USA Jumps Out To Lead But Internationals Rebound

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DELRAY BEACH – Friday night’s opening rounds of the ATP Champions Tour featured two vastly different story lines. James Blake, representing Team USA and playing in his first ATP Champions Tour event, came from behind to win in a tiebreaker, while Team International’s Goran Ivanisevic won handily, reversing his fortunes from last year’s first round.

In the 2015 opener, Blake defeated Mark Philippoussis of Australia 6-7, 6-3, 10-8 but Team USA’s lead was quickly erased when Ivanisevic defeated Brad Gilbert 6-2, 6-4 in the nightcap.

The format for the Champions matches Team USA (Blake, Gilbert and Justin Gimelstob) against Team International (Philippoussis, Ivanisevic and Mikael Pernfors) in nine round-robin matches spanning three days, with each match counting a point.

Though Blake was playing in his this event for the first time, he is no stranger to the Delray Beach Open, having reached the finals of the 2007 and 2008 ATP World Tour events.  The Tampa resident’s debut was not only being watch by fans, but also his two-and-a-half year-old daughter Riley.

“I know she’ll never see me the way I used to play, or at my peak, but it’d be nice if she can see that Daddy can still do something athletic,” said Blake. “I do love when she’s around and sees me on the court and cheers me on.”

After both players claimed a set win, Blake emerged victorious in the tiebreaker, 10-8.

“Mark still serves great, he still serves as good as just about any of the guys on Tour so that was great to play against, ” said Blake, who reached No. 4 in the world in his prime.

“James played a solid match,” said Philippoussis, who won this event in 2011. “When you play tiebreaker anything can happen and we both had opportunities and he took his in the end.”

In the second match of the evening, Team USA’s Brad Gilbert couldn’t close the 10-year gap on a younger Ivanisevic.

“I struggled for most of it, but it’s fun to be out there,” said Gilbert. “I wish I had a little bit better legs, but I don’t feel so bad. I wish I could have played a little better, but Goran is just a better player than me at this moment.”

Ivanisevic returned this year for his second consecutive ATP Champions Tour event in Delray Beach.

“It’s great, I had so much fun last year and I had a lot of fun tonight,” said Ivanisevic.

Also representing Team USA is Gimelstob, who begins play tomorrow with two matches, his first at noon against Philippoussis and in the evening vs Ivanisevic.

Pernfors, a Vero Beach resident and Swede who is playing in this event for the fourth time, completes the Team International roster and, like Gimelstob, will play twice tomorrow, facing off against Gilbert in the afternoon and Blake in the evening.

Saturday and Sunday’s ATP Champions Tour Schedule

  • Saturday, February 14, 12:00 noon, Justin Gimbelstob vs Mark Philippoussis
  • Saturday, February 14, NB 2:00 pm, Brad Gilbert vs Mikael Pernfors
  • Saturday, February 14, 6:00 pm, Justin Gimelstob vs Goran Ivanisevic
  • Saturday, February 14, NB 8:00 pm, James Blake vs Mikael Pernfors
  • Sunday, February 15, 12:00 noon, Brad Gilbert vs Mark Philippoussis
  • Sunday, February 15, NB 12:30 pm, Justin Gimelstob vs Mikael Pernfors (Ct 1)
  • Sunday, February 15, NB 2:00 pm, James Blake vs Goran Ivanisevic