Re: James News!
James played an exhibition with Johnny Mac last night! Here are a couple articles from the local paper
McEnroe, Blake help put tennis on area map
The address was 2639 Topside Road, Louisville, Tenn.
Or as it unfolded Wednesday night, the center of the their universe. Current ATP star James Blake battled the erstwhile face of tennis, John McEnroe, in an exhibition that oozed with starpower wattage normally reserved for The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon, London, SW19 5AE.
Blake won, 6-4, 6-2. As did everyone involved with Blount Memorial Hospital's Healthy Returns for Education program, which got Lenny Simpson involved and hosted the event at his state-of-the-art Centre Court Racquet Club.
``I think people really got behind it. It was nice,'' said McEnroe, who won seven Grand Slam single championships -- three of them at Wimbledon. ``My parents were always sort of pushing and talking to me about education, knowing that I loved sports, but just in case it didn't work out. Because for most people, it doesn't.
``I was one of the lucky few, so a good starting point is education.''
Half of the proceeds raised from the $75-a-ticket, 1,000-seat event were earmarked for the science and health curriculum in Blount County's various school systems. The remainder goes to the Blount Memorial Foundation -- a program that provides scholarships for Blount County students entering health professions, with ``a particular focus on hard-to-fill positions.''
``All the match wins enable us to do something like that, and for the kids to know who we are, to maybe listen to what we have to say,'' said Blake, who flies to Rome today to begin preparing for the French Open later this month. ``Because education is stressed, and luckily John and I have had a little bit of education and a whole lot of tennis education.
``We tried to help them with everything we've learned. The biggest part of getting wins on the court is that you get to have a voice off the court and try to make a positive difference.''
Simpson thinks the event will splash this area's tennis scene like an arrest-free summer for Tennessee football and generate a long-term ripple effect.
``I think this was one of those crossroads events that really could now (take) tennis in this area, which has probably been growing steadily and consistently, but I think after this event, with these two guys here, and people seeing it, you have people who don't play tennis who now might start playing tennis because of this,'' said the charismatic Simpson, a former tennis pro who could surely win an election on write-in ballots. ``It only takes one thing like this. I think it has boosted tennis in this area tremendously, and in East Tennessee as far as that's concerned.''
McEnroe believes the country needs tennis, needs sports in general. After unleashing a few of his profanity-laced tirades at match officials -- would the evening have been complete without them? -- he casually sipped a Molson and waxed about the future of tennis -- and the country's health.
``Sports is important, even if you don't end up being a professional athlete as far as I'm concerned,'' said the 1999 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee. ``You've got to get out there -- we all are getting so fat in America -- and work out. So that's a key element of it. (Education and exercise) are both key elements of it.''
Both stars conducted a free clinic with area youths before the exhibition. By the time the evening unfolded, it was impossible to deduce whether children or adults were more awestruck. A charity auction before the match fetched $1,400 for a pair of Blake's used tennis shoes. McEnroe's racquet reeled in $2,200.
All in support of education. In bolstering tennis. In affirmation of youth.
``The effect that clinic had on these kids -- they'll never forget that,'' Simpson said. ``They'll never forget hitting with John McEnroe and James Blake.''
Because for one night, a pair of tennis' brightest stars transformed East Tennessee into Wimbledon.
Patrons witness legends of today, tomorrow
The whippersnapper was the first one to reach the court.
James Blake did exactly what a young, attractive, twenty-something would do in that situation. He jogged through the entrance, paused slightly to cheese and then hurried off to his assigned bench.
The codger, however, knew exactly what to do.
John McEnroe was greeted like a war hero by a crowd of 1,000-plus eager patrons, all waiting for a moment they would now share at every holiday and business meeting. McEnroe almost looked methodical as he strolled casually through the masses before reaching the stage.
There he finally gave the peeps what they all wanted to see -- two arms extended, thumbs pointed to the heavens.
For some it was $75 to catch a glimpse of McEnroe's fabled personality. For others sitting comfortably in prime box seating, the totals must have been ridiculously higher.
