Mark Philippoussis

The Necker Island Cup

by James A. Crabtree

The definitive tennis getaway would be somewhere in the Caribbean, secluded on a beautiful island with perfect weather, gorgeous beaches and crystal blue water. You would want the prefect mixture of tennis, relaxation, spiritual growth and entertainment.

So where exactly do you go?

Paradise, or more accurately Necker Island for Richard Branson’s inaugural Necker Island Cup.

Aside from kite boarding the Virgin boss lists tennis as a very important pastime. This is why the finest professional-amateur tournament in the world has been constructed. Yes you heard that correctly (repeat aloud), professional-amateur tournament meaning amateur players will be partnering a tennis professional! For a fee of course, but what more could one ask for? Many attend professional tennis events and enjoy the thrill of admiring the greats from afar, but the Necker Island Cup certainly makes dreams come true being able to literally serve it up with the world’s tennis best.

According to Trevor Short of premiertennistravel.com, Branson is also a player to be reckoned with and advises that he is a wily competitor with a sliding serve. Only time will tell how five time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic, the headline attendee at the event, handles the serve. But what is for sure is the world’s number one tennis player handles his off season in style. He will no doubt benefit from the leadership retreat and enjoy the chance to speak with environmentalists Alice Sylvia Earle and Jose Maria Figueres about global issues such as climate change and sustainable development.

Djokovic isn’t the only big name to be making the most from the offseason.  Bob and Mike Bryan will be partnering an amateur and will surely suffice as a viable doubles partner if their own volleys aren’t up to scratch. How about some veteran guile? John McEnroe or Tommy Haas anybody? Yes please. Or a big server who looks like he enjoys a good party? Well, that could only be Mark Philippoussis. Sign me up.

The parties have been taken care of with the “End of the World” awards dinner that includes a charity auction. And for those who don’t fancy roughing it up with the professionals on the court then there is also the Rosewood Little Dix Bay Legends Tennis Camp on the nearby Virgin Gorda Island led by Luke and Murphy Jensen.

With tennis the main focus of this remote, paradise island in early December it is certainly not understated in style with luxurious Balinese retreats on offer that provide more than the restful nights sleep; accommodation only seen to be believed (http://www.neckercup.com). Enough said this tournament set in paradise certainly offers more than its fair share of niceties.

A close call for Serena Williams – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Close Call

Former No. 1 Serena Williams has seen her share of close calls on the court, but they were nothing in comparison to the close call her health suffered at the front part of the week. In what was not only the top story in tennis circles, but one of the top stories of the news in general, it was revealed that Serena Williams suffered a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Thankfully Williams was able to receive treatment in time and has since been recovering at home under strict care of doctors. This is yet another setback in her plans to return to the game, though Williams has stated that she hopes to return by early summer. This may be another dose of optimism on her part however, as others have estimated she is looking at a minimum of six months recovery time and may need to sit out an entire year to be on the safe side. Serena and her fans will want her to be 100% healthy before she attempts to hit the courts, but if she does indeed sit out the remainder of the season, with the way the game continues to evolve, it may be an impossible task for her to fully bounce back from this lengthy of a layoff.

French Fury

Several of the Davis Cup teams are suffering from their share of issues as the opening of the 2011 Davis Cup gets underway, but perhaps none more so than the French Davis Cup team. Not only has it been hit with injuries, but there is very little team harmony in the ranks. French player Gilles Simon has accused French Captain Guy Forget of essentially having a limited vision of what it takes to bring home the cup, while former captain Patrice Dominguez has suggested that “Guy is weakened…The trust did not exist. There is a problem with Forget with this generation, he did not know that before.” Forget was under fire after last year’s final loss to Serbia, and with this newest round of attacks, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be back to guide the ship next year…he may even find himself gone before 2011 is over.

