15 Feb Philippoussis leads Internationals Past Americans, 6-3
Philippoussis leads Internationals Past Americans, 6-3
James Blake Goes 3-0 for the Americans
By STEVE DORSEY
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DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – James Blake did all he could do for Team USA, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the depth of Team International at the ATP Champions Tour Delray Beach Open.
Blake, who was making his Champions Tour debut, accounted for all three of the Americans’ victories during the three-day round-robin tournament as Team International collected the championship trophy by winning six of the nine matches at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center. Team USA won the title last year, the first time that the team format was implemented at the Delray tournament.
Blake capped his first Champions Tour event by rallying to defeat Goran Ivanisevic in a three-set tiebreaker 6-7(3), 6-1 (10-4) in the final match of the tournament. Ivanisevic won both of his other matches and was attempting to put the finishing touches on a Team International victory that already had been decided when he and Blake took the court Sunday afternoon.
“Goran’s a great player. He still serves huge and his return is great,” Blake said of Ivanisevic. “He put (shots) deep in the court and made me work and made me do a lot of running, but for me that’s a lot of fun though. I felt a little of the pressure we used to feel. It’s fun.”
Blake said his right shoulder was a little sore, but it loosened up during the second set on a sun-drenched afternoon.
“My shoulder’s definitely not what it used to be,” Blake, 35, said. “The serve wasn’t where it used to be, but the rest of my game felt good. I feel healthy, the legs feel good, the back feels good, everything except for the serve feels great. Getting old and the stress we put on our bodies throughout the last 15-20 years, it gets to you.”
Team International entered the final day needing to win only one match to capture the team title. Aussie Mark Philippoussis clinched the title for Team International when he defeated Brad Gilbert 6-2, 6-4 in the first match of the day.
The 38-year-old Philippoussis put an exclamation point on his victory when he delivered an ace to close out the match against Gilbert, but he echoed Blake’s comments about having to deal with soreness at this point in his life.
“I don’t play enough matches,” said Philippoussis, who won two of his three matches, losing only to Blake on Friday. “I keep as fit as I can, but as soon as I hit the ball and start playing a match, you get incredibly sore. Nothing compensates for match fitness. Even though it’s a relaxed match and you have a little bit of fun, it’s a Champions event and you’re still competitive. (Saturday) I felt great, but today I had a little soreness, which I was surprised at, but it goes away once you’re on the court and the adrenaline starts. I had a great time.”
Philippoussis, like Ivanisevic and the other players, was appreciative of the chance to compete in the only Champions Tour tournament that is part of the ATP World Tour, which gets into full swing Monday.
“It was a fun tournament,” Philippoussis said. “Great sponsors and great crowds considering the (World Tour) tournament doesn’t start until Monday. We love coming back and I’m very thankful to be invited.”
Mikael Pernfors delivered the other win Sunday for Team International when the Swede defeated Justin Gimelstob in a third-set tiebreaker 6-4, 4-6 (10-6). Like his Team International teammates, Pernfors’ only loss was to Blake.
Four Americans remained in the running for the four spots in ATP World Tour singles main draw by winning their qualifying matches Sunday.
Former University of Kentucky standout Eric Quigley needed three sets to beat former Ohio State star Chase Buchanan 4-6, 7-6(7), 7-6 (3) in the first of two All-American match ups while Bradenton’s Sekou Bangoura also needed three sets to defeat Wake Forest freshman Noah Rubin 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Former world No. 16 Robby Ginepri dispatched No. 1 seed Aljaz Bedene of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the final round, and Alex Kuznetsov ousted Chuhan Wang of China 6-4, 7-6(5).
A pair of rising teenage stars also advanced on Sunday. Thanasi Kokkinakis, the 18-year-old Australian already ranked No. 145 in the world, was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Guido Andreozzi and Yoshihito Nishioka, a 19-year-old Japanese who is ranked No. 154, defeated Marcos Giron 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Kokkinakis is 2-2 in ATP main draws this year.
Other winners Sunday in the qualifying matches were former Top 25 Victor Hanescu, who ousted Pavel Krainik 6-2, 6-3 and John-Patrick Smith, who beat Michael Venus 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The final qualifying matches will be played Monday beginning at 11 a.m.
Two of the top eight seeds in the main draw also will be in action Monday. Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, the No. 3 seed, will take on Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili in an afternoon match not before 2:30. The featured evening match will have No. 4 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, a 2010 finalist at the Delray Beach Open, pitted against Dustin Brown of Germany not before 8 p.m.