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Borg Edges Pernfors in Boston

BOSTON, Mass. — Bjorn Borg, playing in an event in the United States for the first time in 10 years, defeated fellow Swede Mikael Pernfors 6-2, 2-6, 10-8 (Champion Tie-Breaker) Thursday in the opening match of the $150,000 Staples Champions Cup at the Agganis Arena at Boston University.

The 53-year-old five-time Wimbledon champion advances into the event’s semifinals, where he will play the winner of Friday night’s match between John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. Also advancing in the event Thursday was Mark Philippoussis, who beat Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 6-2.

The Staples Champions Cup is the second event on the 2010 Champions Series circuit, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. The event is being played for a fifth straight year and for the fourth time at the Agganis Arena.

Borg’s old school flair was present early against Pernfors as he used penetrating and consistent groundstrokes to control play. In the second set, Pernfors switched his strategy, resorting to trickery and using effective slice backhands and drop shots to keep Borg off balance and on the run. In the Champions Tie-Breaker, a first to 10-point tie-breaker played in lieu of a third set, Borg jumped out to an 8-4 lead with consistent backhand returns and aggressive baseline play and held on for the 10-8 victory.

“It was a good match and we had a lot of good points,” said Borg. “We know each other’s game really well. I think it was a good match and I was really pleased.”

Pernfors, 46, was impressed with the form and fitness of the elder statesman of Swedish tennis.

“It was a little bit surprising how well he played,” said Pernfors. “I didn’t think he would be moving as well as he did. I don’t think I was aggressive enough from the start. It felt like he was out there feeling good and he definitely played a much better tie-breaker than I did. I haven’t played him in 15 years and I haven’t seen him in ages. So you go and think that he is not going to be able to play. He mixes up the pace so much. With 75 percent of the shots, there is no pace whatsoever. You have to create the pace yourself and that is really difficult. He disguises his shots so well. He lures you into taking the pace off.”

Borg’s appearance at the Staples Champions Cup marks his debut on the five-year-old Champions Series. Since he played his final official match on the ATP World Tour in 1993, he has competed in other various events around the world, but not in the United States since a tournament in New York City in June of 2000. Borg dropped of the pro tour full-time in 1981, playing his last Grand Slam tournament at the 1981 U.S. Open, where he lost to McEnroe in the final. He made a sporadic comeback to the ATP Tour from 1991 to 1993.

“I love to play in the States,” said Borg. “It’s always been one of my favorite places to play. It’s just a matter of scheduling and getting everything together with my kids. It worked out very well and I am happy to play in this event.”

“The first time I played in Boston was 1974 and I won Longwood (U.S. Pro Championships) three years in a row — 1974 was my first really big year when I won the Italian Open, French Open and I came to play Longwood in August. I have really good memories of Boston.”

A 1987 inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Borg is best known for his five consecutive Wimbledon titles from 1976 to 1980 and his six French Open titles won from 1974 to 1981. He won 64 ATP singles titles and ranked No. 1 in the world for 109 weeks.

In 2010, tennis fans will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his epic duels with McEnroe in the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, the Wimbledon final being regarded by some observers as the greatest match of all-time. Borg was able to win his fifth-straight title at the All England Club and stave off McEnroe, playing in his first Wimbledon final, by a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6 margin, highlighted by the famous 18-16 fourth-set tie-breaker. Should McEnroe defeat Wilander on Friday night, the two rivals would meet again Saturday night in the semifinals.

Said Borg of a possible match with McEnroe on Saturday evening, “Playing John is always something special. It would be nice to see John’s face on the other side of the court.”

The remaining schedule of the event is as follows;

Friday, April 30

Starting at 7 pm
Jim Courier vs. Jimmy Arias
Followed by
John McEnroe vs. Mats Wilander

Saturday, May 1

Starting at 2 pm
Doubles Exhibition
Followed by
Jim Courier or Jimmy Arias vs. Mark Philippoussis

Starting at 7 pm

Doubles exhibition
Followed by
Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe or Mats Wilander

Sunday, May 2

Starting at 2 pm
Third-Place Match
Followed by
Championship Match

McEnroe was a singles finalist in Boston in 2009, losing to Pete Sampras 7-6 (10), 6-4 one day before his 50th birthday. He won the title in 2008, defeating Aaron Krickstein in the final, and was a finalist in the inaugural event in 2006, losing to Todd Martin. Sampras also won the title in 2007, defeating Martin in the final.

The Staples Champions Cup is part of the global Champions Series tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. To be eligible to compete, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. Each event features $150,000 in prize money — with the tournament champion earning $60,000 — and ranking points that determine the year-end No. 1. Each tournament champion earns 800 ranking points. Courier finished the 2009 season as the top-ranked player on the series, followed by Sampras and Martin.

Former French Open semifinalist Fernando Meligeni of Brazil was the surprise winner of the opening event on the 2010 Champions Series, winning the title in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Philippoussis in the final.

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InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series tennis circuit, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2009, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to InsideOutSE.com or ChampionsSeriesTennis.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

 

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