Jaime Oncins

McEnroe Tops Courier To Win Outback Champions Series Title In Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, March 15 – John McEnroe is proving that he is getting better with age. The 50-year-old three-time Wimbledon champion completed a perfect week of tennis Sunday by defeating Jim Courier 6-2, 6-3 to win the $150,000 Rio Champions Cup at the HSBC Arena. The title was McEnroe’s third career tournament victory on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. With his win, McEnroe also earned 800 ranking points to take over the No. 1 ranking on the Outback Champions Series from Pete Sampras while pocketing $54,000 in prize money.

“They talk about the age, but nowadays in the U.S., 50 is the new 40,” said McEnroe of his half-century status. “We find ways to be in better physical shape and I was feeling good today. I saw the other guys who are younger and how they were with their backs, calves, knees hurt and here I am, happy that I am standing. I know that if I were doing what I was doing today, when I was playing the pro tour, being serious about my physical conditioning, I could have won many more titles in my career.”

McEnroe, who turned 50 years old on February 16, jumped on Courier early, breaking him in the second game of the match, while breaking the two-time French and Australian Open champion again in the eighth game to close out the first set 6-2. In the second set, McEnroe was unable to capitalize on break point chances on Courier’s serve in the second and fourth games of the set, but secured the lethal break in the eighth game before serving out the match.

“The tennis ball doesn’t see the age. It’s zen,” said Courier of McEnroe, who is 12 years his senior. “I don’t think I have ever seen anyone over 50 play like John. I didn’t play bad today. John was just marvelous. He played some unbelievable tennis today. This court here is faster than a grass court and it suits his game. I can also play well on a hard court. I was serving well, but John was fantastic.”

Prior to the championship match, McEnroe defeated Mikael Pernfors, Jimmy Arias and Jaime Oncins in round-robin play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday respectively without dropping a set. Last month, he began the 2009 Outback Champions Series by reaching the final of the Champions Cup Boston, where he lost to Sampras. Courier, who earned 600 ranking points and $28,000 in prize money with the runner-up showing, was appearing in his 11th career Outback Champions Series final and was seeking his eighth career OCS title.

McEnroe, who said he specifically chose to play in the Rio Champions Cup to have another opportunity to visit Brazil, said he was very touched by Rio and the Brazilian people during his stay.

“I appreciated a lot coming to Rio and experiencing another culture,” said McEnroe. “People say that we Americans live for work and that the Brazilians work to live. If we can have a mix of that, would be perfect. It is touching to see how the people here, who struggle, have so little and still have the joy for life. I respect it a lot.”

In Sunday’s third-place match, Pat Cash of Australia defeated Jimmy Arias of the United States 7-5, 6-3.

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 ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1. The year-end champion will receive a $100,000 bonus.

Following the Rio Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played next week in Los Cabos, Mexico (March 18-22), Grand Cayman (April 23-26),Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Round Robin Standings
Group Maracana
John McEnroe 3-0
Jimmy Arias 2-1
Jaime Oncins 1-2
Mikael Pernfors 0-3

Group Corovado
Jim Courier 2-1
Pat Cash 2-1
Fernando Meligeni 1-2
Mark Philippoussis 1-2

Results From Thursday – March 12
Jimmy Arias, United States, def. Jaime Oncins, Brazil, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4(Champions Tie-Break)
Jim Courier, United States, def. Pat Cash, Australia, 6-0, 7-6 (5)
John McEnroe, United States, def. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden, 6-2, 6-4

Results From Friday – March 13
Fernando Meligeni, Brazil, def. Mark Philippoussis, Australia, 6-4, 3-6, 11-9 (Champions Tie-Breaker)
Jaime Oncins, Brazil, def. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden, 7-5, 6-1
Pat Cash, Australia, def. Mark Philippoussis, Australia, 7-6 (3), 6-1
John McEnroe, United States, def. Jimmy Arias, United States, 6-4, 6-1
Jim Courier, United States, def. Fernando Meligeni, Brazil, 4-6, 6-4, 10-7 (Champions Tie-Break)

Results From Saturday – March 14
Jimmy Arias, United States, def. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden, 6-4, 6-4
Pat Cash, Australia, def. Fernando Meligeni, Brazil, 6-3, 6-4
Mark Philippoussis, Australia, def. Jim Courier, United States,6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 10-8 (Champions Tie-Break)
John McEnroe, United States, def. Jaime Oncins, Brazil, 7-6 (5), 6-3

Sunday – March 15
Championship Match
John McEnroe, United States, def. Jim Courier, United States, 6-2, 6-3
Third Place Match
Pat Cash, Australia, def. Jimmy Arias, United States, 7-5, 6-3