Rivalry Renewed

One of the most iconic rivalries in tennis was that of Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi, and the two Americans renewed their rivalry earlier this week at Madison Square Garden. While it’s Agassi’s year with his upcoming induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, it was ultimately Sampras who came out on top, taking the match 6-3, 7-5. But the more important element to take away from the match was that just as they had done in their two prior exhibitions in Latin America, the two rivals remained on their best behavior. Both reminded the press and public that what happened at last year’s “Hit for Haiti” was unfortunate, but it is in the past. This is wonderful news for fans and exhibition organizers, as no doubt these two legends of the game will continue to fill arenas wherever they compete.

No California Dreamin’

Mark Philippoussis has delayed his attempt to return to the ATP World Tour by declining the wildcard he was initially given to compete in the qualifying event for Indian Wells. The Aussie has instead decided to replace the injured Stefan Edberg at a senior event Zurich, Switzerland. As disappointed as some of Scud’s California fans might be, it was refreshing to see Philippoussis come to this decision. His trip to Zurich is guaranteed money, something he is need of. He has also been enjoying success on the senior tour, having most recently secured the title in Delray Beach. It’s also difficult to imagine him stringing together any type of substantial success on the main tour, so better that he stick with where he is doing well, continue to grow in confidence, and perhaps continue to add a few more bucks to his checking account.

Road to Recovery

Win or lose against the United States in the opening round of Davis Cup play, Chileans do have something to cheer about. Fernando Gonzalez, who underwent hip surgery last October, has announced that he’s planning to attempt a comeback. He has already been training and hitting the court, and he is hopeful of getting a few matches under his belt before Roland Garros. He’s no spring chicken at the age of 30, but he need look no further than Australian Lleyton Hewitt to know that he can come back and experience success.

Jim Courier Takes the Reins – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Taking the Reins

A week after Australia named the appointment of Patrick Rafter as its new Davis Cup captain, the United States followed suit. On Wednesday it was announced that Jim Courier would be replacing Patrick McEnroe at the helm of the U.S. team. Courier will have some big shoes to fill, as McEnroe did much to turn around the fortunes of the U.S. Davis Cup squad, which included a title win in 2007. But Courier, a four-time Grand Slam winner, brings plenty of experience to the table, including serving as a member of the 1995 victorious U.S. Davis Cup squad. And, as an added bonus, reports seem to indicate that there’s a slight chance Mr. Courier’s new appointment could entice a healthy Andy Roddick to devote time to Davis Cup duty once again.

Muster Wobbles

Thomas Muster made his comeback debut at the main ATP World Tour level in his native Austria this week, and unfortunately, it didn’t have a fairytale ending. The 43-year-old succumbed to his native countryman Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets in the opening round, though it should be noted that the second set ended in a tiebreak. Perhaps Muster is still polishing off some of the rust, but it is a little difficult to see him putting in another two good years as he stated he hopes to do. Still, judging by the crowd’s reaction to his efforts, there’s little doubt that his comeback is still bringing plenty of smiles to fans’ faces.

Comeback Bug

In addition to Muster, the ATP World Tour may see the return of yet another veteran in Australian Mark Philippoussis. After securing two wins on the Champions Series seniors’ tour, the veteran Australian has stated that he has found his hunger once again and is contemplating a return to the main tour level. While there are many fans who would love to see Scud see his plan through, it’s certainly questionable on Philippoussis’ part. It’s not as though this is the first time he’s considered such a comeback, and while those who compete on the Champions Tour are champions in their own right, they are retired from the main tour for a reason. The difference in the caliber of play is wide, and Philippoussis is kidding himself if he thinks success on one tour means it will translate to success on the ATP World Tour. Sadly, one has to wonder if Philippoussis’ considerations for a return don’t stem from the fact that he squandered his talent during his prime by choosing to live the good life instead putting in the time necessary to remain more injury-free and to realize his full potential. But then again, if Muster thinks he can do it in his 40s, there’s at least a glimmer of hope for the Aussie to do it in his 30s.

