Hall of Fame Championships

Newport Philippoussis Beats Pernfors In “Comfortable” Newport

NEWPORT, R.I., August 21 – Playing in his fourth career Outback Champions Series event, Philippoussis co-incidentally last captured a tournament title on the International Tennis Hall of Fame grounds back in 2006 when he won the ATP Tour’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, his 11th career ATP title.

“It feels nice to be back in Newport,” said Philippoussis. “I had a great experience and a memorable week here in 2006. Everything feels so comfortable because it’s absolutely gorgeous here. You can mill around. The town is very easy on the eyes. It’s a great little tournament. You hit some balls, play matches, and it just feels very laid back and obviously winning here was even nicer.”

Since his ATP win in Newport, Philippoussis, 32, has struggled with knee injuries that has kept him on and off the ATP Tour and the Outback Champions Series circuit. He last played against ATP level competition at the 2007 Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth, Australia. Following knee surgery in early 2007, Philippoussis returned to competitive tournament tennis at the Outback Champions Series event in Dallas in 2007, losing the third-place match to John McEnroe. Earlier this year, he competed in Outback Champions Series events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he finished with a 1-2 round-robin record, and in Grand Cayman, where he reached the semifinals losing to Jim Courier.

Nick-named “Scud” for his missile-like velocity of his first serve, the 2003 Wimbledon finalist and former world No. 8 struggled at times with his serve against Pernfors as a brisk breeze from the Atlantic Ocean descended upon the Hall of Fame complex. The Scud’s deliveries, however, were enough to cause Pernfors to offer a “just get out of the way” defense of how you handle the Australian’s rocket first serve.

“It was a good serve day except for that one game (at 4-3 in the second set) where I had like nine double faults and ten aces,” said Philippoussis. “It kept him guessing.”

Cash, the defending champion who beat Jim Courier in last year’s final, rallied from a 1-4 first-set deficit against Wilander in a re-match of the 1988 Australian Open final, won by Wilander in five sets. Cash said he is looking forward to his match Saturday with Philippoussis, a player he coached during a short stint just over 10 years ago.

In the other men’s semifinal Saturday, 2007 Hall of Fame Champions Cup winner Todd Martin will face Courier, the current No. 1 ranked player on the Outback Champions Series.

The matches on Friday were played 109 years to the day on the same court as the men’s singles final of the 1900 U.S. Championships (the modern day U.S. Open) when Malcolm Whitman defeated fellow American Bill Larned 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Ticket information for the weekend’s matches can be found at www.TennisFame.com. The remaining schedule of play is as follows;

Saturday, August 22nd – 1pm
Singles Semifinal – Martin vs. Courier
Followed by Doubles Exhibition
Followed by Singles Semifinal – Philippoussis vs. Cash winner

Sunday, August 23rd – 1pm
Championship Match
Followed by
3rd Place Match

Pete 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 Jimmy Arias in the final. Following Newport, remaining events on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

Courier leads the current Champions Rankings on the Outback Champions Series entering Newport with 2000 points, followed by Sampras with 1600 points and McEnroe with 1300 points. Arias sits at a career-high No. 4 Outback Champions Series ranking with 1050 points, followed by Cash with 700 points at No. 5 and Philippoussis at No. 6 with 600 points. Wilander, Pernfors and Patrick Rafter are tied at No. 7 with 500 points, while Martin rounds out the top 10 with 400 points.

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 eight 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.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, established in 1954, is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. It was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s legendary grass courts remain the only competition grass courts available for professional events and exhibitions, while also available for public play. For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, events and programs, please call 401-849-3990 or log on to www.tennisfame.com

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, private 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.

Martin Continues Undefeated Champions Run In Newport

NEWPORT, R.I., August 20 – Todd Martin continued his undefeated run in champions tennis at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Thursday, defeating Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 7-5, 5-7, 10-6 (Champions Tie-Breaker) in the quarterfinals of the $150,000 Hall of Fame Champions Cup. Since Newport has hosted an event on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over, Martin has not suffered a loss, posting a 5-0 record on Newport’s grass courts that includes his title run in the inaugural event in 2007.

“I still love playing here,” said Martin, who did not compete in the 2008 event. “I like being here. I like competing and I’ve made a commitment. My family spent quite a bit of time here these last couple of summers and we love it here.”

During his ATP career, Martin played three times on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships in 1990, 1991 and 1992, with his best showing coming in 1991 when he reached the semifinals, losing to Bryan Shelton. His 1990 appearance Newport marked his first career ATP event. In 2007, returning to Newport in the first year of the Outback Champions Series event, Martin defeated John McEnroe 7-5, 7-5 to win the title.

Against Ferreira on Thursday, Martin said he struggled in the hot and humid conditions, despite living in a hot and humid climate of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“I live in Florida in the swamp and you can’t walk to get the mail without breaking in to a full sweat,” said Martin. “Today it was warm. It was humid and at times maybe a little bit challenging to stay dry. Yeah, I was wiped.”

Martin jumped out to win seven of the first eight points of the Champions Tie-Breaker, a first-to-10-point tie-breaker played in lieu of a third set. Ferreira fought valiantly to close the gap to 8-6 before Martin won the last two points to clinch the match.

“On paper on this grass court, I match up pretty well against Wayne,” said Martin. “There’s not too many places where I think I match up really well. I probably on average return a little bit better than him. On average I maybe serve just a touch better than him. I also volley well. Where he gets me is with his athleticism and with his forehand. And today at times he returned really well, and with his backhand especially. He’s definitely a forehand guy but he had a really good time managing his backhand. But also he has an aggressive nature. He got a lot out of that side.”

Martin will face long-time rival and former U.S. Davis Cup teammate Jim Courier in Saturday’s semifinals. Courier posted a 6-3, 7-6 (4) win over Jimmy Arias in Thursday’s late quarterfinal match, played as a thick, afternoon fog rolled in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Courier, who turned 39 years old on Monday, is seeking his first professional singles title on grass courts. The 1993 Wimbledon finalist was also a singles finalist a year ago in Newport, losing to Pat Cash of Australia.

“I grew up playing on the baseline and grass definitely rewards the serve and volley player,” said Courier. “Grass is a challenge for me but I like the challenge. I lost in the finals here last year to Pat Cash so I am getting closer.”

Arias was not only making his first visit of any kind of Newport and the state of Rhode Island, but was playing on grass courts for the first time since 1986.

Quipped Arias, “I brought Jim down to my level and I almost won a set.”

Mark Philippoussis of Australia opens play on Friday against Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors, while the late quarterfinal will pit Mats Wilander of Sweden against defending champion Cash. Ticket information can be found at www.TennisFame.com. The remaining schedule of play for the Hall of Fame Champions Cup is as follows;

Friday, August 21st – 1pm
Singles Quarterfinal – Mark Philippoussis vs. Mikael Pernfors
Followed by Doubles Exhibition – Jim Courier & Wayne Ferreira vs. Todd Martin & Jimmy Arias
Followed by Singles Quarterfinal – Pat Cash vs. Mats Wilander

Saturday, August 22nd – 1pm
Singles Semifinal – Martin/Ferreira winner vs. Courier/Arias winner
Followed by Doubles Exhibition
Followed by Singles Semifinal – Philippoussis/Pernfors winner vs. Cash/Wilander winner

Sunday, August 23rd – 1pm
Championship Match
Followed by
3rd Place Match

Pete Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating 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. Following Newport, remaining events on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

Courier leads the current Champions Rankings on the Outback Champions Series entering Newport with 2000 points, followed by Sampras with 1600 points and McEnroe with 1300 points. Arias sits at a career-high No. 4 Outback Champions Series ranking with 1050 points, followed by Cash with 700 points at No. 5 and Philippoussis at No. 6 with 600 points. Wilander, Pernfors and Patrick Rafter are tied at No. 7 with 500 points, while Martin rounds out the top 10 with 400 points.