McEnroe and Courier Advance To Outback Champions Series Final in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, March 14 – John McEnroe will face Jim Courier in an All-American final at the $150,000 Rio Champions Cup as both players emerged Saturday as the winners of each respective round-robin group. McEnroe advanced to the Sunday final by defeating Brazil’s Jaime Oncins 7-6 (5), 6-3 to post a perfect 3-0 record in the “Maracana” Group. Courier, however, was defeated Saturday by Mark Philippoussis of Australia 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 11-9 (Champions Tie-Breaker), but advanced to the final by winning a head-to-head tie-break with Pat Cash, who also posted 2-1 round-robin record in the “Corovado” Group, but lost to Courier on Thursday. The Rio Champions Cup is the second of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players 30 and over.

McEnroe, who turned 50 years old on February 16, advanced into his third straight Outback Champions Series tournament final with his victory Saturday. Last month, he reached the final of the Champions Cup Boston – the opening event of the season – where he lost to Pete Sampras in the final. In his final Outback Champions Series of the 2008 season last October, McEnroe won the title in Surprise, Ariz., defeating Todd Martin in the final.

Against Oncins, McEnroe displayed the same serve and volley finesse that he exhibited in his first two round-robin match victories against Mikael Pernfors and Jimmy Arias, but for the first time during his trip to Rio, he also exhibited his famed temper. The three-time Wimbledon champion received two code violations in the first set and another early in the second set before finding his balance and closing out the straight-set victory.

“The match was only this close because of the chair umpire,” said McEnroe after the victory. “If it wasn’t for the chair umpire, it would have been much easier.”

The Courier and Philippousis match was a showcase of holding serve as neither player lost serve in the match. Philippousis emerged victorious by the narrow 11-9 score in the Champions Tie-breaker, played in lieu of a third set.

Courier said after the loss that he is not only hungry to win the title in Rio, but avenging his loss to McEnroe earlier this year in Boston in a match marred by Courier suffering a back injury in the later stages of the first set.

“I am out for revenge in the final,” said Courier. “My back stopped me in Boston (against McEnroe) but I’ll be ready to take him out this time.”

Cash and Arias will play in the third-place match that precedes Sunday’s McEnroe-Courier championship final. Arias moved into the third place match by defeating Pernfors 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to finish with a 2-1 round-robin record. Cash advanced by defeating Fernando Meligeni of Brazil 6-3, 6-4 to also finish 2-1.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1. The year-end champion will receive a $100,000 bonus.

Following the Rio Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played in Los Cabos, Mexico (March 18-22), Grand Cayman (April 23-26), Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Round Robin Standings
Group Maracana
John McEnroe 3-0
Jimmy Arias 2-1
Jaime Oncins 1-2
Mikael Pernfors 0-3

Group Corovado
Jim Courier 2-1
Pat Cash 2-1
Fernando Meligeni 1-2
Mark Philippoussis 1-2

Results From Thursday – March 12
Jimmy Arias, United States, def. Jaime Oncins, Brazil, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4
(Champions Tie-Break)
Jim Courier, United States, def. Pat Cash, Australia, 6-0, 7-6 (5)
John McEnroe, United States, def. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden, 6-2, 6-4

Results From Friday – March 13
Fernando Meligeni, Brazil, def. Mark Philippoussis, Australia, 6-4, 3-6,
11-9 (Champions Tie-Breaker)
Jaime Oncins, Brazil, def. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden, 7-5, 6-1
Pat Cash, Australia, def. Mark Philippoussis, Australia, 7-6 (3), 6-1
John McEnroe, United States, def. Jimmy Arias, United States, 6-4, 6-1
Jim Courier, United States, def. Fernando Meligeni, Brazil, 4-6, 6-4, 10-7 (Champions Tie-Break)

Results From Saturday
Jimmy Arias, United States, def. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden, 6-4, 6-4
Pat Cash, Australia, def. Fernando Meligeni, Brazil, 6-3, 6-4
Mark Philippoussis, Australia, def. Jim Courier, United States,6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 10-8
John McEnroe, United States, def. Jaime Oncins, Brazil, 7-6 (5), 6-3

Sunday – March 15
Starting at noon
3rd Place Match
Starting at 2 pm
Championship Match

Courier And McEnroe Stay Undefeated In Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, March 13 – Jim Courier and John McEnroe each took one step closer to setting up an All-American final at the $150,000 Rio Champions Cup with round-robin match victories Friday at the HSBC Arena. Courier edged the scrappy Brazilian Fernando Meligeni 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 (Champions Tie-Breaker) to post a 2-0 round-robin record, while McEnroe easily defeated fellow American Jimmy Arias 6-4, 6-1 to also go 2-0. The Rio Champions Cup is the second of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players 30 and over.

