NASHVILLE, Tenn.—John McEnroe hit a tweener, beat Jimmy Connors in their first match-up in 15 years and defeated Pat Cash in the title match to win the Champions Challenge Wednesday at the Bridgestone Arena. McEnroe’s 6-3 win over Cash in the championship match gave him his third title on the 2014 PowerShares Series tour, clinching the No. 1 ranking for the season on the tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30. McEnroe won titles earlier in the year in Kansas City and Indianapolis and, with his third title, moves ahead of James Blake in the PowerShares Series rankings.
“If you stay around long enough, you can finally do it,” said McEnroe of clinching the season-ending No. 1 ranking. "I’ve played some good tennis most of the time and I’ve had some really tough competition. Today was great.”
Against Cash, McEnroe broke serve in the opening game of the match and saved two break points in the sixth game before easily serving out the match, despite some argumentative moments with linespeople in the final points of the match.
"I knew he was going to come in and attack," McEnroe said of Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion. "I got the early break and hung on and in that last game, I hit some good shots and got a few atrocious calls, but I got through it. There was definitely some bogus calls at the end, but I had built up enough of a lead."
In the semifinals earlier in the night, McEnroe and Connors renewed their epic rivalry, competing against each other for the first time in tournament tennis since 1999, McEnroe winning 6-4. The match was highlighted by McEnroe successfully executing a "tweener” shot for the first time in competition, hitting the between-the-legs shot retrieving a Connors lob in the fifth game of the match. Connors, however, hit a volley winner to end the point.
"Ever since Roger (Federer) has been doing it so much, everyone has been working on it much harder," quipped McEnroe of the tweener trick shot.
The 61-year-old Connors, playing just 300 miles from his childhood home of Belleville, Illinois, showed glimpses of his famous gritty play that earned him a record 109 ATP singles titles and 1,337 match victories. Connors, who has undergone three hip-replacement surgeries, was competing for the first time since 2011 on the PowerShares Series.
"It was fun," said the 55-year-old McEnroe of reuniting with Connors, whom he beat 20 out of 34 times in their ATP careers. "It's been 15 years. People seemed excited. It was good to get out there. It was awesome to get a chance (to play him again)."
In the first semifinal, Cash saved a match point against Ivan Lendl to register a 7-6 (9-7) victory. Cash, 48, served for the match at 6-5 but, after holding a match point, was unable to close out the victory. The Australian then led 6-4 in the tie-breaker, but Lendl hit a miraculous short backhand cross court passing shot to save the first match point and an unreturnable first serve to save the second. After a Lendl ace down the T, he held match point at 7-6, but Cash hit two strong first serves that Lendl was not able to return, then, on his fourth match point, negotiated himself to net and hit a deft forehand drop volley winner to close out the match.
The tournament victory moves McEnroe ahead of Blake in the PowerShares Series rankings, and, with Blake not scheduled to play in the final two events, clinches the season-ending No. 1 ranking for McEnroe. McEnroe now has 1400 points with Blake in second place with 1200 points. Andy Roddick is in third place with 900 points, followed by Andre Agassi and Jim Courier with 800 points in a tie for fourth. Ivan Lendl with 400 points, ranks in sixth place, followed by Michael Chang and Mark Philippoussis in a tie for seventh with 300 points. Pete Sampras ranks in ninth place with 200 points, followed by Cash and Connors tied for tenth with 100 points each.
The PowerShares Series continues Thursday in Charlotte when McEnroe, Lendl, Connors and Cash will again compete in their 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:
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