Champion's Cup is great
By: Doug Browne
"The sport of a lifetime" is a phrase in tennis used to promote our game and it was never more accentuated this past week during the Champion's Cup tournament at the Player's Club in Naples, which featured the likes of John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash, Aaron Krickstein, Jimmy Arias, Wayne Ferreira, Petr Korda and host Jim Courier.
Most of the audience in Lely Resort hover near the 50-plus age group, but we also had a group of young ball boys who watched these "stars" of the past still thriving at the game they loved their entire lives.
Ironically, the player that most people either love or hate, John McEnroe, continues to be a great draw for a variety of reasons.
To be clear, the fiery 48-year-old New Yorker is in superb physical condition, moves from sideline to sideline like a cat and despite his age, has not lost his intensity.
And, there is nothing quite like watching a classic McEnroe meltdown over a bad-line call, staged or otherwise.
In this era with big looping semi-Western forehand topspin drives, McEnroe's classic drop-back-groundstroke style is a welcome contrast.
Unlike his younger opponents, who possess dynamite groundstrokes, McEnroe must win with a deft touch and an imaginative mind to unsettle his foes.
McEnroe even uses a unique Dunlop tennis racket that looks and feels like the old reliable wood frames we routinely viewed during the 1950s and 1960s.
If you didn't know any better, one may think that host Jim Courier is still winning on the ATP Tour as he continues to rip shots from baseline to baseline.
Along with recently retired (ATP Tour) South African Wayne Ferreira, the crowd was treated to an amazing display of big serves and powerful forehand drives. And, there is so much more to report - Krickstein and buddy, Arias, still can hit a winning forehand from anywhere on the court and they both slide on the hydro-grid courts as they did at Roland Garros in Paris during the French Open in days past.
Former world-ranked No. 1, Mats Wilander may have lost a step over the years, but still moves and competes like a champion.
Last year's finalist, Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion, has aged gracefully and has actually become a better clay court player as a senior. He still serves huge cannonballs and has a nasty "kick" second serve that enables him to move in to the net for his trademark volley to finish off the point.
With newcomers like Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin, Pete Sampras and Courier, this tour will offer incredible entertainment and will not disappoint.
Disappointingly, most of our Collier and Lee county residents did not turn up to watch this fabulous tournament. Other than Friday night's sell out, there were too many vacant seats throughout the four-day event.
We have at least 3,000-4,000 players participating in various recreational leagues throughout the county and if every single player attended at least one session, we would have full houses during the Champion's Cup.
If we want to see "our" game continue to rise in Southwest Florida, I urge every interested player to experience the Champion's Cup at the beautiful Player's Club in Lely Resort.
And, who knows, maybe 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras
will come to Naples!
Stars in Naples
Please do not miss the Perez ASG Calcutta tennis tournament this Saturday and Sunday, March 17 and 18, at beautiful Cambier Park.
Here is the line-up of stars competing: Brenda Schultz, Kathy Rinaldi, Jimmy Arias, Johan Kriek, Jene Fillipe Flurian, Lori McNeil and Lely High graduate and former Florida State High School Champion, Jesse Witten.
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Director of Tennis and the Community Tennis Association President. Doug and his wife Leslie have enjoyed teaching players of all abilities at Hideaway Beach for over a decade. He can be reached by e-mail at DBrowne912@aol.com
©Marco Island Sun Times 2007