Mac, Connors One For The “Aged” This Summer At Sportime Randall’s Island

Say what you want about the state of American tennis, July 14 at Randall’s island is bound to be a treat for fans of all ages. Yes they are both older, grayer and probably just a tad slower, but John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors on court, in the New York area, at any point is still fun, fiery, and worth the price of admission.

The match will take place as part of the 2011 World Team Tennis season with McEnroe, captain for the New York Sportimes, taking on Connors, a hired gun for the Philadelphia Freedoms, in a marquee match that will benefit the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, which helps with financial support for students attending the sold out John McEnroe Tennis Academy, now entering its second year at Sportime Randall’s Island, nestled just under the Triborough Bridge.

Those who listened to Tuesday’s conference call between Connors and McEnroe got more than a notebook full of items, ranging from Jimmy’s use of Twitter to John’s thoughts on Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks. However not lost in the friendly banter was the continued competitive spirit and light trash talk between the two longtime rivals, a rivalry which has not been renewed in over a decade. “Yeah we are friendly competitors, but make no mistake, I always want to win,” Connors said. McEnroe snickered at the comment, perhaps preferring to let his actions talk a bit louder. Unlike the slightly older Connors, McEnroe has kept himself in outstanding shape, working out with his young players almost every day at the Academy while also filling a busy schedule with senior events, exhibitions and last July, WTT action, where he helped lead the Sportimes to the Eastern Conference title.

WTT, founded by Billie jean King and still run by King and business partner Ilana Kloss, remains a fun and entertaining night of affordable tennis, with some flair of minor league baseball mixed in. And while the league touts itself for featuring many of the younger stars emerging in tennis today, fans still like to see the senior faces take the court again, whether they are players like Martina Hingis or Lindsay Davenport, or Connors and McEnroe. The competitive juices flow again, and the level of tennis seems to rise, especially in a shortened format, and not so far from Flushing Meadows.

Connors and McEnroe met 34 times during the ATP portion of their storied careers, with McEnroe leading the series 20‐14. They spilt their Grand Slam singles finals matchups, with Connors winning at Wimbledon in 1982 (3‐6, 6‐3, 6‐7, 7‐6, 6‐4), and with McEnroe prevailing in 1984 (6‐1, 6‐1, 6‐2). They last met in an ATP event in Basel, Switzerland in 1991, with McEnroe winning 6‐1, 6‐3.

Ticket prices for the match will be $250, $150, $60, and $40, with a portion being tax deductable. Tickets for the special evening, or any of the other home Sportime matches can be purchased by calling 212‐792‐8500 or going to nysportimes.com for the full schedule of July events.

Pete Sampras Named Tennis Night in America Spokesman for 2011

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Pete Sampras, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, will serve as the first spokesman for “Tennis Night In America,” a joint promotional effort between the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and StarGames, Inc.

“Tennis Night in America,” the annual celebration of tennis that includes youth registration events at facilities around the country and concludes with the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden, will take place February 28, 2011.

“I am honored to be the first spokesperson for ‘Tennis Night in America’,” Sampras said. “Tennis was a great sport for me when I was young and having tennis facilities around the country come together to promote the game and the BNP Paribas Showdown makes for a great celebration for tennis.

“Last year Tennis Night had over 700 tennis facilities involved.  I would like to see that reach 1,000 in 2011.”

“Tennis Night in America” showcases tennis at local facilities around the country. In 2010, more than 700 tennis clubs and recreation centers hosted open houses, clinics and parties. Along with the festivities was the USTA’s Youth Registration Night, the organization’s largest youth tennis recruitment effort.

“Tennis Night in America is a great platform to raise awareness of our sport, and now with the help of one of tennis’ greatest stars, we can raise the level even higher,” said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA.  “We believe Tennis Night can be a platform to kick off the tennis season in hundreds of markets throughout the United States.”

Sampras, who began his professional career at the age of 16 in 1988, holds 14 Grand Slam singles titles, the most Wimbledon titles (7), two Australian Open titles, five US Open singles titles, and the record for the most number of weeks as World No. 1 with a total of 286 weeks.

Sampras debuted in 1988 and played his last professional tournament in 2002 when he captured the US Open, defeating longtime rival Agassi in the final. Sampras walked away with a total of 64 singles titles and a World No. 1 ranking, which he held for a record six consecutive years from 1993 – 1998. Sampras was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007.

In addition to serving as the Tennis Night in America spokesman, Sampras will also play in the BNP Paribas Showdown. In 2011 the event will renew classic rivalries of the 80’s and 90’s, as John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl will compete in a one set pro match (first player to win eight games) followed by a best of three set match between Sampras and Andre Agassi. The four all-time greats have won a combined 37 Grand Slam Singles titles and 295 ATP Tour events.

“Tennis Night in America” began in 2009 and is a partnership between the USTA and StarGames, the co-promoter of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.

“We started ‘Tennis Night in America’ as a promotional idea, and with the partnership of the USTA, it has grown into an exciting grassroots program to involve the broad tennis community,” said Jerry Solomon, President and CEO of StarGames. “With Pete’s support and involvement this year, the whole concept is taken to an even greater level. Pete has been an inspiration to so many tennis players, and we look forward to him spreading the message of the game on this special day.”

The BNP Paribas Showdown is produced by StarGames and MSG Sports. Tickets will officially go on sale September 27 @ 10:00 a.m. and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office and all Ticketmaster outlets. BNP Paribas Showdown information, including an opportunity to sign up for pre-sale alerts prior to tickets going on sale, can be found at www.tennisshowdown.com.

For more information on “Tennis Night in America,” fans around the country can visit www.tennisnight.com.

