   TBC                                        2          Doubles Final
LIVE   TBC                                        3          Doubles                                   LIVE   TBC

About BlackRock

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At September 30, 2008, BlackRock’s AUM was $1.259 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of September 30, 2008, the firm has approximately 5,800 employees in 22 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

The BlackRock Masters Tennis: http://www.theblackrockmasters.com
BlackRock Tour of Champions:

http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

Sampras beats ‘best ever’ McEnroe on London return

Pete Sampras received a rapturous, hero’s welcome in his first appearance on English soil in six years as he defeated John McEnroe 6-3, 6-4 at the BlackRock Masters Tennis in London.

In the opinion of Sampras, McEnroe played the best tennis he has ever produced against the seven-time Wimbledon champion, but it still wasn’t enough to slay the younger of the two Americans at the Royal Albert Hall.

McEnroe forced 0-40 on Sampras’s opening service game, but he couldn’t quite convert his only real opportunity on the Sampras serve.

After that, some of the rallies and reflexes were breathtaking for men supposedly past their peak.

Both players served and volleyed throughout, and a packed crowd in the Royal Albert Hall savoured every moment. So did the players.

“Talking to a few of the guys about playing here they told me there were great crowds and that the arena was phenomenal and it really was,” said Sampras.

“To be retired for six years and still be able to play in front of good crowds like this is an honour. It was a fun night of tennis, it really was.”

And he had some generous words for McEnroe.

“To be 49 and to be able to serve and volley and be effective and still have the hands and the movement is incredible. Forty nine is not young in tennis so more credit to him for keeping himself fit. I know he does a lot of off court training and it’s paid off. I’m really impressed.”

So was McEnroe.

“This is the twelfth year I’ve played and I don’t know if there’s a lot of matches I’ve played better than this and I lost,” said McEnroe. “I was a little unlucky in some of the games, like the two service games and when I had 0-40 in the first game. It’s sort of like being thrown out to the wolves to play Pete in my first match but it’s just good to be part of it even though I lost.”

Sampras said he might use his day off on Thursday to visit Wimbledon. He hasn’t been back to the scene of his greatest triumphs since he lost to George Bastl in 2002.

Elsewhere, Greg Rusedski scraped past Stefan Edberg 7-6(7) 5-7,10-6 (Champions’ Tie Break), and Cedric Pioline defeated Jeremy Bates 6-3, 6-4.

MURRAY DREAM COMES TRUE

Growing up, Jamie Murray dreamt of trading groundstrokes with the great Pete Sampras. On Wednesday in London, his dream came true.

Needing a practice partner with a swinging, left-handed delivery ahead of his clash with John McEnroe, Sampras asked Murray, who is here to play in the doubles event.

The pair laughed and joked together, and for Murray, it was a special experience.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Murray. “I don’t think I’ve ever concentrated as hard in my life on a tennis court but it’s got to be done against Pete.  The first ball he fed in was about 120 mph. It was a lot of fun and he still hits the ball as sweet as a nut and he was caning it from the back of the court right the way through. But I enjoyed it and I never thought or expected that I’d get the chance to do it in my life.”

The event is being covered by ITV4 in the UK, and matches are also being streamed live on the ITV website, ITV.com. Click here to access the live stream http://www.itv.com/sport/tennis/default.html.

ITV4 TRANSMISSION TIMES

Thursday                               18:00 – 22:00

Friday                                     18:00 – 21:30

Saturday                                12.30 – 17.00 (19.30 Match on Red Button)

Sunday                                  13.00 – 17:00

For tickets to the BlackRock Masters Tennis, or for further information, please call the box office on: +44 (0) 208 233 5882, or visit the official website.

Corporate Hospitality packages are also available. For more information, please call: +44 (0) 208 233 5854 , e-mail:[email protected] or click here.