Healthy Returns for Education brought together a melting pot to view a rare exhibition match between two of the game's biggest names. Blake brought everything for the lay tennis fan -- good personality, a million-dollar smile and recent stretch of headlines.
McEnroe, on the other hand, is a name that transcends the sport. And following suit, most of those in attendance at the Centre Court Racquet Club Wednesday night found his name as the most popular dog in the fight.
Eventually, it may not be the name they all remember.
James Blake is just like every other 26-year-old -- well, except for the No. 7 world-ranking, modeling contract and millions of millions of dollars.
Life has been a steady ascent for Blake since 2004. He, above most, deserved higher fortunes.
In that year, the former top-ranked collegiate player broke his neck in a freak accident in Rome, lost his father and contracted a disease that temporarily took away most of his vision, hearing and feeling on the side of this face.
On Wednesday, he was whipping one of the game's legends. Blake won the exhibition 6-4, 6-2. Beauty went before age, and the hare stole one from the tortoise.
``I was playing as hard as I possibly could,'' said McEnroe, now 47 but also a three-time singles and five-time doubles champion at Wimbledon.
``But I'm not used to that pace. The pace is unbelievable and his feet are just phenomenal.
``He's one of the fastest guys on the (ATP) tour.''
Speed isn't Blake's biggest asset, however. For a player that has gone from being the biggest fish in the pond (college) to not even being in the pond at all, life now has new meaning, and the ceiling could never be higher.
``For me to have planned on any of it (the hardships) three years ago would have been crazy,'' Blake said. ``So now I'm ready for the unexpected. Injuries can happen. Positive things can happen. I try to enjoy it and make the best of any situation that can come my way.''
Wednesday that situation was helping raise money for scholarships in a part of the country he's barely seen beyond the lines of its tennis courts.
``I'm actually undefeated in Knoxville now,'' Blake said. ``I guess I should come here more.''
No one corrected Blake when he said it. He probably didn't even realize that he was in a different city and county, and that quality fishing rested just 100 yards away from Centre Court's parking lot.
After the handshakes and autographs, Blake would be off again from East Tennessee to a quick layover in New York, and then back to site of his lowest professional moment.
He'll be preparing for the French Open over the next week in Rome.
``The last time I was in Rome I was lying in a hospital bed,'' Blake said. ``It was not so much fun, but I'm going to go back there with a smile on my face.
``Different hotel, different practice court, for sure. I don't think I'll be back on that practice court where I put a little dent in that net post.''
During his short day in Louisville, Blake left a much more pleasant impression. This one on his opponent, a person who should know talent when he sees it.
``He's peaking now and this is the best he's ever played,'' McEnroe said. ``He's got a great chance to do something special. There's a lot of good competition out there right now, but he's as good as any of them.''
Blake walked away with a similar feeling of appreciation.
``Now I get to tell my grandkids I beat John McEnroe,'' he said. ``I won't bring up the ages.''
If he keeps getting better, Blake might not have to.
All-stars face off in exhibition match
by Kelly Franklin
Daily Times Correspondent
It took just five minutes for John McEnroe to have his first dispute with the umpires once the tennis legend squared off with James Blake Wednesday night.
But much more went on before and after McEnroe's first outburst in his exhibition match capping the ``Healthy Returns for Education Tennis Challenge'' event at Centre Court Racquet Club.
4:45 p.m. -- Wes McNeillie, a seventh-grader at Maryville Middle, is a bit disappointed during the first few minutes of the youth clinic, receiving instructions from Centre Court pros and local high school coaches.
Then McEnroe and Blake, the world's No. 7 ranked player, step out into the bright sunshine and join the 80-plus youngsters, exchanging a few shots and tips with most of them.
After returning three clean shots in a row to McEnroe, with the pro's shots becoming crisper with each volley, McNeillie's mood is upbeat.
``I was really nervous, and it was really challenging when he hit it back (harder each time),'' said McNeillie. ``He's really gonna make anyone work for it.''
