December 3, 2008

A Battle of (Former) Champions

Let the smack-talking begin.

This week some of the top names in tennis history are taking the court at Royal Albert Hall for the annual BlackRock Masters tournament -- and it didn't take long for the more vocal participants to lay down the gauntlet.

Onetime bad boy John McEnroe, posted a (presumably) facetious message on the tournament's website, warning opponents Stefan Edberg and the great (and my all-time favorite) Pete Sampras, that he was going to London to bring back a trophy and that he would go easy on no one.

Today McEnroe takes on Sampras, a first-time Masters atendee, in the headline match. Joining them in this week's battles are former stars like Henri Leconte and Tom Gullikson as well as hometown favorites like Greg Rusedski and Jamie Murray.

The BlackRock Masters are played in a similar fashion to the ATP Masters Cup, with two four-person round-robin draws each yielding one winner that will play in the finals on Sunday. Qualifying for the tournament, however, is a little different: players can no longer be active on the circuit and must have had at least one of three other qualifications:

  • Held a #1 world ranking
  • Played in at least one Grand Slam singles final
  • Been a singles player on a Davis Cup Champion team

It's a great way to showcase the sport, bring some fan favorites back into the spotlight, and see some exciting matches that could never have existed on the regular tour. For some, like McEnroe, it's a chance to show-off a bit. For others, like Pete, it's an opportunity for redemption -- he hasn't been back to London since his 2002 second round defeat at Wimbledon, once the court over which King Sampras ruled.

But even though these champions have little to prove -- the field of 18 contestants has over 250 singles titles between them -- you can bet they'll come out with thier guns blazing. It's a shame we can't see McEnroe and Sampras in the finals, but wouldn't it be great to see a rematch between John and Edberg? Heck, I'd be thrilled to even see Pete and Stefan who've actually met a surprising fourteen times in the first half of the last decade.

In any case it'll be quite a show in London -- I'm already cheering for an encore!

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

Woo hoo!

McEnroe wasn't without his protests, but regardless my very dear Pete Sampras pulled out his fourth win against the 47-year old in straight sets, keeping his record unblemished. Despite the fact that he hasn't played on the professional circuit in six years, the 14-time Grand Slam title winner served and aced his way to victory. Even John had to acknowledge that Pistol Pete is still a force to be reckoned with.

It's not that I expect -- or hope for -- him to return the tour. But I'm just happy that Pete can continue to inspire on the court and I can't wait to see him out there again!