SACRAMENTO – Same opponent. Same result. Different city.
One night after beating John McEnroe in Salt Lake City to win his first career title on the PowerShares Series tennis circuit, James Blake again defeated McEnroe 6-3 in the one-set championship match at the Champions Shootout Wednesday at the Sleep Train Arena. Tuesday in Salt Lake City, Blake edged McEnroe 7-6 (5) to win his first championship on the U.S. circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30.
“It’s a ton of fun to play these events,” said Blake of the PowerShares Series after the final. “It’s different because of the caliber of player you are playing. You are playing against guys who have won multiple Grand Slam titles….That’s daunting but also they’ve been off the tour for quite a while.”
While McEnroe has been off the ATP World Tour the longest – 22 years – the seven-time major singles champion is, despite his age of 55, the player who perhaps regularly plays tennis the most, working out many young talented players at his John McEnroe Tennis Academy at Randall’s Island in New York City. In his six tournament appearances on the PowerShares Series so far this year, McEnroe has reached at least the final in all of them, winning titles in Kansas City on February 5 and in Indianapolis on February 14.
While McEnroe is the most senior of the competing players to date, Blake, 34, has the most recent ATP World Tour experience, officially retiring last summer at the U.S. Open. In fact, he still has an ATP world ranking of No. 208 with 12 ATP tournament results that have yet to roll off the 12-month calendar ranking.
In the final against McEnroe Wednesday, Blake jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and had a break point to take a 4-0 lead, but McEnroe rallied and clawed out a service hold to get on the scoreboard. McEnroe stayed aggressive on the next game and connected on two consecutive forehand drives for winners to break Blake back and hold to square even at 3-3. After Blake held easily the next game, McEnroe missed a backhand volley and a backhand groundstroke and fell victim to a ferocious Blake forehand to find himself down 0-40. An ill-timed double-fault two-points later gave Blake the 5-3 lead that he transitioned into victory the next game.
Following in the win over Sampras, Blake quipped in his post-match on-court interview that by beating Courier and McEnroe back-to-back in Salt Lake City and Sampras in Sacramento that he “had the three best wins of my life in the last 24 hours.”
The tournament win in Sacramento propels Blake into a tie for the lead in the PowerShares Series rankings that count a player’s best four tournament results along the 12-city tour. Blake, with two titles and two runner-up showings in his four tournament appearances to date, has 1200 points, while McEnroe, whose best four results are his two titles and two runner-up showings, also has 1200 points. Andy Roddick, who won the title in Birmingham and Denver, ranks No. 3 with 900 points, while Courier ranks No. 4 with 800 points. Andre Agassi, who won in Houston last week, sits in fifth place with 400 points. Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl and Mark Philippoussis each have 300 points to rank in a three-way tie for sixth place, while Sampras ranks ninth with 200 points.
The PowerShares Series continues Thursday, February 27 in Portland, Oregon when Blake, McEnroe and Courier join Agassi in the four-man field – Courier facing Blake in one semifinal and Agassi facing McEnroe. 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:
Thursday, February 27, Portland, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
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