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 eight 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.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, established in 1954, is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. It was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s legendary grass courts remain the only competition grass courts available for professional events and exhibitions, while also available for public play. For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, events and programs, please call 401-849-3990 or log on to www.tennisfame.com

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, private 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.

Bill Mountford: Final Thoughts From Newport

Some final thoughts from Newport, Rhode Island and the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships… It was a treat to see “The Magician”, Fabrice Santoro, defend a title for the first time in his long career.  The Frenchman did not lose a set all week at the Hall of Fame Championships.  He served well, moved exceptionally well, and treated fans to his usual assortment of quirky, disguised shots.

The grass courts at the Newport Casino played like grass courts from yesteryear.  In fact, they played like the courts at the All England Club prior to 2002.  After years of complaints that Pete Sampras was boring and the big-serving efforts of Goran Ivanisevic during his improbable run to the title in 2001, the AEC committee changed the texture of the grass (by importing four tons of quicksand) to make sure that longer rallies were more likely.  Be careful what you wish for… most matches at Wimbledon 2008 looked like they were being played on medium-paced hard courts.  Newly-inducted Hall of Famer Michael Chang spoke of the obvious changes in playability of the Wimby grass. Had the courts been as slow during Chang’s prime as they are these days, then he would have surely contended for a title at the Big W.

If there were more old-style grass courts or lightning-fast indoor courts on the ATP Tour, then Prakash Amritraj would be ranked higher than No. 204 in the world. He volleys decisively and moves aggressively in the forecourt, and these skills are becoming increasingly rare in professional tennis. Vijay Amritraj was a beacon of fair play and sportsmanship throughout his playing career. It was a little surprising to observe his constant and blatant (illegal) coaching during his son Prakash’s semifinal and final round matches.

John Isner took his first ATP Tour doubles title with Mardy Fish.  It was great to see these American players working so hard on their fitness on the practice courts after they both lost their first matches in singles.  It will be another grinding hard court season this summer, and that fitness work will pay dividends.

Monica Seles ought to be inducted into the Hall of Fame next July.  She should surely be joined by her former coach, Nick Bollettieri.  The ageless Bollettieri was in Newport last weekend supporting the sport, and has been the most successful coach in the Open era. Michael Stich should also receive serious consideration for the roll of honor.

Lastly, for the thousands of tennis enthusiasts who are eager to feel what it is like to play on natural grass, visit  http://www.tennisfame.com/ithof.aspx?pgID=895.

For Bill Mountford tennis instruction videos click here!

Photos by Catherine O’Neal

Saying “#*!& You!” To A Chair Umpire And Other Summer Tennis Tales

The week after a Slam, there are many tournaments on the calendar and they all offer exciting opportunities to have fun.  The second week of Wimbledon in 1991, I headed north to play singles in a challenger in Bristol, England. I played the former NCAA doubles champion out of USC and Davis Cupper from Zimbabwe Byron Black, and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The grass was ok, and the people were very friendly.  I went down in the second round to Steve DeVries, the pigeon-toed Northern Californian doubles specialist 6-4, 6-2. In doubles, I played with the San Diegoan Scott Patridge and we went out to Nduka Odizor – “The Duke of Odizor” – of Nigeria and his partner Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands. Michiel is a bright tall Dutchman, who was hard to get a lob over.

One of the tour stops after Wimbledon is the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I, also on grass. I played doubles with Patrick Bauer one year, and I remember after losing to Maurice Ruah and the Bahamian Roger Smith, I headed to the locker room where I had a few Miller Lite’s.  They were the sponsor of the tourney, and they were not less filling. One year, I played doubles with the Miami Hurricane and great guy Michael Russell, who famously had match point on eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten one year at Roland Garros. We lost a tight match to the Finn Liukko and the Dutchman Wessels 6-4, 7-6 .