RESULTS – Wednesday 3rd December

Cedric Pioline d. Jeremy Bates 6-3, 6-4

Greg Rusedski d. Stefan Edberg 7-6(7) 5-7,10-6 (Champions’ Tie Break)

Pete Sampras d. John McEnroe 6-3, 6-4

ORDER OF PLAY (subject to change)

Thursday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Cash v Forget

2          Doubles           Bahrami/Bates v McNamara/Wilkinson

3          Doubles           Fleming/Woodforde v Jarryd/Leconte

Thursday evening

1          Singles RR      McEnroe v Pioline

2          Doubles           Rusedski/Wilkinson v McNamara/Woodforde

3          Doubles           Black/Leconte v Bahrami/Gullikso

Friday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Edberg v Forget

2          Single              Bates v Sampras

3          Doubles           Bahrami/Pioline v McNamara/Murray

Friday evening

1          Singles RR      Cash v Rusedski

2          Doubles           Jarryd/Wilkinson v Black/Murray

3          Doubles           Gullikson/Leconte v Fleming/Woodforde

Saturday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Pioline v Sampras

2          Doubles          TBC

3          Doubles          TBC

Saturday evening

1          Singles RR      Bates v McEnroe

2          Doubles           TBC

3          Doubles           TBC

Sunday

1          Singles Final                  LIVE   TBC

2          Doubles Final                          LIVE   TBC

3          Doubles                                   LIVE   TBC

About BlackRock

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At September 30, 2008, BlackRock’s AUM was $1.259 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of September 30, 2008, the firm has approximately 5,800 employees in 22 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

The BlackRock Masters Tennis: http://www.theblackrockmasters.com

BlackRock Tour of Champions: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

Sampras back in London at last

Pete Sampras arrived in London for the BlackRock Masters Tennis today and caught up with old friends, adversaries and members of the media.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion will take on John McEnroe in a mouth-watering debut match at the event on Wednesday, and he can’t wait to get started.

“I still want to win,” said Sampras.

“It’s still competitive. We all have a lot of pride in playing well and winning. It’s not like I need to come here and ‘have’ to win the event like when I was in my mid-20s when it was a question of ‘all or nothing’. But that said, people want to see me play well and all the guys play well so we all do take a lot of pride in doing what we used to do. For me, I still want to win and I still want to play good tennis.”

It completes the circle for Sampras, who has not set foot in England since his last Wimbledon in 2002.

“I said during my career that I would never play senior’s tennis,” he admitted.

“But you should never say never and I didn’t know how retirement was going to be. It’s tricky. Every athlete will tell you that when they stop at a pretty young age, trying to find different ways to keep yourself fulfilled is difficult and some people have to come out of retirement to do that. The schedule provided by playing here keeps me in shape and makes me a better father and husband. When you’re not doing much throughout your day I can lose my patience and start to think ‘what am I doing with my life’. But I’ve got years to figure it out and retirement is still a work in progress for me. There’s no book on it. But I’m still enjoying playing a little tennis.”

He is looking forward to the prospect of taking on McEnroe, Cedric Pioline and Jeremy Bates in Group A this week, and possibly Stefan Edberg or Greg Rusedski in the final, but Sampras has no regrets about calling it a day when he did. After winning the US Open in 2002 he took his time to make his decision, before ultimately declaring his 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Andre Agassi in the final as his last match.

“I was done, I really was,” said Sampras.

“Those last couple of years took a lot out of me. Not winning an event and then winning that last US Open, that was the last fuel I had in my tank. I gave it some time, I gave it six to eight months to really make sure I was done. Then, once Wimbledon came and went the year after I won the Open I knew it was time for me to move on. And I wasn’t going to play for the money or the limelight or to wave goodbye. I play to win. Once that day came where I was 100% done and I wasn’t willing to do the work, it was time for me to call it a career. Watching Wimbledon the year after made me realise that I didn’t have it in my heart to be there, and that’s when I knew that it was for real and I was feeling the emotion of not wanting to play anymore. So that was sort of my epiphany. I was waiting for that something to happen and once it didn’t happen it was time for me to move. I will say in the last couple of years I’ve missed it more than I did when I first retired. I definitely miss that Centre Court. But it’s a brutal sport and it took a lot out of me so I needed a few years to decompress and take a deep breath. To get to the point where I’d like to play again and play in a few of these events is pretty fun for me.”