Both Courier and McEnroe will advance to Sunday’s championship match by each winning their final round-robin matches on Saturday – Courier against Mark Philippoussis and McEnroe against Jaime Oncins.

Courier, who finished as the year-end No. 1 ranked player on the Outback Champions Series in 2006 and 2008, overcame losing the first set to Meligeni to stave off the upset bid from the former French Open semifinalist. After winning the second set, Courier jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the 10-point Champions Tie-Breaker, played in lieu of a third-set. Meligeni quickly won the next three points to square the score at 3-3. Both players won their service points until Meligeni went up a mini-break at 7-6. Courier, however, clamped down and won the final four points of the match to close out the victory.

“Fernando played very well,” said Courier. “It was only one or two points difference between us.”

McEnroe said he felt more comfortable with the fast courts of the HSBC Arena against Arias than his win over Mikael Pernfors on Thursday.

“I felt better than yesterday,” said McEnroe. “I moved better and felt the ball better too. Tomorrow it can be even better.”

McEnroe, who turned 50 years old on February 16, has said that he is scaling back his play on the champions circuit, but that he was particularly drawn to Rio and Rio Champions Cup.

“I am playing fewer and fewer events,” he said. “I wanted to come to Rio, to Brazil, because I hadn’t come here in a long time. But for me it is better to play one or two day events and play guys like (Bjorn) Borg, (Pete) Sampras or even Guga (Gustavo Kuerten). I would love to play Guga, as long as it is not on clay. That would motivate me. If this is happening I don’t know, probably not, but we have to dream.”

When asked in the post-match press conference if he would be interested in coaching the “coach-less” five-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer,
McEnroe said, “I would love to give him some advice and help. I wouldn’t do all the traveling, but I would love to help him.”

Also registering wins on Friday include Pat Cash, who beat fellow Australian and former coaching pupil Philippoussis 7-6 (3), 6-1 and Oncins, who defeated Pernfors 7-5, 6-1. Due to a travel delay, both Philippoussis and Meligeni had to play both their first and second round robin matches Friday, with Meligeni defeating Philippousis 6-4, 3-6, 11-9 (Champions Tie-Break) in the opening match on Friday.

Round-robin play concludes Saturday with the championship match and third-place matches scheduled for Sunday.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1. The year-end champion will receive a $100,000 bonus.

Following the Rio Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played in Los Cabos, Mexico (March 18-22), Grand Cayman (April 23-26), Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

McEnroe Stars In Soccer And Tennis In Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, March 12 – Fifty-year-old John McEnroe, inspired by a morning visit to Rio’s famed Maracana soccer stadium, defeated Mikael Pernfors of Sweden 6-2, 6-4 in his opening round-robin match Thursday at the $150,000 Rio Champions Cup. Also registering round-robin wins Thursday were Jim Courier, who defeated Pat Cash of Australia 6-0, 7-6 (5) and Jimmy Arias, who came back to defeat Brazil’s Jaime Oncins 4-6, 6-3, 10-4 (Champions Tie-Break). The Rio Champions Cup is the second of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players 30 and over.

McEnroe, playing in his first tournament since turning 50 years old on February 16, spent the morning with Courier, Cash, Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni and 1994 Brazilian World Cup soccer star Bebeto touring, kicking soccer balls and posing for pictures in the famed Brazilian soccer stadium.

“I will be able to tell my kids that I came to Maracanã, on the field, because Maracanã means to soccer, what Wimbledon means to tennis,” said McEnroe. “I had played soccer before in other stadiums, but nothing compares to Maracanã.”

A soccer fan, McEnroe, before leaving the Stadium, asked Bebeto to take a picture with him, as a souvenir. Said McEnroe, “It is an honor to be here with Bebeto, with a guy who has won the soccer World Cup.”

On the tennis courts, Courier jumped on Cash early and held on to win a second-set tie-break on the fast, indoor hard court of the HSBC Arena. Courier’s win avenged his loss to the 1987 Wimbledon champion in the final of the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, R.I. last August.

“In a tournament like this where you have to win four matches, you have to start well,” said Courier. “It is an advantage to win the first match, and that is what I did. I started playing very, very well, but Cash raised his level of play in the second set. He started serving better and it got tough.”

Arias came back from a set and a break down to defeat Oncins in a Champions Tie-break.

Round-robin play continues Friday and Saturday with the championship match and third-place matches scheduled for Sunday.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Pete Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1. The year-end champion will receive a $100,000 bonus.