Gstaad is tourney held in the Swiss Alps just after Wimbledon. Fans can flock to the event and get a glimpse of Swiss cows – similar to the one Roger Federer famously was given after winning Wimbledon in 2003. Players can parasail off of the mountains, go river rafting, and it is where I proposed to my ex-wife (may that marriage rest in peace!) I played doubles one year with my brother-in-law Tobias Hildebrand. We were the last team to get in, and unfortunately I embarrassed the whole family by getting defaulted in our match for saying – “(expletive that rhymes with duck) You!” to the umpire. The umpire couldn’t believe what I just said, and asked again what I said to him. “F*** You” was my response again.  All the emotion of trying to win a match a family member obviously got to me.  I was defaulted immediately and fined. I had a great run there in doubles in 1996 with the gregarious South African player who knows everybody Gary Muller.  He was a true friend, looking out for me and securing deals for team tennis for me in Germany.  We would play together on the Bundesliga team of Weiden, where we reached the final losing to the Paul Haarhuis-led team from Halle. In Gstaad, we beat Pimek/Talbot, and Mohr/Strambini before losing to  the Czech duo of Novak/Vizner in two breakers.

Another delightful event is held each year in Palermo, Italy.  I arrived there and went on my morning run, and really took in the city.  The place can become a sort of Alcatraz if one is not careful.  The pool at the courts was always full, and the Spaniards who usually dominated the tournament would frolic around the edge.  One time, a Spanish coach was climbing up the high dive, and slipped at the top rung and came sliding down.  Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but it was the event of the day.  I played with 2001 Wimbledon doubles champion Donald Johnson, and we beat the brother’s Haygarth – Brent and Kirk. We went down to the Olympic silver medalist from 1996 Neil Broad and Greg Van Emburgh 6-4, 6-4.

Last, but for sure not least, the Swedish Open played on the western coast of Sverige (Sweden) is a wonderful event to watch. In 1997, I teamed up with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil and we took out Andersson and Timfjord of Sweden before getting crushed by Haygarth and Van Emburgh. The place was never asleep, people carousing 24 hours a day, cruising around town and getting ice creams on hot days.  Pepe’s Bodega sponsored a volleyball tournament, and I felt like Karch Karaly for a moment. My wife pulled me out of the place by my hair, much to my chagrin.  I played there at the end of my career with Martin Rodriguez of Argentina. He didn’t speak much English, so it was like being on the best date of your life. We had a tough three-setter with the kids from up the road, Simon and Johan. They won and another week ended with a loss – as most do for players on the ATP Tour. I’m living in the past, hoping for a bright future…

Ask Bill: Looking Back to Paris; Looking Ahead to Wimbledon

Some random thoughts from a fascinating Roland Garros and the first look forward to the grass…

Roger Federer’s performance in the Roland Garros final against Rafael Nadal was reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s fight against Larry Holmes. A mismatch from the start, Ali pulled out his tricks but had no answers for the younger, stronger Holmes, and was battered mercilessly. Like Sunday’s final, this was simply a bad match-up, and- to use the age-old explanation- styles make fights. Nadal moves better, defends better, and can control points off the ground (on clay, anyway) better than Federer. Like seeing The Greatest get punched around the ring, it was still surprising to witness Federer looking so vulnerable.

Rafael Nadal did not hit a single ace in the semis or final. He hit only seven aces during the entire two weeks. This serving approach will change on the grass. He will need some free points at crucial moments.

Darren Cahill brought up an interesting point on ESPN about Nadal’s Wimbledon preparation. Instead of rushing across the channel to play the Artois Championships, he should rest for a few days and skip the Queens Club event. Recall that he was spent by the end of Wimbledon last summer, although admittedly he was forced to play five (rain-delayed) matches in the last seven days of The Championships. Had Nadal been fresher, then he would have likely taken the fifth set of last year’s final.

Of course the cynic can offer about one million reasons why Nadal will compete at Queens Club again this year. It is hard to pass up that kind of appearance fee loot no matter how wealthy he has become. To paraphrase Bob Dylan (from “It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry”), don’t say I never warned you if Nadal loses early this week.