The event is being covered by ITV4 in the UK, and matches are also being streamed live on the ITV website, ITV.com. Click here to access the live stream http://www.itv.com/sport/tennis/default.html.

On Tuesday, Greg Rusedski got off to a winning start with 6-3, 7-6 win over Guy Forget.

ITV4 TRANSMISSION TIMES

Wednesday                          18:00 – 19:00 (19.30 Match on Red button)

Thursday                               18:00 – 22:00

Friday                                     18:00 – 21:30

Saturday                                12.30 – 17.00 (19.30 Match on Red Button)

Sunday                                  13.00 – 17:00

For tickets to the BlackRock Masters Tennis, or for further information, please call the box office on: +44 (0) 208 233 5882, or visit the official website.

Corporate Hospitality packages are also available. For more information, please call: +44 (0) 208 233 5854.

RESULTS – Tuesday 2nd December

Greg Rusedski d. Guy Forget 6-3, 7-6

Stefan Edberg d. Pat Cash 6-4, 6-3

ORDER OF PLAY (subject to change)

Wednesday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Bates v Pioline

2          Singles RR      Edberg v Rusedski

3          Doubles           Bahrami/Wilkinson v Gullikson/McNamara

Wednesday evening

1          Singles RR      McEnroe v Sampras

2          Doubles           Leconte/Woodforde v Jarryd/Murray

3          Doubles           Gullikson/McNamara v Black/Fleming

Thursday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Cash v Forget

2          Doubles           Bahrami/Bates v McNamara/Wilkinson

3          Doubles           Fleming/Woodforde v Jarryd/Leconte

Thursday evening

1          Singles RR      McEnroe v Pioline

2          Doubles           Rusedski/Wilkinson v McNamara/Woodforde

3          Doubles           Black/Leconte v Bahrami/Gullikso

Friday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Edberg v Forget

2          Single              Bates v Sampras

3          Doubles           Bahrami/Pioline v McNamara/Murray

Friday evening

1          Singles RR      Cash v Rusedski

2          Doubles           Jarryd/Wilkinson v Black/Murray

3          Doubles           Gullikson/Leconte v Fleming/Woodforde

Saturday afternoon

1          Singles RR      Pioline v Sampras

2          Doubles          TBC

3          Doubles          TBC

Saturday evening

1          Singles RR      Bates v McEnroe

2          Doubles           TBC

3          Doubles           TBC

Sunday

1          Singles Final                  LIVE   TBC

2          Doubles Final                          LIVE   TBC

3          Doubles                                   LIVE   TBC

About BlackRock

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At September 30, 2008, BlackRock’s AUM was $1.259 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of September 30, 2008, the firm has approximately 5,800 employees in 22 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

The BlackRock Masters Tennis: http://www.theblackrockmasters.com

BlackRock Tour of Champions: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

Mondays With Bob Greene: I am like a machine, fit for every match

STARS

Ayumi Morita beat Ksenia Lykina 6-1 6-3 to win the 2008 Dunlop World Challenge women’s event in Toyota City, Japan

Martin Vassallo Arguello won the Lima Challenger 2008, beating Sergio Roitman 6-2 4-6 6-4 in Lima, Peru

Go Soeda beat Hyung-Taik Lee 6-2 7-6 (7) to win the Dunlop World Challenge men’s singles in Toyota City, Japan

Grega Zemlja beat Martin Alund 6-2 6-1 to win the Abierto Internacional Varonil Ciudad de Cancun in Cancun, Mexico

SAYING

“This was our worst defeat. We had a sinister weekend.” – David Nalbandian, who earned Argentina’s lone point in Spain’s 3-1 Davis Cup victory.

“I think he’s my natural successor. He’s very close to this group of players who are integrated into the nucleus of the team and he’s demonstrated his qualities as a coach by leading Feliciano (Lopez), who has shown notable progression in the last while.” – Emilio Sanchez, on Albert Costa’s prospects for becoming Spain’s Davis Cup captain.

“I am like a machine, fit for every match, and I give my best for all my matches. I have a consistent style of play, which is my major strength and keeps me going. I am fine with the current ATP schedule and love playing tennis, which keeps me going.” – Nikolay Davydenko.

“It goes back to what my dad said: I peaked at 12 years old.” – Jimmy Arias, who in 1980 at the age of 16 became the youngest player to make the main draw of the US Open.

“She will have an opportunity but she will have to earn it.” – Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director on Jelena Dokic playing in a wild card playoff for a direct entry into the first Grand Slam tournament of 2009.

SUFFERIN’ SUCCOTASH

His business manager says Jimmy Connors is “extremely disappointed and embarrassed” about an incident that led to the tennis legend being charged with a misdemeanor. Karen Scott says a man tried to pick a fight with Connors and his son before a basketball game between the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of North Carolina. Police asked Connors to leave, but the eight-time Grand Slam tournament champion was arrested after he said he wanted to wait for his son to finish watching the game. Connors was charged with disrupting campus activities and refusing to leave a university facility.

STEPS DOWN

The day after leading Spain to its third Davis Cup championship, Emilio Sanchez Vicario retired as captain of the victorious team. “I will not be there for the tie against Serbia,” said Sanchez, referring to Spain’s first-round tie in 2009. “I started something three years ago and the cycle is now complete with this reward for all the players, and I hope that whoever replaces me can share all the magical moments I have experienced.” The next Spanish captain is rumored to be Albert Costa, the 2002 Roland Garros champion.

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SAME IN ARGENTINA

Alberto Mancini apparently is through as coach of Argentina’s Davis Cup squad. He announced his resignation just hours after Spain clinched its third Davis Cup title, defeating Argentina 3-1 in the best-of-five-matches tie. The fifth match was not played. According to reports, Mancini had planned to resign after the final regardless of the outcome.

SCORING MORE

As an incentive to play better, Chinese tennis players will be able to keep more of their winnings. China’s players will keep 70 percent of the money they win, twice the amount they have been able to put into the bank. But the country’s top players, including Li Na and Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, are eligible to keep even more if they do well at Grand Slams and other big tournaments. In China, the sports associations have paid for coaches, travel and other expenses for the players. In making the announcement, Sun Jinfang, head of the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA), didn’t say if the players would now have to pay for some of their own expenses.

SQUARING OFF

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could resume their rivalry in their opening 2009 tournament. The world’s top two players are scheduled to play the Qatar Open in Doha, Qatar, which begins January 5. According to Nasser al-Kholiafi, Qatar tennis federation president, the star-filled field will also include Andy Murray and Andy Roddick. The Qatar Open is one of three tournaments that will begin the 2009 ATP season, the others being the Brisbane International in Australia and the Chennai Open in India.

STOPPED

Kimiko Date-Krumm’s latest tournament ended quickly in the singles. Once ranked number five in the world, Date-Krumm lost her second-round match in the 2008 Dunlop World Challenge Tennis Tournament in Toyota, Japan, to Russian wild-card Ksenia Lykina 5-7 7-5 6-3. She did much better in the doubles, teaming with China’s Han Xinyun to reach the final, where they lost to Finland’s Emma Laine and Britain’s Melanie South 6-1 7-5.

SLUITER RETURNS

Dutch tennis player Raemon Sluiter is returning to the ATP tour after a 10-month retirement. He reached his highest world ranking of number 46 in 2003. The right-hander from Rotterdam turned pro in 1996 and earned a little more than USD $1.6 million in his career. Sluiter began his Davis Cup career in 2001 by upsetting Juan Carlos Ferrero as the Netherlands beat Spain and Germany to reach the World Group semifinals before losing to France. He also has a Davis Cup victory over Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen.

SET TO EXPLODE

A live bomb from World War II was discovered when a court at a British tennis club underwent renovation. The bomb was thought to be a piece of old farm machinery and handed to Steve McLean, chairman of the Greenlaw Tennis Club in Berwickshire, who put it in a bin. Six weeks later, he realized it was a bomb and called police. Army bomb disposal experts took the bomb away so it could be detonated safely.

STUMBLE

The first event in a closed tour for Asian players was canceled because of the lack of top players. The Asian Tennis Federation said it was planning a closed Asian Tennis Tour to help Asian players make more money. The first two events were to be held in India in December, a men’s tournament in Pune, followed by a women’s event in Indore. But some of the eight countries who had pledged their participation in the tour ended up nominated their third- or fourth-string players for the tournaments.

