It was a painful initiation to the PowerShares Series for the recently retired American star. (AP Photo)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Andy Roddick
made his debut on the PowerShares Series champions tennis circuit a successful one Thursday, fending off a stubborn John McEnroe
7-5 to win the Champions Shootout at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
Roddick's debut event was a wildly entertaining affair highlighted by many of his signature rocket serves and blistering forehands and by being hit directly in the groin by a first serve by Mark Philippoussis in his semifinal match.
"I had fun," said Roddick after the final of his Champions Series debut. "I honestly had no idea what to expect when I came out here. I hadn't played at all. I enjoyed it. Those moments when you want to win and there's tension in the match - I haven't had that for a while."
The 31-year-old Roddick struggled to find his rhythm against McEnroe - 24 years his senior - in the one-set championship match, admitting after that McEnroe's left-handed spins and serve-and-volleying threw him off.
"I was struggling during the match," Roddick said. "I started thinking that I don't think I have hit with a left-hander since I stopped playing (on the ATP Tour)."
Roddick's first serve, which guided him to the 2003 U.S. Open title and the world No. 1 ranking, was ultimately what carried him to victory against McEnroe. After both players held serve for the first eight games of the match, McEnroe took advantage of a Roddick double-fault at 40-30 and blistered an on-the-rise forehand return-of-serve winner to secure a break point chance that would allow him to serve for the match. Roddick, however, responded with an ace down the tee to save the break point, followed by two more service winners down the tee to hold serve and extinguish the threat.
After the two exchanged two more easy service holds, Roddick then broke McEnroe at love to win the match, highlighted by a stretch backhand drop volley winner and a running forehand up-the-line passing shot. The buzz of the night, however, occurred in Roddick's 6-3 semifinal win over Mark Philippoussis when the Australian, nicknamed "Scud" for his monster first serve, connected on a scorching first serve that hit Roddick directly in the groin, causing a pause in play for about four-minutes before Roddick regrouped.
"It was awkward," Roddick said of the direct hit inflicted by Philippoussis. "That hurt. It really did." Roddick later predicted that the video of the episode would probably be aired "27 times" on Fox Sports Live, the sports television show he now reports for.
In his pre-match interview with event emcee and Tennis Channel broadcaster Brett Haber before taking the court with Philippoussis, Roddick said of joining the PowerShares Series just 17 months after leaving the ATP World Tour, "You know me, I can't sit still long." Roddick also took pride in talking about his last visit to the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center four years ago in leading the United States to a 4-1 Davis Cup win over Switzerland.
"The win looks better now because I beat a guy named Wawrinka," said Roddick of beating the current Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in 2009 in Birmingham. "At the time, I was supposed to win but it has looked good the last couple of weeks."
McEnroe, playing three days before his 55th birthday, continued to show the intensity and crafty play that earned him the tournament title in the opening PowerShares Series event last week in Kansas City. He saved three match points in his semifinal win over Jim Courier, winning the last five points of the decisive tie-breaker to claim a 7-6 (8-6) win. Despite the final-round loss, McEnroe maintained his lead atop the PowerShares Series points rankings after the first three events, securing 200 points with his runner-up showing to increase his total to 800 points. Courier, who won the title in Oklahoma City, stays in second place with 600 points, while Roddick's 400 points for his title places him in third place. Michael Chang, with 300 points, Ivan Lendl, with 200 points, and Philippoussis, with 100 points, round out the rankings after three events.
The PowerShares Series, the U.S. tennis circuit for legend tennis players over the age of 30, continues Friday, February 14 in Indianapolis, Indiana when McEnroe, Courier and Philippoussis join Ivan Lendl in the field. 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 http://www.powersharesseries.com/vip-experiences/, 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:
Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Bankers Life Fieldhouse - John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Pepsi Center - Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Thursday, February 20, Houston, Toyota Center - Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake
Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Energy Solutions Arena - Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, Sleep Train Arena - Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
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