It was great to see Bjorn Borg attending matches during the final weekend of Roland Garros. In an interesting on-court interview with his great rival John McEnroe, Borg agreed to play with Mighty Mac in the over-45 doubles next year.

Borg also told McEnroe that this was the first time he had returned to Roland Garros since winning the event in 1981 (beating Ivan Lendl in a five-set final). Evidently Borg forgot that he did television work for NBC Sports in 1983 (interviewing Yannick Noah and Mats Wilandner after their final) and presented the Coupe De Mosquetaires on-court to Gustavo Kuerten in 1997. Guga famously bowed to the great Borg, as though the Swede was royalty. Let’s just presume that Borg’s passing shots were better than his memory!

Ai Sugiyama is preparing to break the all-time record at the All England Club by competing in her 56th consecutive major tournament. She currently shares this record with Wayne Ferreira, who played 56 straight from 1991 to 2004. This is a remarkable strength of will and consistency.

In the For What It’s Worth category… After last year’s epic Wimbledon final, Roger Federer did an interview with a standout former player. Afterwards, this player, off-camera, of course, told his colleague that the Swiss would never win another Wimbledon title. He saw cracks in the armor last summer.

Fingers are crossed that Slazenger has produced livelier balls for this year’s grass court season. It has been disappointing to see men’s professional grass court tennis look like… hard court tennis. If that’s what people really want to see, then the grass should be paved for a more “fair” hard court surface. I would prefer that it retain the traditional allure for attacking players and reward players for net-rushing tactics.

In 1984, there were 64 American men in the singles main draw of Wimbledon. That will never be matched again. I do, however, expect to see several Yanks doing some damage at SW19.

Serena Williams would have been really annoyed with her result at Roland Garros. She will keep the Venus Rosewater Dish in the Williams family’s possession this year.

Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas and Peruvian Luis Horna completed a storybook run to the French men’s doubles title. In the quarterfinals they took out former champions and the top-ranked team in the world, Bob and Mike Bryan. This match received a lot of attention because afterwards the Bryans refused to shake hands with Cuevas, as they were offended by his show of exuberance in the third set tiebreak. As the South American pair raced to a 5-1 lead, Cuevas leaped the net to switch sides- instead of walking around the net post. While it might have been a bit much, hopping the net certainly appeared to be an act of spontaneity on Cuevas’ part. The Bryans have perfected the leaping chest bump, so their reaction seemed a bit harsh.

To offer some context, the Bryan brothers have saved men’s professional doubles. Without them, it might not even exist these days. They carry the weight and responsibility of, literally, preserving this form of the professional sport. Furthermore, they have each distinguished themselves as fierce competitors and gentlemen throughout their storied career. They get it. Therefore, the Bryans deserve some slack. I’ll bet that they wish they had not reacted so strongly during the heat of the moment. I’ll also bet that they are hoping for a rematch against Cuevas and Horna at the Big W.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have much to gain these next months, and Federer much to defend. Pete Sampras finished as the world’s top-ranked player for a remarkable six straight years (1993-98), and Federer’s assault on that record is looking bleaker. Roger will need a “turn back the clock” effort for the remainder of 2008 to avoid relegation to No. 3 in the year-end rankings.

Less than half of the world’s top-ten players will compete in the Beijing Olympics. Keep reading the agate type in your sports sections for listings of injuries, because most of the top players will find them before hopping on a plane for Asia in August. This is as sure as the sun rising in the East.

I always write about making a pilgrimage to beautiful Newport, RI for the Hall of Fame Championships each July. For any fan living or traveling in Europe, please visit Eastbourne. This is a charming coastal town in the south of England, and a wonderful warm-up tournament for The Championships. The honor roll of former champions stands as a “who’s-who” list of Hall of Famers. The grass courts are typically as good as any in the world, and the players love the relaxed environment. In fact, the accessibility to the players is virtually unprecedented in this day and age.