The Barclay’s Center had an evening of exciting tennis, thanks to the PowerShares Series QQQ league. For those unaware PowerShare is a league that features retired greats such as Andre Agassi, Peter Sampras, Ivan Lendl. These legends travel to 12 cities across the country showing off the skills that earned them grand slams and countless other tournament wins. During an individual tournament, four players (champions) are paired off, with each pair facing each other in the semifinals with the winners of those semifinals meeting in the championship match.
Unlike normal tennis, players just need to win one set. Also unlike normal pro tennis, players must make their calls and not rely on lines people. Saturday’s match-up saw former number one Andy Roddick face off against James Blake and in the second semifinal tennis greats Jim Courier and John McEnroe squared off.
In the first semifinals match the recently retired Andy Roddick and James Blake battled each other. This was a familiar match-up since Roddick and Blake are peers who faced each other on the pro tour many times. The moment Andy took the court he immediately began engaging the New York crowd, providing color commentary after various points.
The match stated out with great rallies, with both players showing their ability to still hit crushing groundstrokes. Both also showed their great serving ability. At one point Roddick hit three straight aces. James proving that he was no slouch on serve was also impressive winning a lot of easy points. Blake in the post-match interview said he knew he had to hold serve to say close to Andy.
Despite the match being on serve until the ninth game, it was clear the James was the aggressor. If James wasn’t hitting penetrating shots off the forehand and backhand sides, something he’s made a living doing, he was approaching the net, finishing points with volleys and overhead smashes. That aggression would allow Blake to get the only break of the match at 5-4 and win the match.
In the second semifinal former number one and current Davis Cup captain, Jim Courier faced-off against tennis icon John McEnroe. Johnny Mac using his all court game, that include volleys and great serving, raced to 3-0 lead against Courier. The frustration by Jim was evident as he couldn’t believe all the improv shots McEnroe hit when he seemed out of position or the ball seemed out of reach. That would be the story of the match. Jim held two more times with some solid serving and strong groundstrokes but in the end the craftiness of McEnroe was too much. McEnroe ended the match with an ace up the T.
The Championship Match
The stage was all set for the last match of the evening. Blake and McEnroe were both the dictators in their semifinals match so the question was who was going to take control in this match. What was clear was that the crowd was in favor of Queens native John McEnroe. Blake would later say he understood since “how much he has done for the city”.
The match started out on even terms with Blake and McEnroe going toe to toe in baseline rallies. As the match wore on, both players had to rely on their main staples to gain the advantage. Blake used his speed to get to many balls that seemed out of reach and McEnroe relied on his volleys and lefty serve to win points. Mac was going all out, at one point evening diving for a ball. He missed but lucky for him the ball was called out (James conceded the point after Mac had a discussion with the chair umpire).
This was evident at 4-4 30-30 when Mac and Blake had a fun exchange with McEnroe using his volleying at the net and James scrambling to get the balls back. McEnroe eventually won the point with an overhead smash but both players received applause for their effort. Blake did use his speed in that same game to earn a breaking point when he ran and hit a backhand passing shot. Blake would then go on to break with another backhand winner the next point. The last game unlike the other games in the match ended with less drama with Blake routinely serving it out to win the match.
It was a fitting end to an exciting night of tennis. Fans of many different generations got to see why these players won so many titles and became legends of the game. It’s fair to say that if the PowerShare Series returns to Barclay’s so will the fans.
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