Consolation Prize

Few would argue that 2010 has been the year of Rafael Nadal. With the No. 1 ranking sewn up, three of the four majors to his name, and achieving the career Grand Slam, it has been his banner year. But Roger Federer, despite the subpar results by his high standards, has still managed to achieve yet another milestone, as he tied Sampras’ record of 64 singles titles with is win in Stockholm last week. At this stage in the game, Connors’ 109 still seems untouchable and McEnroe’s 77 a doable but lofty goal, but look for Federer to add to his total and use this mini-milestone as a springboard to better things in 2011.

Gossip Fill

In case you missed your daily dose of gossip, it’s worth noting a story that broke late last week followed by one earlier this week. The first concerns the engagement of Maria Sharapova to LA Laker Sasha Vujacic. More than once Sharapova has commented that she couldn’t see herself playing till she was 30, and if her results don’t drastically improve in 2011, don’t be entirely surprised if she hangs up the racquet and decides to permanently soak up the California sun. Then there’s Lleyton Hewitt, who became a father for the third time as he and wife Bec welcomed a baby girl last weekend. The whole charging for texts to find out the baby girl’s name is a little odd (and someone please let me know if that goes to some kind of charity), but congratulations are in order for the Hewitt’s. Don’t look for a third child to have a negative impact on Hewitt’s game either. It’s his body he’ll need to worry about.

Kournikova Out of Chilean Mine!!

Anna Kournikova made her first public appearance since she was rescued after over two months underground along with 33 Chilean miners at last week’s Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships in Surprise, Ariz.

Well, she wasn’t really trapped in the Chilean mine. But, while in Arizona, she did sport some great looking sun-glasses like those miners did as their eyes slowly got used to sunlight.

On Saturday, she participated in mixed doubles matches in conjunction with the event during the day and night sessions.

Mark Philippoussis won the singles title at the event, defeating Jim Courier in the final. Michael Chang beat John McEnroe in the third-place match. Other participating players were Wayne Ferreira, Jimmy Arias, Aaron Krickstein and Jeff Tarango. Ashley Harkleroad, the Playboy pin-up of tennis, also participated in the mixed doubles events with Kournikova.

Here are some more photos of the event, courtesy of the InsideOut Sports & Entertainment. For more info on the Champions Series, go to www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com

PHILIPPOUSSIS STICKS WITH FEDERER TO WIN AT WIMBLEDON

When Roger Federer won his first Wimbledon title in 2003, Mark Philippoussis was the man he beat in the final to break through and win his first of a now record 16 major singles title. Despite a shaky performance in the first round against Alejandro Falla on Monday, Federer is still the pick of Philippoussis to win a seventh Wimbledon title on Sunday, July 4. Philippoussis, who currently is the top-ranked player on the Champions Series tennis circuit, blogs his thoughts about Federer and his match with Falla as well as thoughts about the women’s draw and his pick of Venus Williams to win the women’s singles title at SW19. The blog can be read here: http://www.championsseriestennis.com/player_blog.php?id=47

Philippoussis defeated John McEnroe 6-3, 4-6, 10-5 (Champions Tie-Breaker) last month to win his first career Champions Series singles title at the $150,000 Staples Champions Cup in Boston. The win for Philippoussis also vaulted him into the No. 1 Champions Series ranking after reaching the singles final in the circuit’s opening event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lost to Fernando Meligeni.

Philippoussis will join McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Mikael Pernfors, Wayne Ferreira, Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias at the $150,000 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships in Surprise, Ariz., to be played October 20-24 at the Surprise Recreation Campus Tennis and Racquet Complex. For more information on the Champions Series, go to www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com

UP IN THE AIR WITH JIM COURIER

Being a tennis player means a lot of traveling.  You get to see many interesting places and collect Airmiles. Maybe some tennis players are just like Ryan Bingham from Up in the air and try to collect 10 million miles. Who knows?

The life of a tennis player however is not always glamorous. Jim Courier depicts that in his blog entry.