Following the Rio Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played in Los Cabos, Mexico (March 18-22), Grand Cayman (April 23-26), Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Round Robin Standings
Group Maracana
John McEnroe 1-0
Jimmy Arias 1-0
Mikael Pernfors 0-1
Jaime Oncins 0-1

Group Corovado
Jim Courier 1-0
Pat Cash 0-1
Mark Philippoussis 0-0
Fernando Meligeni 0-0

Results From Thursday – March 12
Jimmy Arias, United States, def. Jaime Oncins, Brazil, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4 (Champions Tie-Break)
Jim Courier, United States, def. Pat Cash, Australia, 6-0, 7-6 (5)
John McEnroe, United States, def. Mikael Pernfors, Sweden, 6-2, 6-4

Remaining Event Schedule
Starting at 4:30 pm
Philippoussis vs. Meligeni
Pernfors vs. Oncins
Philippoussis vs. Cash
McEnroe vs. Arias
Courier vs. Meligeni

Saturday – March 14
Starting at 3 pm
Arias vs. Pernfors
Meligeni vs. Cash
Courier vs. Philippoussis
McEnroe vs. Oncins

Sunday – March 15
Starting at noon
3rd Place Match
Starting at 2 pm
Championship Match

The Journeyman: In The Thick of the Summer

Mark Keil, director/producer of “The Journeymen” along with Geoff Grant and tennis coach at Shrewsbury Health and Racquet Club writes about his experiences in the heat of the summer worldwide tour.

The tour event in Kitzbuhel, Austria is in a beautiful setting in a ski resort town.  It’s a great place to practice your serve due to the altitude.  If you can get it in consistently there, you will have an easy time at sea level to increase your serving percentage.

I played with the Netherland’s Sander Groen one year, and we beat Bjorn Borg’s conquerer in his comeback attempt in Monte Carlo, the Spaniard Jordi Arrese.  He played with his fellow countryman Alex Lopez-Moron. We went down to the tough Espana combo of Jordi Burillo and Tomas Carbonell 6-1, 7-5. The event held in Stuttgart at TC Weisenhoff, close to Zuffenhausen where the Porsche factory is located, is a calm tournament. The player’s restaurant overlooks the city, and is a nice view to take in before your match.

I played with the All-American out of Tennessee and US Open mixed doubles champion Shelby Cannon there once. Shelby has very unorthodox lefty strokes, but his return was awesome.  He turned me onto the band Pearl Jam, and they became my favorite of all time. He was known that if his partner is not playing well to yell out, “Just win it yourself!” after he would hit a nice shot. We went down to the tall skinny Joern Renzenbrink, who reminded me of Colonel Klink, and his German partner David Prinosil.

In 1997, I teamed up with Jaime Oncins of Brazil and we lost first round to Alberto Berasategui and Alberto Martin. On yet my last visit, Fernando Meligeni and I had a win over Sebastien Fitz and Martin Sinner in a close battle, before succumbing to David Adams and Pavel Vizner. I blame my losses there to the winding road leading up to the venue, that could make you a bit car sick.

Back on the hardcourts, the tourney that is held this week is the RCA event in Indianapolis.  Back in the day, it was voted the tournament of the year by the players. The tournament director was Mark Miles, who went on to become the innovative CEO of the ATP Tour. The player gifts were great, the player’s lounge was full of games, and it provided much welcome relief to the intense heat of the midwest of the US. I played with my favorite partner of all time, Peter Nyborg, currently a national coach of Kuwait, was an affable Swede who hailed from Trollhatten, home of the Saab.  He liked the player’s lounge so much he slept there one night. We played well and locked up wins over Nicklas Kulti and Brett Steven, Dan Kronauge and Chris Woodruff, Brian MacPhie and Sandon Stolle, before losing in the semis to Todd Martin and Scott Davis. Davis is the funniest tennis player I ever met, and he use to have a tattoo of his girlfriend’s name on his bicep.  Martin was no nonsense. Davis would make fun of your strokes. Back on the clay in Umag, Croatia, the scene was serene.

The slow clay courts really helped your overall game, and playing with Marcos-Aurelio Gorriz was solid. A private in the Spanish tennis armada, the lefty never missed.  We took out Daniel Orsanic and Aki Rahunen 6-2, 6-3. Rahnasto, a Fin, once learned German in a few weeks during a junior tour. We lost to Belgium’s finest Filip DeWulf and his weird but nice partner Tom Van Houdt.

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Sampras Makes Winning Blackrock Debut in Brazil

Pete Sampras needed all of his famed power, skill and experience to scrape past home favourite Fernando Meligeni and make a winning start to his BlackRock Tour of Champions career in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Thursday.

