SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: JOHN MCENROE, ANDRE AGASSI TO PLAY IN CHAMPIONS EVENT IN SAN JOSE
SAN JOSE — Though it’s been nearly 30 years since John McEnroe won the last of his seven Grand Slam singles championships, he hasn’t lost his passion for playing the sport that made him internationally famous. As the 53-year-old former tennis superstar put it recently, “I keep myself in shape.”
Friday night at HP Pavilion, McEnroe will join two other former Grand Slam champions — Andre Agassi and Jim Courier — and late replacement Todd Martin in what organizers are calling a champions showdown. Martin, who replaced Ivan Lendl on the bill, will face McEnroe in the first semifinal, followed by a match between Agassi and Courier. The winners will close out the night by meeting in a final.
“I think we want to show we can still play at a certain level,” McEnroe said.
The event is part of the PowerShares Series, a tour for champion players over 30. In addition to the four players scheduled to play Friday and Lendl, the circuit also includes Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter, Michael Chang and Mats Wilander. Lendl, who had some legendary matches against McEnroe in the 1980s, withdrew from the San Jose event last week because of a shoulder injury. Martin, 42, was a finalist at the 1999 U.S. Open and the 1994 Australian Open.
For McEnroe, the event marks a return to the area where he went to college (Stanford) and was a fixture in the men’s pro tournament during his playing career.
Agassi also was a mainstay at the Bay Area men’s tournament, winning the last of his five singles championships at HP Pavilion in 2003. That tied him with McEnroe for most in the tournament’s modern era. Asked how often he still plays, Agassi, 42, said last week, “Enough to be ready for these things. I spend a few weeks getting myself physically in gear as it relates to movement and timing, and then you’re pretty much good to go.”
Agassi know his opponent Friday very well.
Courier, 42, won four Grand Slam championships from 1991 and 1993 and was ranked No. 1 in the world. Along with Agassi, Sampras and Chang, he was part of America’s Fab Four generation.
“Jim was quite the leader in our group,” Agassi said. “Chang broke through first to win a slam. But Jim was the first one to really be at the top of the men’s game and hold that position for two years and win multiple slams and actually give the rest of us the belief that it is achievable to have those expectations on yourself.”
Agassi, who went on to win eight Grand Slam titles, including all four majors at least once, added, “He beat me a number of times in a lot of big matches, so he always got my attention. He’s the kind of guy who needs to dictate play. I’m the kind of guy who likes to do the same thing, so for us it was always toe-to-toe tennis.”
Friday, they’ll be back at it again, with the winner possibly meeting Johnny Mac to end the night.
“Anyone can win this,” McEnroe said. “It’s a good format.”