Here is a quick excerpt:

Flights out of Rio depart late in the evening back to both Europe and the US so all of the foreign players, save Mikael Pernfors who had flown back Saturday night and Wayne Ferreira who was staying an extra day in Rio, were booked to depart on Sunday evening following the 3rd place and Championship matches on Sunday. Cedric Pioline, Marat Safin, Mark Philippoussis, Mats Wilander and myself along with Champions Series head honcho Jon Venison and Mats’ wife, Sonya all met up in our airline’s VIP lounge (business class, one of the perks of Champions Series life) to await the boarding of our planes. Marat and Cedric were headed back to Paris at 11:30pm and the rest of us were going to NYC at 11pm, or so we thought. Note: we’re all flying on the same Brazilian airline.

For the full entry click here: http://www.championsseriestennis.com/player_blog.php?id=6

SAFIN, CHAMPIONS SERIES TENNIS A HIT IN RIO

The 2010 Champions Series tennis circuit started Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Marat Safin made his tour debut only 17 weeks after last playing on the ATP World Tour.

Safin said his appearance on the champion’s circuit so soon after leaving the main tour was “almost comical.” Perhaps even more startling is the fact that he lost in the first round of the eight-man Rio event Friday night to Wayne Ferreira.

The loss shows two things – Safin has probably played very little tennis since November when he played his final ATP event at the Paris Indoors and the guys on the Champions Series circuit can really still play. Safin just turned 30 years old while his conqueror, Ferreira, is eight years older, but showed he is still in great shape and playing fine tennis. There is prize money on the line in each match on the Champions Series and Ferreria earned him at least another extra $10,000 for his win. Ferreira went on to finish third in the event and pocketed $25,000.

Fernando Meligeni of Brazil was the surprise tournament winner, boosted by the local fan support. He defeated Mark Philippoussis in the championship match to win his first Champions Series title and $60,000.

Here are some photos of the event provided by tournament organizers.

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SAFIN ARRIVES IN RIO

Marat Safin will make his debut on the Champions Series tennis circuit Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Safin, who retired from the ATP World Tour last fall, opens against Wayne Ferreira in the eight-player event.

Safin, who turned 30 in February, is the favorite to win the event, titled the Banco Cruzeiro do Sul Rio Champions Cup. Also competing in the eight-player, single-knock out event are Jim Courier, Mats Wilander, Mark Philippoussis, Cedric Pioline, Mikael Pernfors and Fernando Meligeni. The event will feature $150,000 in total prize money, with the singles champion earning $60,000. Tickets can be purchased by calling 5521-3005-4023 or by visiting www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

The full schedule of play is as follows;

Friday 12th March: Starting at 6 pm
Quarterfinal #1 – Fernando Meligeni vs. Mikael Pernfors
Quarterfinal #2 – Mark Philippoussis vs. Cedric Pioline
Quarterfinal #3 – Marat Safin vs. Wayne Ferreira
Quarterfinal #4 – Jim Courier vs. Mats Wilander

Saturday 13th March: Starting at 6 pm
Men’s Doubles Match
Semifinal #1 – Winner of Safin/Ferreira vs. Meligini/Pernfors
Semifinal #2 – Winner of Philippoussis/Pioline vs. Courier/Wilander

Sunday 14th March: Starting at 11 am
3rd Place Match
Championship Final

Safin became the first Russian to win the U.S. Open in 2000 when he shocked Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the men’s singles final. Safin rode the momentum of winning his first major singles title to earn the No. 1 ranking later that year and rank in the top spot for a total of nine weeks during his career. He reached the final of the Australian Open in 2002 and again in 2004, losing to Thomas Johansson and Roger Federer, respectively, but broke through to win his second major title in Australia in 2005, defeating Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Safin, who also reached the semifinals of the French Open in 2002 and at Wimbledon in 2008, won 15 career singles titles and guided Russia to Davis Cup titles in 2002 and 2006. Safin turned 30 years old on January 27 and concluded his ATP World Tour career last fall.

The Rio Champions Cup is part of the global Champions Series tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. To be eligible to compete, 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.

