PORTLAND, Oregon -- With much of the recent buzz on the PowerShares Series belonging to tour rookie James Blake, the winner of the last two tournaments, and John McEnroe, who has dazzled crowds with his inspired play and fitness at age 55, Andre Agassi made sure he was not an overlooked presence.
The 43-year-old eight-time major champion ended the recent runs of success of both Blake and McEnroe on the U.S. circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30 by winning the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships Thursday at the Moda Center. Agassi defeated McEnroe 7-5 in the one-set semifinal and followed by beating Blake 6-4 in the one-set final to win his second PowerShares Series title of the season and the seventh of his career.
When asked by reporters about his game before the start of play Thursday and how much he plays as opposed to Blake, who won the last two PowerShares titles in Salt Lake City and Sacramento, and McEnroe, who reached the final of each event he's played this season, Agassi grinned and countered, "Often enough to pull off a healthy bluff."
"I still hit it alright," Agassi continued about his game. "I just have to wake my body up, get ready and then I feel good."
After an animated pre-event afternoon warm-up session hitting with local tennis fans as part of the event's VIP "Play with the Pros" experience, Agassi edged McEnroe in an entertaining semifinal that ended McEnroe's run of six straight PowerShares Series singles final appearances. In his post-match on-court interview with Tennis Channel's Brett Haber, Agassi revealed a bit about his mind-set and strategy in his PowerShares Series matches, admitting "In this stage in life, if you can't move, you may as well hit the crap out of it."
In the final against Blake, a rematch of the final the previous Thursday night from Houston (won by Agassi also by a 6-4 margin) Agassi broke serve to the open the match and expanded his lead to 3-1 on the strength and consistency of his two-handed backhand. After Blake held for 3-2, Agassi's forehand became erratic as three errors off that wing in the game allowed Blake to break back to square the match at 3-3. After Blake held serve for 4-3 - winning his third straight game - Agassi clapped down and held serve at love for 4-4. Agassi again connected on two consecutive backhand up-the-line winners to break Blake again before serving out the championship in the next game.
Blake, 34, was attempting to become the first player in the history of the PowerShares Series to win three consecutive titles on three consecutive nights. Blake won the title in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night and in Sacramento Wednesday night, defeating McEnroe in both finals. Blake, however, joins Pete Sampras as the only player to reach three straight PowerShares Series finals on three consecutive nights - Sampras turning the trick once in 2011 and again in 2012. In the semifinals earlier in the night Thursday, Blake defeated Jim Courier 6-4.
The tournament victory in Portland earned Agassi 400 PowerShares Series ranking points to give him 800 for the season - 400 less than Blake and McEnroe, who remain tied for the top spot with 1200 points, a compilation of their best four tournament results on the year. Andy Roddick, like Blake a rookie on the 2014 PowerShares Series, ranks No. 3 on the circuit with 900 points, highlighted by tournament wins in Birmingham, Alabama and Denver. Agassi and Courier co-rank No. 4 with 800 points, followed by Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl and Mark Philippoussis in a tie for sixth with 300 points, followed by Sampras in ninth place with 200 points.
The PowerShares Series continues Wednesday, March 12 in Nashville, Tennessee when McEnroe, Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Pat Cash compete in the Champions Challenge that will mark the rematches of the U.S. Open's famous "Super Saturday" men's semifinals from 30 years ago in 1984. Good tickets for all PowerShares Series events are still available starting at $25 at www.PowerSharesSeries.com. VIP packages – including meet-and-greet and play-with-the-pros on-court opportunities - are also available here, by email to VIP@insideoutse.com, or by phone at 253.315.4299.
The remaining 2014 Power Shares Series schedule with field of players are as follows:
Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash
Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash
Friday, March 21, Surprise, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang