BROOKLYN, N.Y. — James Blake defeated John McEnroe 6-4 to win the PowerShares QQQ Cup at the Barclays Center, the 12th and final event on the 2016 PowerShares Series, the North American tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30.
The tournament title was Blake’s third on the PowerShares Series for the 2016 season, also winning the opening event in Chicago in April and in Portland, Oregon in November. The PowerShares QQQ Cup was the first tennis event ever at the Barclays Center, the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and NHL’s New York Islanders. The event was also the first pro tennis event in Brooklyn since Bill Tilden won the 1935 U.S. Open Pro Championships at the Terrace Club in the Flatbush area of the borough.
The final had a hard New York feel as McEnroe has lived in New York City his entire life and Blake being a local favorite having been born in nearby Yonkers and grew up in the tri-state area in nearby Fairfield, Connecticut.
“I don’t think I have ever played more of a New Yorker in New York than myself since I was born here,” said Blake of playing against McEnroe, who had the majority of the crowd behind him, including his students from the nearby John McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randall’s Island and his wife Patty and brother Mark among other family members. “It makes sense to cheer for John McEnroe. He has done so much for this city and so much for this sport. If I’m not playing against him, I’m in the stands cheering for him too.”
The turning point in the match came at the third deuce point at 4-4 when the 37-year-old Blake ripped a backhand up the line passing shot off a McEnroe half volley to set up break point. He then hit another down-the-line backhand return-of-serve that forced a McEnroe half-volley error to break serve. Blake then benefited from two missed backhands from the 57-year-old McEnroe while connecting on two forehand winners to close out the win.
“I was just praying that he would miss a few first serves at the end,” said Blake, who was born four months after McEnroe won his first major singles title at the 1979 U.S. Open. “I was trying to get chances early on, but he erased them all with good serves. I pray that I can serve that well at 57 years old, or moving or anything he is doing this well at 57. I am just happy to get through it. I got a little lucky at the end and took advantage of my one chance on his serve.”
To reach the final, Blake defeated former U.S. Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick 6-4 in the first semifinal, while McEnroe defeated Jim Courier 6-3.
Blake earned 400 PowerShares ranking points with the win to finish the season in third place with 1100 ranking points. Both Roddick and Mark Philippoussis finished the 2016 PowerShares Series season with 1600 ranking point totals, using their best four tournament results. However, Philippoussis is declared the season champion winning the tiebreaker with the better head-to-head record between the two, beating Roddick five times during the season, with Roddick only able to beat Philippoussis in the final of Thousand Oaks, California in October.
Each PowerShares Series event features two one-set semifinal matches and a one-set championship match and, for the second straight year, players make their own line calls with assistance of electronic line-calling.
The full 2016 PowerShares Series list of events and final-round results are as follows;
Chicago – James Blake def. John McEnroe 6-4
Charleston, SC – Andy Roddick def. Andre Agassi 6-1
St. Louis – Andy Roddick def. John McEnroe 6-3
Memphis – Mark Philippoussis def. Jim Courier 6-3
Tulsa – Mark Philippoussis def. Jim Courier 6-3
Newport, RI – Mark Philippoussis def. Marat Safin 6-4
Winston-Salem – Mark Philippoussis def. Andy Roddick 6-3
New Haven, CT – Mark Philippoussis def. James Blake 6-2
Portland, OR – James Blake def. Andy Roddick 7-5
Los Angeles – Andy Roddick def. Mark Philippoussis 6-2
Orlando – Andy Roddick def. Jim Courier 6-4
Brooklyn – James Blake def. John McEnroe 6-4
The following are pre-event quotes from all four competitors.
Thoughts on professional tennis coming back to Brooklyn for the first time since 1935:
“I think it’s great to have tennis back here. I’ve never had a chance to play a tournament in Brooklyn. I’ve obviously played quite a bit in Queens – all of us have. We get a chance also to be the first in the building, which is really cool. We had that same opportunity two nights ago in Orlando at the Amway Center and I think it’s special to be part of something when you’re introducing it to a venue like this.”
Thoughts on how the players still try to stay competitive in the PowerShares Series:
“Change the format – you know, make it one set so at least I have a prayer. It pushes me. I like to compete, but we obviously want to entertain – you know these guys (Roddick, Blake) are the next guys trying to take over this tour and keep it going, and I think there’s a place in tennis for a champions seniors’ tour – it could work out real well hopefully for the sport. That’s really what it boils down to.”
Thoughts on what’s been surprising about the PowerShares Series experience:
“For me it’s a lot of fun. John (McEnroe) and Jim (Courier) have put blood, sweat and tears into this tour for a long time, so for James and I to come along and be able to jump in these past couple of seasons has been great. I think it’s great for fans. James (Blake) and I can play as peers, Jim and John as peers, but there’s also that cross-generational match-ups, which are awesome. For me, it’s fun playing against friends of mine, heroes of mine; for me it’s a mix between reality and the surreal every night we play. It’s a lot of fun to be part of.”
Thoughts on what’s been surprising about the PowerShares Series experience:
“Andy and I have played so many times and we continue that competitive spirit. We obviously don’t train exactly the same as we used to on tour, but we still get competitive when we get out there and it’s a lot of fun to still have that competitive outlet. I just love the opportunity – like he (Andy Roddick) said, John (McEnroe) and Jim (Courier) have put in so much work to make this tour possible. We’re really just piggy backing off of them and getting to enjoy it, and to still enjoy the sport. I’m pleasantly surprised how much I enjoy it and it makes it a lot of fun to go out and compete every day.”
Thoughts on competing with younger players in the PowerShares Series:
“I love to work out – I feel better doing that, for starters, so just the fact that I can get out there and try to conjure up that I can actually do something is nice but I think that’s one of the great things about tennis – it’s a sport you can really play a lot later than the other sports. So that’s hopefully something people will see and appreciate – I certainly do.”
In 2015, Andy Roddick won the PowerShares Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Mark Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Champions Series tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.
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