Each event features $150,000 in prize money – with the tournament champion earning $60,000 – and ranking points that determine the year-end No. 1. Each tournament champion earns 800 ranking points.

Here are other photos from the event’s Facebook page of Courier and Wilander also arriving.

The full 2010 Champions Series schedule of tournaments will be announced in the near future. The first tournament in the United States – the Staples Champions Cup – will be held April 29-May 2 in Boston, Mass., and will feature Bjorn Borg playing in his first tournament in the U.S. in 10 years.

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The Friday Five: Hang it up Scud

By Maud Watson

Hang it up Scud – My apologies to any Mark Philippoussis fans out there. I don’t personally have anything against the guy, but when I read earlier this week that he’s considering the possibility of yet another comeback to the ATP World Tour, I had to shake my head. He claims his reasons for coming back are twofold: he has “unfinished business,” and he wants the money. The guy needs to face reality. He is struggling to beat Jim Courier and Pat Cash on the seniors tour, and it’s no disrespect to Courier and Cash. They’re great players in their own right, but they’re playing the seniors tour for a reason. If Flipper can’t hang with those guys, how does he ever figure he’ll make it into the Top 100 on the ATP World Tour? Maybe if he’d put the time in earlier in his career (which might have curbed his injuries) and managed his finances better, he wouldn’t be in this situation now. Cut your losses, Scud and move on.

Adieu Roland Garros? – It seems plans for a new center court with a retractable roof at the world’s second Slam event of the year have hit a snag according to French Tennis Federation (FFT) Director General Gilbert Ysern. The Paris mayor’s office is now expressing doubts about the project, mainly due to the opposition of green members within the city council. While the FFT is relatively confident the project will still be able to move forward, Ysern has also stated the FFT is prepared to move from the Roland Garros site if their plans are blocked. Given the historical significance of the site, which hosted the famous 1928 Davis Cup tie between the USA and France, and its ties to the famous French aviator whose name the complex bears, it would be a shame to see the site of the French Championships moved to a new location. That said, in an effort to keep up with the other Majors, as well as a few voices from Spain (a nation that has produced the champion at the French major six of the last 10 years) claiming they now have the facilities to host the clay court Grand Slam event, the FFT must be prepared to take whatever steps necessary. Fingers crossed they reach an agreement with the Paris city council.

Serena Sweeps – As if winning two majors, the WTA Tour Championships, and taking the No. 1 ranking weren’t enough, Serena Williams has managed to add one more accolade to her 2009 season. She has set a new record for most prize money won by a woman in a single season, with $6,545,586. Granted, she did win three of the biggest tournaments of the season, but if her prize money total is any indication, it would seem that the women’s tour is plenty healthy.

Under the Weather – Well, we all knew it was just a matter of time before swine flu hit the tennis community, and it finally did this week in Basel. German Tommy Haas was forced to withdraw from the tournament when he tested positive for the H1N1 virus. With the way things can often travel quickly throughout the locker room, tournament organizers and fans alike will hope this is just an isolated incident, especially with the ATP World Tour Championships just around the corner. And here’s wishing a speedy recovery to Haas, who has put together a great season!

Good-Bye Fred, Hello Adidas – Britain’s Andy Murray is back with a vengeance this week in Valencia, showing little mercy to the opposition in his return from injury. And while Andy Murray is undoubtedly happy to see his game back on track, he has even more to smile about with the new multi-million dollar deal that he just signed with Adidas. Murray will be trading in his Fred Perry duds for the three-striped brand beginning in January. Now wouldn’t it be ironic if he won Wimbledon in 2010?

“SCUD” Engaged To American Actress

Mark Philippoussis, the Australian hunk and the man who Roger Federer first beat in a Grand Slam tournament final at Wimbledon in 2003, is off the market. News reports out of Australia say that “the Scud” is engaged to Law and Order actress Jennifer Esposito. Philippoussis, 32, met Esposito, 36, this summer in the Hamptons, according to Australia’s Daily Telegraph. All the details can be read here: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,28383,26196118-5013560,00.html

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