SENDS WARNING

John McEnroe hasn’t been quiet about his chances at the BlackRock Masters Tennis championships at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The lefthander, who at the age of 49 is by far the oldest in the eight-man draw, sent a video message to his rivals warning them not to underestimate him. McEnroe’s recent victory in Luxembourg has convinced the American that he can still compete. McEnroe is in a group with American Pete Sampras, Frenchman Cedric Pioline and Britain’s Jeremy Bates. The other group consists of Sweden’s Stefan Edberg, Australian Pat Cash, Britain’s Greg Rusedski and France’s Guy Forget. Jamie Murray, Wimbledon mixed doubles champion in 2007 and the brother of Andy Murray, will play doubles, joining, among others, Peter Fleming, Henri Leconte, Mansour Bahrami, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. Goran Ivanisevic withdrew from the singles field because he will undergo knee surgery.

SITTING ON TOP

For the third consecutive year, France has more players in the year-ending ATP Top 100 than any other nation. This year, however, Spain has tied France with 14 players in the Top 100. With Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at number six and Gilles Simon at number seven, it is the first time since 1986 that two Frenchmen have been in the year-end Top Ten. Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte did it then. Twenty-nine countries are represented in the Top 100. After France and Spain, Argentina has nine players in the Top 100, followed by the United States with eight, Germany and Russia with seven each, Croatia with five, the Czech Republic and Italy with four each, and Serbia and Belgium with three apiece.

STARS FOR SALE

The Heineken Open has reportedly been forced to shell out record appearance fees in order to land a couple of top players for the tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, beginning January 12. The headliners will be world number eight Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and former champion David Ferrer of Spain. Tournament director Richard Palmer would not reveal the exact amount of appearance fees he had to pay to get the two, but said it was considerably less than the sums some top 10 players were demanding.

SO HAPPY

Organizers of the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, are smiling these days. Because of the changes in the ATP calendar for 2009, Lleyton Hewitt and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, have committed to the US Clay Court. The Houston event now doesn’t bump up against Davis Cup competition or a popular clay-court tournament in Europe. And it directly follows the Masters 100 tournament in Miami, Florida. “This is a perfect example of how we’ve improved our prospects of getting some players we probably wouldn’t have had a shot at before,” said Van Barry, tennis director of River Oaks Country Club, site of the tournament.

SERBIAN DREAMS

The decrepit courts of the Milan Gale Muskatirovic Sports Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, will be restored in time to hold an ATP tournament in May. Tennis Masters Cup champion Novak Djokovic and his family are behind the changes, having acquired the ATP event only a few weeks ago. The Serbian government, city of Belgrade and municipality of Stari Grad will jointly pay more than USD $1 million for the venture. The courts also will be used by the Serbian Tennis Federation for Fed Cup and Davis Cup practice as well as university competition. When completed, the complex will have seven courts with seating for 5,000 at the Central Court. The restoration is scheduled to be completed by mid-April, two weeks before the tournament will begin.

SYDNEY CALLING

The Medibank International Sydney 2009 tournament will feature a number of top players, including Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, David Nalbandian and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Officials say the competition will be Sydney’s international sporting event of the Australian summer. Also in the field will be Russian Elena Dementieva and Frenchman Richard Gasquet, while Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt will be gunning for his fifth title in the tournament.

STICKING WITH IT

Argentina’s David Nalbandian refuted rumors that he is considering quitting his country’s Davis Cup team because of its loss to Spain. “For me it’s really an honor to represent my country. I’m going to continue defending these colors in the best way possible. For me, playing Davis Cup is the best and I’m upset that people have doubted me.” Nalbandian won the opening singles in the three-day competition, beating David Ferrer. But he and Agustin Calleri lost their doubles match and his “reverse singles” match was never played because Spain had already wrapped up its victory. “We’ve played in two Davis Cup finals in the last three years and I still think we can win it,” Nalbandian said.