Sampras and Meligeni came into the match with a career head-to-head of 1-1, and it was immediately clear that the American would have his work cut out in front of a partisan, capacity crowd at the WTC Golden Hall.

The American broke Meligeni in the first game before holding serve to take the set 6-3, but Meligeni hit back to break the former Word No.1 at 2-2 in the second. With an ace, Meligeni closed out the second set 6-4. In the Champions’ Tie-break Sampras started strongly and quickly took a 7-3 lead, closing out the match 6-3, 4-6, 10-6 (Champions’ Tie-break).

“I was told that people are very passionate about sports here and that there are many tennis fans in Sao Paulo,” said Sampras.

“It was pleasure to play here. They had never had the chance to see me play live before, so I’m just happy to be here. The court is fast so it was hard to adjust with only one match, but I’m sure I will be better tomorrow.”

For Meligeni, it was a special experience to play the 14-time Grand Slam champion in front of the Brazilian’s own fans.

“It is an honour to play Pete Sampras in Brazil,” he said.

“The guy is living legend, probably the best tennis player ever seen. It was a lot of fun to play in front of my home crowd once again. I could off the energy of the crowd and I think I was able to put up a good show for the fans. It is quite tough to play a guy like Pete on hard courts. His shots come fast and heavy and you don’t have much time to react. His serve is one of the best I have ever had to return and his ball placement is just incredible. I can’t say enough good things about his game.”

Chilean Marcelo Rios also opened his campaign at the BlackRock Tour of Champions even in Sao Paulo with a win. The former World No.1 showed all of his talent to dismiss Russia’s Andrei Cherkasov 6-3, 6-2 in 61 minutes. Rios, who is currently No.3 in the 2008 South African Airways Tour of Champions Rankings, could gain the lead if he wins the title in Sao Paulo.

“I think that I played well for my first match here but there is still some room for improvement. Tomorrow’s match against Jaime (Oncins) will be good fun. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of playing a Brazilian in Sao Paulo,” said Rios.

Earlier, local favourite Oncins defeated Peruvian Jaime Yzaga 6-4, 6-4, while Marc-Kevin Goellner overcame Thomas Muster 6-2, 6-4.

RESULTS, THURSDAY 19TH JUNE, 2008

Marc Goellner d. Thomas Muster 6-2, 6-4

Jaime Oncins d. Jaime Yzaga 6-4, 6-4

Marcelo Rios d. Andrei Cherkasov 6-3, 6-2

Pete Sampras d. Fernando Meligeni 6-3, 4-6, 10-6 (Champions’ Tie-break)

LATEST GROUP STANDINGS

GROUP THOMAZ KOCH

Marc Goellner                      1-0 (2-0)

Pete Sampras                      1-0 (2-1)

Fernando Meligeni                              0-1 (1-2)

Thomas Muster                    0-1 (0-2)

GROUP CARLOS KIRMAYR

Jaime Oncins                        1-0 (2-0)

Marcelo Rios                                         1-0 (2-0)

Jaime Yzaga                                         0-1 (0-2)

Andrei Cherkasov                                0-1 (0-2)

ORDER OF PLAY, FRIDAY 20TH JUNE, 2008

17h00

Jaime Yzaga vs. Andrei Cherkasov

18h30

Fernando Meligeni vs. Thomas Muster

20h00

Marcelo Rios vs. Jaime Oncins

21h30

Pete Sampras vs. Marc Goellner

SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS (after four events)

POS.       PLAYER                                                PTS

1              Michael Stich                        650

2              Anders Jarryd                       525

3              Marcelo Rios                        400

4              Pat Cash                                               340

5=           Thomas Muster                    330

5=           Mikael Pernfors                   330

7              Goran Ivanisevic                  260

8              Marc-Kevin Goellner (WC)                250

9              Henri Leconte                      240

10=         Chris Wilkinson (WC)         200

10=         Cedric Pioline                 200

12=         Jeremy Bates (WC)             125

12=         Albert Costa                          125

14=         Sergi Bruguera               80

14=         Magnus Larsson                  80

14=         John McEnroe                       80

17=         Bjorn Borg                                             60

17=         Carl Uwe Steeb                   60          

WC denotes Wild Card.

The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008

Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24   (Tennis Legends) – Champions: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors

Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08) – Champion: Marcelo Rios; runner-up: Michael Stich

Rome, Italy – May 10-11 – Champion: Thomas Muster; runner-up: Goran Ivanisevic

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

Champion: Michael Stich; Runner-up: Marc-Kevin Goellner

Sao Paulo, Brazil – June 19-22 (Nossa Caixa 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)

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