5:40 p.m. -- The stars finish their brief appearance with some general tips about tennis, attitude and hard work.
``Footwork is key,'' McEnroe says. ``Racquet preparation, watching the ball -- these are basics. But if you don't get to a ball nothing else matters. You've got to get it into your head when young to get in position, and that means footwork.''
Both remind the students about school work. Blake, who studied at Harvard, says, ``(McEnroe) went to Stanford, so we both put the books first. Have fun, but hit the books hard.''
6:10 p.m. -- The two players take a short break -- the bathrooms in Centre Court having been converted into massage rooms, to keep them loose for their later exhibition.
Adrian Czarnowski, an exchange student now on the William Blount tennis team, is a little disappointed since he and some others didn't get a chance to hit with the stars.
When asked his favorite tennis player, the Polish student stuck with his European roots, quickly announcing ``(Roger) Federer,'' the No. 1 ranked Swiss phenom.
6:45 p.m. -- A who's who of Blount County VIPs enjoy a reception with fine food, drinks and a chance to have pictures made with the stars.
Dr. Bob Proffitt, one of the top senior tennis players in the state, is able to enjoy his favorite sport after wrapping up his successful race for the Democratic spot in County Commission elections. There are countless area physicians, politicians and socialites in the crowd.
7:15 p.m. -- The reception goes on while Janet Olson and partner are losing the final match of the Ladies doubles competition on the main court.
Olson, also an event silver-level sponsor, is more honed in on her chance to play doubles later with McEnroe.
The 4.0-rated player admits that McEnroe and Illie Nastase, another former ``bad boy of tennis,'' are her favorites. ``I love the bad boys,'' says the spunky Olson.
After the main game, Olson and McEnroe team up for a victory over Blake and another auction winner, with Olson finishing off the match with a strong rally against Blake for the winning point.
7:50 p.m. -- The stands are full as master of ceremonies Hallerin Hilton Hill auctions off a few more items to benefit local educational institutions. Later, during the match, Kevin Clayton of Clayton Homes -- a primary sponsor along with the Blount Memorial Hospital Foundation and Centre Court -- announces to the sell-out crowd that net proceeds have eclipsed $200,000.
8:05 p.m. -- Blake appears to loud applause that grows when the audience sees that his white shirt is trimmed with bright orange piping. Nonetheless, McEnroe's entrance is clearly greeted with heavier enthusiasm. Ticket pricing may be a self-fulfilling guarantee of an older crowd, more aware of Johnny Mac's long career than young Blake's.
8:16 p.m. -- The match begins with a McEnroe ace. Five minutes later in game two, the 47-year old has his first run-in with the umpires.
After a Blake shot close to the line is ruled in, Mac yells to the linesman, ``He's No. 7 in the world and you are going to give him two more inches?''
8:46 p.m. -- McEnroe throws his racket to the ground in disgust ... or to please the crowd, which came expecting such antics ... or both.
He then walks to the sideline and changes into a shirt of the same design as Blake's. The crowd loves it. The players keep a straight face after the match when saying that there was no conspiracy leading to both of them ending up in Big Orange.
9:40 p.m. -- Both men have made some outstanding shots, but the younger Blake's speed and power lead to a 6-4, 6-2 victory.
``Now I can tell my grandkids that I beat John McEnroe,'' says the 26-year old rising star. ``I won't mention the ages.''
10:15 p.m. -- After a few final chances for locals to mix with the celebrities, the crowd thins. Blake meets with the press, but McEnroe is miffed about something, and he may not come.
After a few anxious minutes, Mac does appear, looking relaxed in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, sipping a cold beer.
He is gracious and calm. His part of the show is over, and he hopes that everyone enjoyed the performance.
Lenny Simpson, host of Centre Court, definitely has.
``How could it not be great? John McEnroe and James Blake here, 80 or so kids in a great clinic, great weather, a big crowd came in...it doesn't get any better than this,'' Simpson gushes.
Last edited by Deboogle!.; 05-04-2006 at 04:21 PM.