SET FOR CHENNAI

India’s two top-ranked singles players, Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj, have been given wild cards into the Chennai Open tournament scheduled to begin January 5. The third wild card into the main singles draw has been offered to Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic, who will partner India’s Leander Paes in the doubles. India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and his partner, Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, have also entered the tournament. While Paes and Bhupathi are India’s best-known players, neither play singles that much any more.

SAD NEWS

Anne Pittman, who coached Arizona State’s women’s tennis program for 30 years, died in Tempe, Arizona, after suffering a stroke. She was 90 years old. Pittman guided ASU to a 338-71 record from 1954 through 1984 and led the Sun Devils to national championships in 1971, 1972 and 1974. In 1995, she was selected as one of the charter members and only coach into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. During her tenure, the women’s tennis coach was considered a volunteer position. Pittman refused to retire until funding was approved during the 1983-84 season to make the coach a paid, full-time position.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Toyota (women): Emma Laine and Melanie South beat Kimiko Date-Krumm and Han Xinyun 6-1 7-5

Lima: Luis Horna and Sebastian Prieto beat Ramon Delgado and Julio Silva 6-3 6-3

Toyota (men): Frederik Nielsen and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi beat Chen Ti and Gazegorz Panfil 7-5 6-3

Cancun: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Lee Hsin-Han and Yang Tsung-Hua 7-5 6-2

SITES TO SURF

London: www.theblackrockmasters.com/

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

ATP: www.atptennis.com

WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com

ITF: www.itftennis.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

SENIORS

BlackRock Masters Tennis, London, England, carpet

Pete Sampras Joins The BlackRock Tour of Champions

Pete Sampras has given a huge boost to the BlackRock Tour of Champions by announcing that he is to join the circuit of former World No.1’s, Grand Slam finalists and Davis cup winners in 2008.

Sampras, who won seven Wimbledon titles and ended six successive years as the World No.1, will play two tournaments in his first year – the Grand Champions Brasil in Sao Paulo next month (21-24 May), and the BlackRock Masters Tennis event (2-7 December) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England.

The trip to Sao Paulo will be the first time he has visited South America, and the BlackRock Masters Tennis event will mark his first journey to England since his last Wimbledon appearance in 2002. In an exclusive video interview on the BlackRock Tour of Champions website, Bjorn Borg welcomes Sampras to the Tour, and Sampras says:

“It’s still fun for me to compete, it’s still a challenge and I still want to hold that trophy up at the end. Today, or 10 years from now, if I’m on the tennis court, I’ll still want to play well and win. When you’re out there, even though it’s now a different sort of arena, you want to win.”

To see the full interviews, click here: http://www.30love.net/#openVideo-YmxhY2tyb2NrX3RvdXJfb2ZfY2hhbXBpb25zLjEyMDgyNzE2NjMzNzM=

Nuala Walsh, Head of International Marketing at BlackRock commented:

“We are delighted that Pete Sampras will be joining the BlackRockTour of Champions. The Tour gives tennis fans a wonderful opportunity to see some of the world’s greatest tennis legends in action again. With tournaments taking place across so many countries in which BlackRock operates, this is also a great way for us to entertain our clients globally.”

Sampras Finds Perfect Balance

Sampras, 36, retired from the ATP circuit in glorious fashion in 2002, winning the US Open, his 14th and final Grand Slam title. It set a record that still stands today. Upon retirement, the American took a step away from the sport.

“Tennis had been such a big focus in my life and for a while it was great to be away from the sport and I loved it,” he said.

“I was playing golf and having fun, but after two or three years I started to get a little bored and a little bit restless. There’s no book on retirement, especially at 31 years old. Initially you love it but after a while you need something to do. I have two kids – a five-year-old, Christian, and a 2-year-old, Ryan, and it has been a lot of fun to see them grow and spend time with them. But, at the same time I feel like a man should work, maybe I’m a little old-fashioned. It took me a while to get to the realisation that I would like to play again and get back into the sport. When I was 26, I never thought I would want to play Champions tennis. But, as time goes on, when you’re playing golf, taking some trips here and there and maybe putting on a little bit of weight, you just kind of feel a little bit unfulfilled as a man. That’s how I felt.”