Bud Collins Releases The Second Edition of “The Bud Collins History of Tennis”

NEW YORK – Bud Collins, the man who many call the walking encyclopedia of tennis, has released a second edition of his famous tennis encyclopedia and record book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS.

The 816-page second-edition volume – the most authoritative compilation of records, biographies and information on the sport of tennis – is dedicated to John Isner, Nicolas Mahut and chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, the three principles from the record-breaking longest match of all-time at 2010 Wimbledon, won by Isner 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 in 11 hours, five minutes, featuring a record 113 aces from Isner.

“Has the Isner – Mahut match ended yet? You can find out in this book!” quipped Collins.

Collins, the Hall of Fame tennis journalist, broadcaster and personality, is the longtime columnist for the Boston Globe and a 1994 inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He is covering the U.S. Championships for a 56th time in 2010. He will be signing books at the US Open Bookstore during the duration of the 2010 US Open.

THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press) is the ultimate compilation of historical tennis information, including year-by-year recaps of every tennis season, biographical sketches of every major tennis personality, as well as stats, records, and championship rolls for all the major events. The author’s personal relationships with major tennis stars offer insights into the world of professional tennis found nowhere else.

Among those endorsing THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS include the two women who hold the Wimbledon record for most total titles – Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King – who both won 20 Wimbledon titles in their careers. Said Navratilova, “If you know nothing about tennis, this book is for you. And if you know everything about tennis—Hah!—Bud knows more, so this book is for you too!” Said King, “We can’t move forward if we don’t understand and appreciate our past. This book not only provides us with accurate reporting of the rich tennis history, it keeps us current on the progress of the sport today.” Also endorsing the book is author, commentator and Sports Illustrated contributor Frank Deford, who stated,“No tennis encyclopedia could be written by anyone but Bud Collins because Bud Collins is the walking tennis encyclopedia—the game’s barefoot professor. The only thing missing about the sport from his new edition is a section about Bud himself. But everything else is there—and it’s easy to open and use for the whole family.” Said Dick Enberg of CBS Sports and ESPN, “Did you ever see an encyclopedia walking? That’s Bud Collins (who sometimes runs, too). Plunge into his book and swim joyfully through the history of tennis. It’s all here.”

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is also the publisher of “The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection” (www.RogerFedererBook.com) by Rene Stauffer, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey with Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes and Petr Kolar, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli, “The Lennon Prophecy” by Joe Niezgoda, “Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Susan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin, “People’s Choice Cancun – Travel Survey Guidebook” by Eric Rabinowitz and “Weekend Warriors: The Men of Professional Lacrosse” by Jack McDermott, among others. More information can be found at www.NewChapterMedia.com.

A Family Affair On Randall’s Island

World Team Tennis is supposed to be fun. The format, the intensity of the season, and even the fun rules makes it a great place to take families.

With that in mind the New York Sportimes may have taken it one step further.

Coach Chuck Adams is back for his fourth season helming the New York Squad, but and like back in 2007, he will have his wife and new mother Ashley Harkleroad right next to him on the bench, making a comeback from maternity leave from the sport.

“I think it’s a good break for Ashley to come out and still be a part of the tennis,” Adams said. “If you are on the tour, it’s all or nothing, going from city to city. This is a good way to get her feet wet and see if she enjoys the competition.”

Harkleroad has been on the sidelines for the past 2 ½ years with the birth of Adams and her son Charlie, born on March 30, 2009. Taking part in the Sony Ericsson Open back in March, she lost in the first round to Alicia Molik, 6-1 6-1, but is using this World Team Tennis season to really see if she should make a full blown comeback.

“Actually it’s really fun to be back out here again, be on a team, to be coached by him because I have been out for 2 ½ years. It’s actually really exciting,” Harkleroad said. “It’s slowly coming along. When I am at home, I am only practicing two days a week because I concentrate on being a full time mom. It’s actually a good opportunity to be a good opportunity for me to play every single day here and I am not used to that. It’s great practice for me and hopefully later in the season I will play singles and get better.”

Of course Adams has the interesting predicament of coaching his wife, which means balancing the harshness of being a coach without ending up in the doghouse.

“She has a great tennis mind,” he said. “She’s been coach by Jose Luis Clerc and Jay Berger. She is so knowledgeable with tennis that I just try to organize her and try to get her to improve. And I try to work on the same things I did four years ago. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Harkleroad only played in the women’s doubles portion of the Sportimes 21-20 win over the Washington Kastles last night at on Randall’s Island to open the season. It was a sparse crowd due to the holiday as the 2000 seat Sportime Stadium was probably half full. Yet, that didn’t cut down on the enthusiasm.

Howard Stern’s sidekick Robin Quivers was in attendance as was Wimbledon Mixed Doubles champion Leander Paes, taking the red-eye in to play for the Kastles and as the two and a half week season continues expect John McEnroe and Kim Clijsters to play for New York, with James Blake, Martina Hingis, Andy Roddick, and Serena Williams coming in, playing for various opponents.

“This is a way for Claude(Okin) the owner to promote this club and this tennis facility, especially now that he has the McEnroe Academy here and McEnroe is going to play in four matches for our club,” Adams said.  “It’s a great fit. The new manager for our team John (Dado) is going to arrange some matches in the city so we can draw more than we do on Randall’s Island.  The tennis is pretty high quality. Seventy five percent of the players are pretty recognizable.”

Of course with Clijsters playing for New York on July 19th, Adams has a unique opportunity to make it an all-mothers doubles matchup with the 2009 US Open Champion playing alongside his wife.

“We can have a playpen for the kids along side of the court,” Adams joked. “I would like to Ashley to give it one more shot out there. She’s only 25 and so talented. She can give it another run.”

And the fun is just starting as World Team Tennis goes on throughout the month of July.