It didn’t take long for Sampras to re-discover his fitness, form and desire to play and he is now looking forward to the unique blend of fun and competition to be found on the BlackRock Tour of Champions.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot more relaxed,” said Sampras.

“I used to be so focussed that I would just see the hotel and the courts and that was it. I had the feeling that I was expected to win and then there was all the pressure that I put on myself. Today, I still want to play well and still want to win but if I don’t it’s not the end of the world. It’s a totally different feel. I was pretty serious when I played but now I’m a little more relaxed. At the same time, people do want to see competitive tennis, they want to see the real deal. The crowd still want to see me serve and volley the way I used to and pull off my shots, but with a slightly lighter atmosphere.”

Sao Paulo and London

Having never previously been to South America, Sampras is excited at the prospect of visiting Sao Paulo.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sao Paolo but I’ve never been there, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

“It’s a different culture and I was just thinking the other day that I used to go somewhere and not even care about the city or its history but now I’ll go there and maybe have a few days off to see some sights, something I wouldn’t have done back then. I’m still there to win though, and I’ll be focussed to put on a good show.

Sampras hasn’t been to the United Kingdom since his disappointing last Wimbledon in 2002 when he lost to George Bastl in the second round. The chance to go back and play at the Royal Albert Hall is something he couldn’t resist, particularly after sampling the venue for the first time almost 20 years ago in the World Championship Doubles.

“I remember it being a great arena,” he said.

“You could hear the glasses during the points with all the people drinking champagne, and everyone in their tuxedos. They really live it up there, so I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t been back to London since my last Wimbledon, which was a bit of a nightmare. I hear a lot of good things about the event in London and the stadium and the exposure it brings. So I’m excited and pretty pumped up about it. I hear the people there really support it and so I’m excited to go back and play a little tennis for them.”

The next event on the BlackRock Tour of Champions is the Seat Champions Cup which takes place in Barcelona from Thursday until Sunday. The Tour will then move onto the Foro Italico in Rome over the weekend of the 10th and 11th May, and then the BlackRock Tennis Classic at the Rothenbaum Club in Hamburg, 14-18 May.

The Tour opened in Belfast in February with Anders Jarryd successfully defending his title.

The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008

Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24 (Tennis Legends)

Champion: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors

Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08)

Rome, Italy – May 10-11

Hamburg, Germany – May 14-17 (BlackRock Tennis Classic)

Sao Paulo, Brazil – May 21-24 (Grand Champions Brasil)

Istanbul, Turkey – July 17-20

Graz, Austria – July 29-August 2 (s Tennis Masters)

Algarve, Portugal – August 5-8 (Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD)

Paris, France – September 18-21 (5e Trophée Jean-Luc Lagardère)

Luxembourg, Luxembourg – September 25-28

Eindhoven, Netherlands – October 2-5 (AFAS Tennis Classics)

Budapest, Hungary – October 9-12

Frankfurt, Germany – November 13-16 (klarmobil.de Champions Trophy)

Brussels, Belgium – November 20-23

London, UK – December 2-7 (BlackRock Masters Tennis)

SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS

POS. PLAYER PTS

1. Anders Jarryd 400

2. Mikael Pernfors 250

3. Chris Wilkinson (WC) 200

4. Jeremy Bates (WC) 125

5. John McEnroe 80

6. Pat Cash 80

7. Bjorn Borg 60

8. Henri Leconte 60

WC denotes Wild Card.

OTHER INFO

BlackRock is a premier provider of global investment management, riskmanagement and advisory services to clients around the world. The rebrand from the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions to the new BlackRock Tour of Champions,

stemmed from the merger between BlackRock and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers on the 29th September 2006. This merger united the predominantly US fixed income institutional heritage of BlackRock with that of Merrill Lynch

Investment Managers’ award-winning global retail equity franchise.

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At December 31, 2007, BlackRock’s assets under management (AUM) was US$1.357 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions(r) investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of December 31, 2007, the firm has approximately 5,500 employees in 19 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 72-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.

For the Latest News, Features and Updates from the BlackRock Tour of Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com and for further information:

www.blackrockinternational.com/tourofchampions